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Harker Heights Evening Star
Harker Heights Evening Star

Q&A with Council Member, Place 2 candidates

Q&A with Council Member, Place 2 candidates

By Annie Dockery, Managing Editor

 

The City of Harker Heights will be conducting a General Election on Saturday, May 5, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Harker Heights Recreation Center located at 307 Miller’s Crossing to elect Council Member, Place 2.

 

The Harker Heights Evening Star interviewed the following candidates who are vying for Harker Heights City Council Place 2: Michael Blomquist and Jeff Orlando.

Below are their responses in alphabetical order according to last names.

 

HHES- Why do you feel that you are the right person for the position of city councilman?

 

Michael Blomquist- My service to our great country has given me a great appreciation for what we have here in America.   I served 22+ years in the US Army developing successful leadership, management, and financial skills in my various assignments around the world defending our freedoms here in America.  I want to continue my service to my country as a City Councilman to bring my proven skills and abilities by serving my local community to help make our city into a better place for all citizens.

 

HHES- What in your background makes you feel that you would be the better candidate for the position that you are running for?

 

MB- My civilian / military education and life experiences have prepared me to be a great leader and team player in accomplishing all missions and goals in life.  I earned my undergraduate bachelor of science degree at the United States Military Academy (USMA) West Point and there I learned that the creed of “Duty, Honor, and Country” is more than just words to live by in all we do as a person in service to our country and fellow citizen.  I also earned a masters of science degree from Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) in Management.  Both of these education degrees plus my US Army service in various assignments around the world especially as a US Army Maintainer and Product Manager for multi-million dollar programs have prepared me greatly in my service to our nation be it in the US Army around the world or here locally in Harker Heights as a City Councilman.

 

HHES- What specific issues do you feel need to be addressed immediately if elected?

 

MB- I want to focus on three specific issues that I have talked about in my campaign to be a Harker Heights City Councilman.  First, I want to make sure that we as a city focus on infrastructure improvements for our current existing citizens of Harker Heights that currently reside in Harker Heights and pay taxes.  We cannot allow the infrastructure to degrade as that will cause areas to become rundown and cause property values to depreciate.  We must take care of our citizens all across the city to keep our city great and a desired city to live and retire back to as a citizen.

 

Second, I want “Smart Growth” for Harker Heights into the future.  Harker Heights is surrounded and limited on how much more we can grow into the future.  Fort Hood is to our north, Killeen is to our east, Lake Stillhouse Hollow is to our south, and this leaves limited resources in available land as our city moving east down FM 2410 towards Belton and Salado.  Given these limitations as the city grows towards the envisioned population cap of 50,000 citizens, we must ensure that the City Council must help facilitate the right kind of housing and business developments that will help sustain Harker Heights into the future.  Great businesses and  new industry can bring great paying jobs and these businesses can make Harker Heights into a destination city for people to come shop and stay in Harker Heights.  With people living and staying in Harker Heights to shop then this is a win-win for all as this will generate revenues for the sustainment of the city.  Harker Heights can then continue to provide continued great services that the city provides its citizens like Police, Fire, EMS, Water, Parks, Sewer, Trash, etc; all without having to raise taxes.   I am not a proponent for “affordable housing” as it will not sustain revenues and will require the city to raise taxes in order to provide city services to a larger population than the revenue will allow.

 

Third, I want to focus on increased force protection for Harker Heights.  We are fortunate that we have great police, fire and EMS services here in Harker Heights but our resources are becoming stained as the population has grown greatly over that last 15-20 years.  Our police in particular can use more officers and assets to help service our great city to keep it safe and secure.  The last thing you want to hear when you call 911 is that it will be 10-15 minutes when you call as there are numerous calls ahead of you and there are limited assets to provide coverage.  We must ensure our Police, Fire, and EMS in Harker Heights are fully staffed and budgeted to provide all citizens with continued great services as we continue to grow into the future.

 

HHES- What do you feel are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

 

MB- My strengths are my leadership, management, and financial skills that will be a great enabler on the City Council to help our council make great decisions for the citizens of Harker Heights.  I am not a realtor or developer so my focus in purely of doing what is right for the citizens of Harker Heights to continue to make our city great for all as we move into the future. For my weaknesses, I may be too blunt in my approach on conveying my ideas and thoughts but I know how to always listen to all parties and experts involved before making any decision.  I like to clearly state things the way they are so the common person can understand the goal or end-state without confusing the issue.

 

HHES- If you received a 5 million dollar grant for the city of Harker Heights, what would you do with it?

 

MB- I would immediately put it to use in hiring 10 more police officers with vehicles and equipment to fully field the new officers so that the Harker Heights Police force could grow the force to provide even better service to all citizens here in Harker Heights.

 

HHES- Why do you feel that you are the right person for the position of city councilman?

 

Jeff Orlando- My participation in our community’s social, business, and city affairs for the past 17 years has provided me with a comprehensive understanding of the issues facing our city. As a businessman with employees who depend on the success of our business. I understand that the city council must continue to make sound financial decisions that benefit the entire city. Our city council has made these decisions for over 20 years; I want to continue that tradition. As a family man, I have a personal stake in being part of the effort that will allow our Parks & Recreation Department to continue to enrich the lives of all of our residents. As a homeowner, and business owner in Harker Heights, I fully appreciate the safety and security that our Police Department provides to us, and makes us the envy of our neighbors. I also know that the three absolute foundations of a community – clean water, sanitary sewers, and waste removal are effectively provided and maintained by our public works department. Finally, without qualification, I believe that our city has been on a 20-year path of continual improvement. We have had a tradition of a city council that recognizes the successes of previous councils and strives to add to that record. I want to be a part of that tradition.

 

HHES- What in your background makes you feel that you would be the better candidate for the position that you are running for?

 

JO- My experience as a business owner, member of the Harker Heights Zoning Board of Adjustment, member of the Harker Heights Planning and Zoning Commission, and member of the Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce has provided me with an in-depth understanding of how small-town government functions. My combination of practical skills in formulating a budget, and paying it with my own money, reconciling conflicting demands on limited resources, and understanding that real people are affected by council decisions, has prepared me for the challenges the city council will face.

 

HHES- What specific issues do you feel need to be addressed immediately if elected?

 

JO- With minor adjustment, the number of units assigned to Fort Hood appears to have stabilized. We must not rely on Fort Hood as our sole source of economic growth.
We need to continue to improve Harker Heights as an attractive destination for the residents of Central Texas. The city council has made this one of the city’s major priorities.

 

HHES- What do you feel are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

 

JO- Some strengths include the ability to see the “big” picture, and readily grasp how seemingly disparate matters interact to produce beneficial, or harmful results. Some can criticize me for spending too much time with my family. However, I don’t consider that a weakness.

 

HHES- If you received a 5 million dollar grant for the city of Harker Heights, what would you do with it?

 

JO- If only this would happen. In the foreseeable future, the city will no longer have large tracts of land, easily develop-able for commercial, or residential purposes. However, there are many areas, predominantly North of I-14 (US 190) that could be attractive for mixed-use commercial and residential development. I believe that Harker Heights could help existing homeowners, small business owners, and investors realize the potential of this situation. I am not talking about a government driven effort. I am talking about an effort to find ways that allow homeowners, business owners, and developers to realize the potential available in this area. The city’s contribution could include acting as a facilitator, removing zoning barriers to innovative development, providing “challenge” matching grants to demonstration projects. There would be no taking or redistribution of property.

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