The Lewisville Texan Journal is interviewing each candidate who files or announces their candidacy for Lewisville City Council for the May 2017 election. These articles will allow each candidate to tell the voters about their background, experience, and ideas. This article is the second in the series. In our Nov. 19 edition, we interviewed Jon Dahlvig, who announced his intent to run for Place 1 on the council.
Mayor Pro Tem TJ GIlmore, a Lewisville resident of 15 years who is currently serving his second three-year term on City Council, announced he will be running for reelection in the spring.
Gilmore will be running for the Place 3 seat he currently holds in May 2017 because he wants to continue an agenda of community-building and following through on numerous city projects currently underway.
Gilmore, 44 first ran for council in 2009, losing by just 8 votes, then again in 2010 when he lost by 76 votes. He was successful in 2011, winning 58 percent of that vote.
In 2011 Gilmore won his seat with 58 percent of the vote.
For his first reelection campaign in 2014, Gilmore did not draw a challenger, and was automatically reelected.
Filing has not yet officially begun for the 2017 election. No other candidates have announced for place 3 to date. City Secretary Julie Heinze said that the official filing period is Jan. 18 through Feb. 17. The election for 2017 will be held on Saturday, May 6.
The other seat on the 2017 ballot is the place 1 seat currently held by Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Leroy Vaughn. Vaughn has not yet announced whether he will stand for re-election. Newcomer Jon Dahlvig has announced that he will run for that seat.
The Lewisville City Council consists of five councilmembers and a mayor, each of whom is elected at-large by the voters from the entire city. Members serve three-year terms, and elections are staggered such that each year has two seats on the ballot.
Candidates must be qualified voters, having resided in the city for at least one year, and may not be city employees. Filing information is available online through the City Secretary’s office.
Gilmore said it took some time after he first was elected to council to learn how the various aspects of the city interconnect.
“I think that first year really crystalized that my goal, my passion is not just to look at a budget every year and see if we’re doing the right thing by residents,” he said, “it is to build a community where people want to come back— where they want to raise their children.”
Related to building community, Gilmore is a proponent of Lewisville’s new Mobile City Hall program, which converted a fire department RV into a place to conduct city business.
“It’s another way we can get out and talk to the community, instead of waiting for them to come to city hall,” he said.
Gilmore said he thinks the residents in Castle Hills are going to need more outreach once Lewisville annexes that area.
An idea that Gilmore is working on builds on Carrollton’s experience fighting crime in apartment complexes. Carrollton rolled out a program in 2011 targeting apartment complexes with higher crime rates, forcing them to enroll in a crime reduction program. While Gilmore said he did not believe that apartments were linked with crime— he thinks the problems relate to economics— he said he wants to provide tools for residents and accountability for complexes that may be contributing to problems.
“There would be a model to say that in order to get those [crime] rates down, you would have to add personal security, add cameras and various other tools,” Gilmore said. He prefers that such a program does not incur fees for the complexes but rather works together with them. He said that city staff and the police chief are looking at the ideas, and that he would respect their input.
Jeff Andonian, a former Carrollton city council member who served when the ordinance was passed there told The Lewisville Texan Journal that the program has made a difference there.
“You want to make sure that all Apartment complexes act responsibly,” Andonian said. “There’s a certain threshold they should maintain in providing security for the people that live in there. Andonian explained that it was not just for the security of the city as a whole, but also for the residents of the complexes.
The other priorities for Gilmore include getting a makerspace built and getting the planned entrepreneur center going. The makerspace, which would be operated by the Lewisville Public Library, would have equipment and lessons available to allow people to make things they otherwise would have limited access to. The entrepreneur center would serve as a business incubator, providing startup businesses with office space and mentoring.
Lewisville’s Green Centerpiece, consisting of the natural open spaces surrounding Lewisville Lake and the Elm Fork are another favorite for Gilmore. He advocates the city’s plan to partner with the Audubon Society for a $20 million nature center at the Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area. LLELA is the city’s 2,000 acre nature preserve. The city had hoped that Lewisville ISD could provide half the funding, but the district had declined. Gilmore said he thinks the district could still participate by paying for its students to attend the center once opened.
