I wanted to write some about what I know about how we got where we are. I have lived in Rowlett for 40 years, but I spent far more time in other major cities around the country than I did in Rowlett. Many of the earlier Mayors, City Managers, and City Council members, I don't even remember. There is much I don't know about.
I'd like to recap about how we got here. Rowlett was just a burg 40 years ago. There was one police officer, and of course, he was Chief. The citizens of Rowlett (all 1527) didn't make many demands of any form of city management. There was virtually no infrastructure.......some around the downtown area and some around isolated subdivisions that had been born because Lake Ray Hubbard filled up.
Then, things began to happen. I can't fault early Rowlett leadership for some of the early navigation. I have to say, for the most part, they seemed to do a pretty good job. Rowlett was beginning to enter into a big man's game. The big city of Dallas was knocking at the doors. The only training for that steam roller is experience.
However, it is not just the leadership of Rowlett that must be considered. The citizenry must also be counted. The most forward thinking leadership in the world can't function without support of the citizens. First, the voters must vote leadership into office, then support them. So, in the early years, I think that some consortium of citizens and leaders formed up a coalition that worked pretty well. I think this is a good place to make a comparison between Rowlett and another neighboring city.
About the time I moved to Rowlett, there was another little burg a little north and west of here. It was named Frisco. It had a few more people and a little more commerce than Rowlett, but not much. Rowlett began to overtake Frisco in the middle and late 80's. Rowlett was experiencing some modest growth and Frisco was falling behind. Then......something happened.
In the early 90's, three prominent Dallas businessmen decided to invest in the growth of Frisco. Trammell Crow, Jerry Jones, and Ross Perot bought every piece of land they could get from Preston Road and the North Dallas Turnpike north to Frisco. They decreed that Frisco was going to grow and prosper. And, it most certainly did. Crow, Jones, and Perot had the marketing expertise, the financial power, and the business acumen to make it happen. And, boy, did it happen.
We in Rowlett had no benefactors, such as Frisco. What we have, we built ourselves. That is okay, however we certainly lacked the sophistication of the Frisco starting team. The present and future of Frisco is certainly sound.
Rowlett was different. We still had no major highways, We just kinda existed between Rockwall and Garland on a state highway with only two lanes. The nearest Interstate highway was three miles south of us. Essentially, Rowlett grew as the dictates of the Dallas expansion allowed. Local leadership tried to create new business, but they didn't have any weapons. I would have to say that early leadership did okay with it's limited resources.
Then, something began to quietly happen. Discussions about a toll way began. Also, discussions about DART started to take place. However, the exact path of the toll way was debated. Some citizens didn't want the tollway to come through Rowlett at all. These people seemed to wish that the toll way go further east through Rockwall. In fact, there were people that knocked at my door and were actually lying about the route of the toll way. There are perhaps some that still wish that GWBT went thru Rockwall, however the majority supported a route thru Rowlett. Rowlett leadership at that time supported bringing the toll way thru Rowlett, but a couple had to be convinced. The mayor at that time was against the toll way, but later changed his mind.
There were a lot of stories about why the toll way shouldn't come thru Rowlett. Most were in error and contained no substantial rationale for diverting the path of the new highway. The real reason for the objections were simply people were distrustful of change. If one just supports the status quo, the chance for damage is mitigated. However, if change is coming, there is some risk that a few might be hurt. This is not a foregone conclusion. If one has a grasp of economics, one can usually determine whether any proposed changes warrant resistance. Each case stands on its own. One shouldn't resist just because of change alone. I understand this rationale, and respect it, however resistance to change, depending on the application, is rarely correct. With competent leadership, change is usually good. Incompetent leadership is quite another story. Damage can acutally ensue.
Then, DART began to develop plans. There seemed to be less resistance to DART, however some commented on the "riff raff" that would come to town and loiter and get into mischief. Folks, this is a police matter. Bums and trouble makers go where the pickin's are easy. Some careful explanations by the police about why they are not welcome goes a long way toward correcting that problem. Some vigor is probably warranted.
So, what about Rowlett's leadership during the toll way and DART discussions? Well, my opinion is that during that time Rowlett's leadership was pretty darn good. I think a fairly major mistake was made by not negotiating service roads along GWBT. It will definitely hurt development along the northern edge of the toll way in Rowlett. Another mistake was not dealing tougher with DART to get an enclosed station. This is a terminal station. People arriving from more distant locations will have to stand in heat and cold while waiting. There are no bathrooms. I think that was very poor planning and the cost wasn't excessive, particularly when you see how much money was wasted by DART. Both the tollway authorities and the DART officials gave a back of hand to Rowlett on these matters.......and we had paid nearly $40 million for DART.
So now we are brought up to the more current leadership of Rowlett. You remember them. You voted them into office. Now, in all fairness, they have a little bit more on their plate than previous leadership. They have to work harder, but the benefits to Rowlett can be enormous. However, the current leadership MUST be working for Rowlett.........not their resume.
As I have written before, I only write about what I think I know about. This blog is dedicated to almost totally about tax base. There is leadership in Rowlett that know a lot more about buying fire trucks than I do. So, I'm going to write about real estate development in a growing Rowlett and what that development means to Rowlett residents. Of course, this would be real estate and it's effect on our tax base.
You all have opinions about who the movers and shakers are around here. Of course, the big guns are members of the City Council. However, some members of staff are very influential. I would have to say that in my opinion, Rowlett leadership up to around the year 2000 was effective and appropriate, given the circumstances that were present. Perhaps no home runs were hit, but little damage was sustained.
In Part 2 of this post about Rowlett leadership, I will get into current leaders of the city and the tax base issues they have, and will be, encountering. You may not agree with my point of view, but I can promise my view will be based on facts and figures. That's what people like me do for a living.