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New mayor Dan Pope wants to be 'Lubbock's biggest cheerleader'

Published: May. 9, 2016 at 10:09 PM CDT|Updated: May. 19, 2016 at 2:27 PM CDT
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Dan Pope (Source: Caleb Holder, KCBD)
Dan Pope (Source: Caleb Holder, KCBD)

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - As Lubbock's new mayor, Dan Pope has a vision to serve 240,000 "Lubbockites" and encourage them not to apologize for the city.

"Many times we talk about the negatives for Lubbock and not the positives," Pope said. "We don't talk about the people, we don't talk about the great place to do business and the great place to come be educated, and the fact that we don't have any traffic, and the great infrastructure that we have, and the great airport we have, and the great healthcare we have."

Pope is a Texas Tech graduate who returned to Lubbock in 1994 as the owner of Benchmark Business Solutions, and to raise his two children. He wants to be "Lubbock's biggest cheerleader."

"You're going to always hear me talk about what is great about our community, and I think that resonated as we talked to people the last six months," Pope said. "I didn't go places where people wanted to throw rocks at Lubbock. Everywhere I went, people talked about how lucky they were to live in Lubbock."

Of course, there are ways that Pope hopes to improve Lubbock while in office, starting with the budget and hiring a new city manager and chief financial officer.

"The city government needs to serve our citizens," Pope said. "We need to be more responsive and accountable, we need to communicate better. I think that's the thing I heard over-and-over."

Pope believes the city debt needs to be explained better to citizens.

"More than a third of our debt is related to investments we've made in water, and we all want water," Pope said, "and we don't want to be like cities around us that have water problems, so I think that it's about communication. It's about being responsive."

Pope believes as a city leader, it is his duty to make "real basic, real common sense decisions."

"Let's live within our budget, let's learn to say no when we need to say no, let's do the thing that city government is supposed to do," he said. "Let's protect our neighborhoods, let's make sure we have good streets to drive on, let's make sure we have affordable, available, reliable water and electricity that when it rains, we can drain the streets. All those kind of things."

Pope says his experiences as a small business owner and his nine years of service on the Lubbock Independent School District's Board of Trustees have prepared him to confront challenging situations head-on.

"At LISD, we faced an $11 million deficit in 2011, and we had to make really difficult decisions to meet that budget. We had to eliminate some positions…which is probably the hardest decision I've had to make publicly," Pope said, "but you learn to say no. You learn to find a way to make those decisions that require courage. You also get to see things you worked on long term start to work."

Pope plans to work with local school districts and economic development specialists to diminish the "brain drain" that Lubbock experiences after area college students graduate.

"We have a lot of good jobs in Lubbock today that we need to attract kids to take, or attract people to come back to Lubbock to take those jobs," Pope said, "and we need to be very intentional about that."

While Pope's goal is to "serve the entire community," he has some specific ideas to help North and East Lubbock encourage a safer environment and maintain infrastructure.

"The city needs to be at the table," Pope said. "We need to try to collaborate with business with the neighborhood folks and bring people in but it's going to take private dollars. It's going to take that kind of investment."

Pope believes the private sector is responsible for the revitalization of downtown Lubbock.

"The city's role in that is the infrastructure pieces, maybe it's putting electricity underground like we're working on right now," he said. "There's a bunch of sewer and water pipes that over time will have to be replaced down there, but the private sector needs to lead the way."

Pope is concerned about the possible transition of the current City Hall into a police station, because the building would be about 75 years old by the time officers would move in.

"When you're spending tax dollars, you really have to make sure that you're doing the very best thing for everybody," Pope said, "and you may need to make long-term decisions."

Pope plans to govern the way he campaigned on social media, to communicate better with citizens.

"Lubbock is a great place to live," Pope said.  "It's a great place to raise a family, it's a great place to work, and we're going to keep talking about that because we need to toot our horn a little bit."

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