A few weeks ago, I interviewed David Leatherwood, mayor of Dublin, Texas. This week, I spoke with Mayor Ronnie Clifton.
Ronnie Clifton is the mayor of Comanche and I have no idea why anyone in his right mind would take on such a job. Of course, I just had to ask him that very question and Ronnie, being Ronnie, agreed to sit down and spend a couple of hours explaining his reasoning to me.
“First and foremost, the main reason anyone would agree to be the mayor of any small town is because he or she believes that for some reason he can make a difference. You don’t do it for the money (Comanche pays its mayor $125.00 per month.), and you certainly don’t do it for the popularity because neither of those come from being the mayor,” he smiled.
Of course, Ronnie Clifton is way too nice to say it, but being the mayor is a pretty thankless job, I’d have to say…and that would be putting it very mildly on some days, I’m betting!
“I know that one of the first things people are going to want to know is how many hours you actually spend wearing your mayor’s hat,” I told the former coach and high school administrator.
“I put in about 15 hours a week going to meetings, going to various functions, taking care of problems in city hall, or trying to put out the various fires that invariably arise around town. To be honest with you, I think that to really do the mayor’s office justice, in our size town the job should consistently take 20 hours ever single week. Of course, in the larger towns and cities, the mayor’s job is a full time job.”
As a member of the Comanche City Council, I actually have a little inside knowledge on this one, and I know how many times a week I call on the mayor myself with one problem or another. If everyone involved in city government does the same thing, I can understand exactly how overwhelming the job must be!
“One of the things that people take for granted is water. Water and our water supply worries me a lot, and I find myself thinking about it a big part of the time. If we continue in the drought, we have some real considerations in front of us. People just assume that the faucet will always drip, and we do have some emergency plans in place. However, we also simply must have rain.”
I interrupted here to mention how deceptive appearances are this year because everything is so green. For those not native to our part of the state, it would appear as if we are in great condition because we have had so much “drizzle.” Our topsoil has stayed wet, and our grass is green; however, we just have had no runoff water. Closing the boat ramps is a tremendous indication of just how low the lake is getting.
“People also take our infrastructure for granted,” the mayor continued. When I became mayor, we had 6-8 streets that were still dirt. I know it seems like we don’t move, but it’s been a process just getting them all paved. I can now say that every street in Comanche is paved. Do we have a huge street problem? We do. Do we have to find a solution? We do. BUT, have we made progress? We have.”
“But,” I asked, “It takes money. Right now I don’t see big industry beating on our door wanting to come here and help relieve our tax burden. How do we improve out economic base?”
“We’ve got to get people to come to our town, get them to our community. The only way we can do this is to give them a reason to come here. Obviously, we can’t make people come to our city, can’t make them want to open a business in our city, but we can create a city that is so inviting that they WANT to come here.”
“How do we do this?”
“It takes people with ideas and who are willing to put their ideas into action. They can’t have ideas and expect others to carry out their ideas. We have a lot of great thinkers, we really do. Of course, my background is in sports and I think about having facilities that make people want to come to our community through playoff games. I’d like to see us add lights to our baseball and softball fields.
“It doesn’t make sense to light those fields just for our few games a year. BUT…if we lit them knowing that we could bring in 3-4 post season games a week…that would make it worth having lights.
“Our fields are good enough to have those games. They are butted up back to back and you could build a building that serves as a press box back to back with a storage building and concession stand, and we would be set to go. Our fields are well manicured and we have a great opportunity. The chamber of commerce would need to get involved and court those games.
“Now, if we had three post season games a week during playoff season what would that do for the town? Well, each game would bring people from at least two towns. Those people are going to eat here, buy gas here, go into convenience stores here, etc. They are also going to see the town, see our facilities, etc. It may be that’s all they do…just spend money, and wouldn’t that be great? It may also be that someone in that group just happens to be looking for a place to relocate, and if he sees great facilities, a beautiful town square, a clean, manicured town that looks like people love it, and so on…it might just be that we get either a great new family and maybe even a new business out of the deal…and both come with new tax dollars to go into the mix!”
And then I wanted to know if the mayor had other ideas on ways to help our struggling (but growing) economy.
“I’m all for bringing in industry, and tourism is an industry. Comanche, Texas has an almost unlimited potential for those looking for a destination to get out of the big city. We have heritage, three major highways, an air[ort that will land a 747, and thousands that come through town daily. We’ve just got to find a way to stir their curiosity so that they stop.”
And then we spent the next hour brainstorming the fact that we are actually now ready to begin courting the daytrippers.
“The bottom line is that I want to make a difference. It is my belief that we cannot be like the state and federal governments. We have to be cohesive and make this work so we have something great to leave behind for our kids. I believe that if we work together we can do that.”
I do too! It does take time, one brick, one stone, one stick at a time, but working together, we can get this done!