The biggest thing that Gilmore thinks needs to change with Lewisville is the level of engagement between residents and their city government. He said he was pleased with the efforts by the city to reach out to residents but wanted to see more residents take part.
When asked about what the city council is doing well, Gilmore pointed to the examples of economic development deals with Bed Bath & Beyond and Mary Kay as successes. Another example is the recent city purchase of properties at Main and Mill streets for redevelopment as restaurants or retail.
“There’s a lot of trust,” Gilmore said. “I think we’ve gotten pretty good at being hard on the issue, but soft on the person.”
He added that the council’s consistency over the years had enabled city staff to better anticipate what they would approve and avoid overly contentious votes.
“You don’t hear a lot of drama in Lewisville about council blowing up,” he said. “I think developers understand that we’re very consistent about putting a plan out there and sticking to it.”
Gilmore said he has consistently heard developers say that Lewisville is easy to work with.
Gilmore said he’s had three careers so far in his life. For over a decade, he worked for Dale Carnegie, selling and providing professional training.
Afterwards Gilmore spent 11 years in sales and design engineering in the telecommunications industry. In 2015 he took a job with Waste Management in Lewisville in public sector sales. The company provides garbage-hauling services to Lewisville and numerous other cities in the area.
Gilmore said one of the challenges of the job is keeping his work for the city separate from his work for Waste Management. He abstains from council discussions and votes concerning Waste Management and vice versa while at Waste Management.
“There’s a good firewall there,” Gilmore said. “City staff does a great job making sure that I’m aware of any potential conflicts,” he said. “Even if they just look like a conflict, I don’t want to mess with it.”
Gilmore said he has attended the city council meetings of about 40 other area cities since beginning his work for Waste Management. He said that not only is he watching what they do for trash collection, but also how they conduct business and solve other problems.
“The really cool benefit to this is that I’m seeing how other cities are approaching some of the same issues that we have in Lewisville,” said Gilmore.
Gilmore said he can bring those other cities’ interesting perspectives and ideas back to Lewisville. “I can pick other people’s brains and see what works and doesn’t work, and bring those best practices back,” he said.
Before he served on council, Gilmore was a member of Lewisville’s Community Development Block Grant Committee. That committee oversees the city’s distribution of federal HUD funding that boosts low-income neighborhoods and supports non-profit social service agencies that work in the city.
Gilmore serves on the Denton County Behavioral Health Leadership team, which addresses public mental health issues in the county. Gilmore said the county spends a tremendous amount of money on mental health resources, but that much of it is administered through the jail, which he said is one of the most expensive ways to do it. He said a goal is to provide more service to people before police get involved, which would have the added benefit of saving money.
Gilmore also serves on the Denton County Homeless Leadership team. “The most expensive way to deal with homelessness, is [after] they become homeless,” Gilmore said. “So what are the systems and policies we can put in place as a county to keep people— to keep a net underneath that?”
Gilmore said that he thinks solutions at the county level will prevent individual cities within the county from feeling like they are shouldering an unfair burden, and that other cities are offloading their homeless people to cities that provide more services.
“The challenge is always going to be funds,” he said.
In addition to his service for the city and county, Gilmore also serves on the Facility Advisory Committee for Lewisville ISD. That group is reviewing the district’s plans for the next round of bond financing for school construction and renovation.
Gilmore grew up in Yuma, Arizona. He earned a bachelor of arts in communications from the University of Arizona. He has lived in Lewisville for 15 years. His wife Tanya is a teacher at Montessori Episcopal School. His daughter Bridget and his sons Tommy and Will attend Lewisville High School’s Killough campus.
Disclosures: The author of this story endorsed TJ Gilmore in his 2011 and earlier elections. Gilmore’s children Bridget and Tommy have a newspaper delivery route for The Lewisville Texan Journal. The Lewisville Texan Journal remains committed to fair coverage of Lewisville City Council elections.