“I guess it certainly is a grand view,” Grandview City Manager David Henley joked as he surveyed the expanse stretching into the distance across the street from Grandview’s new city hall building, which also houses the city’s police and public works departments.
Joining Henley in admiring the view as Zach Stewart, Grandview’s newest and possibly youngest ever mayor.
“Zach is 26,” his father, Robert Stewart said. “I can’t find where any city in Johnson County has ever had a mayor that young.”
Even so, Henley said, Stewart appears more than qualified to tackle the challenges of a growing city.
“He served two terms on council and was president of our chamber of commerce,” Henley said. “He’s already done a lot to be 26, pretty impressive.”
From a new mayor to a city hall change of address to growth underway, change is the order of the day and afoot in Grandview, both said.
“Things are going well,” Henley said. “We have a great council and great staff. I’ve worked in a number of cities over 20 years and never had a group like this. They’re people who really care about the city. Teamwork, it’s like everyone here feels they have a stake in this.”
Stewart credits his parents and love of his city for his desire to enter the public arena. Stewart’s family moved to Grandview about the time he was ready to enter kindergarten. After graduating Grandview High School he went on to earn a degree in political science from Stephen F. Austin University.
“I came back after school in large part because mom and dad always taught me the importance of community service,” Stewart said. “Dad served on our planning and zoning board for about 18 years and is with the chamber. Mom did everything with school, was with the chamber and is on our Type B Board now and I just followed their examples.
“I want what’s best for Grandview. For a time I think we were stagnant because people didn’t want change, but change is coming either way. I think we have a council and staff in place now who are ready for that growth and committed to plan ahead for it. I just want to play my part to help steer and prepare the city for what I think is going to be a great future.”
Controlled growth is key, Stewart said, as is working to maintain Grandview’s unique heritage and character.
“We don’t want just any business that comes along,” Stewart said. “We want to attract those that are going to benefit our residents and city and help build our future.”
Tiny by most respects, Grandview’s population totals about 1,700.
“But that’s a lot when you consider we were about 1,300 just a few years ago,” Stewart said. “And that number’s going to increase in the years ahead.”
Change is apparent already, notably the recent relocation of city hall from Criner Street downtown to McDuff Avenue on the west end of town. The new digs are considerably more spacious and gone are the days when council members held meetings around a table.
“The proximity of downtown was great,” Henley said. “Having Los Campesino’s Mexican Restaurant next door, the coffee shop across the street and the tool shop right there if we needed anything.”
Still, the decision to move marks a win/win, Henley said.
“From the perspective of looking out for our taxpayers best interest, we can sell those downtown city buildings, city hall and the police station, which would be better served commercial since they’re in our downtown business district. We can get them back on the tax rolls and collect sales tax from whatever goes in there.”
“That’s prime real estate,” Stewart said. “Plus you have to consider that our new location is better suited for a city complex and more accessible.”
Growth is exploding throughout Johnson County and Grandview is no exception.
“We’re not built out in city limits yet, but we’re getting there,” Henley said. “Homes are selling in the $180,000 to $250,000 range. We get calls all the time from people in Burleson, Mansfield those areas that have grown up so fast. A lot of people moved there to get out of Fort Worth. Now they’re looking to move out of those places.”
Grandview has much to offer, Henley and Stewart said, from small community atmosphere to tranquil living close enough, but not too close, to the Metroplex.
“Our schools are excellent, which is a big draw too,” Henley said. “They won the National Blue Ribbon Award, won district in UIL 30 something years running and, of course, we just won the state championship. All of that is a huge draw for families.”
City leaders intend to half one city owned downtown property, the old fire station lot, sell one half and convert the other into parking. Long anticipated renovation of Criner Street’s historic red brick surface finally appears forthcoming and necessitates such.
“[Texas Department of Transportation] has about $1.8 million budgeted for that,” Henley said. “Supposedly work starts in 2020 but it keeps getting moved up. The problem is, when they do that, they’re going to have to make things ADA compliant, which will eliminate much of our downtown parking. We don’t have that much right now so we want to keep half of that one downtown lot and hope to turn it into parking for downtown.”
Downtown is hopping. FireFly Stage in the heart of downtown regularly stages concerts and other events drawing sizable crowds both locals and out of towners.
Interest in the remaining city owned downtown properties is high, which, once they’re sold and converted to retail, will only increase the need for more parking.
Henley noted the sturdiness and heaviness of the Criner Street bricks and at the same time marveled over how well they’ve held up since being installed in 1928.
“Can’t think of too many other roads you can say that about,” Henley said.
Residents overwhelmingly want the bricks to remain in place, he said.
“TxDOT wanted feedback on that and so did we so we held a town hall,” Henley said. “One lady kept coming up to me and saying, ‘SOB.’ Finally she said, ‘Save our bricks.’ Thought she was calling me bad names at first.”
Council and staff are focused on infrastructure improvement, Henley said. To that end, city leaders have spent about $1.3 million toward street repairs over the past four years. Grants funded part of that as did sales tax revenues.
“That’s been a huge help,” Henley said. “Over the last 10 years our sales tax revenues have increased 110 percent, 75 percent over the last five years. Right now we’re 5 percent over what we were this time last year. By comparison, through May 2006 we were at about $220,000. Right now we’re at $612,000 and will probably hit $950,000 or more by the end of year.”
That translates to a couple of hundred thousand for street repair the city didn’t have just a few years ago, he said.
“It’s unprecedented for us,” Stewart said. “For small towns like us in general.”
At your service
City hall’s hours recently increased, changing from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
“Gives our citizens 30 minutes before or after where they can get here and take care of business, water bill, pay a ticket, whatever and not have to take off or be late for work,” Henley said. “I noticed recently during a city manager training session in Dallas that a lot of city people were talking about changing hours. Some are close for lunch or close at 4:30 p.m. Others, and the way we went, are to having extended hours. We figured closing at 4:30 p.m. might benefit city employees, but it doesn’t benefit our citizens.”
Council members also recently voted to change Grandview from a mayor/council form of government to a council/manager form. Henley, who had been serving as police chief and city administrator was soon after named city manager.
The change, Henley said, brings consistency and, although council members still set policy, relieves them of a lot of day-to-day city operation duties.
Playing into that is a recently completed comprehensive city plan, funded through a grant, which covers all bases from zoning to subdivision regulation to street and open space planning.
“It’s basically a playbook to target out guidelines and goals,” Henley said. “Where we should be by 2020 or 2021 and how to get there. It also provided us with new maps, new zoning maps, future zoning maps and a ton of information we can use on a daily basis, and do”
The future looks bright, both said.
“We’re right on the verge,” Stewart said. “That’s why the work earlier councils have already done is so important and it’s just as important for us now to plan ahead for the changes coming.”