The Dallas Morning News printed an interview with Mayor Ratcliffe, who shared highlights from the past year and his outlook for the future of Heath.
Dallas Morning News - Looking Ahead
John Ratcliffe is the Mayor of the City of Heath. Ratcliffe is also the former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas and former Anti-Terrorism Director under the Bush administration.
What do you feel were some of the highlights of 2011 for Heath and how will they affect it in 2012?
Despite challenging economic times, 2011 marked the 20th consecutive year without a tax increase in the City of Heath. Good fiscal management has allowed us to maintain a healthy fund balance, keep the City?s excellent financial ratings, and still provide the services and improvements necessary for a vibrant and growing community.
Important projects started this year include the construction of a new elevated water tower, which will provide the water service and storage necessary as our customer base continues to expand.
We are also excited about the rapid progress of the widening of FM 740 from a two-lane road to a four-lane corridor with adjacent trails. The first phase from FM 3097 (Horizon Road) to FM 1140 (Smirl Drive) should be finished by this time next year. The second phase from FM 1140 (Smirl Drive) along FM 740 (Laurence Drive) past Heath City Hall should begin soon afterwards.
Other highlights of 2011 include being one of only 16 Texas cities to earn the Scenic City designation. This designation is a result of our stringent regulations and ordinances that not only ensure that Heath remains a beautiful hometown, but help to maintain our property values, enhance economic development efforts, and improve the quality of life and sense of place residents enjoy.
In Heath, we are greatly concerned with economic development. We know that we have a first-rate community, and we want to make sure that everything we do enhances this distinction.
We are working hard to bring in the kind of commercial and retail development that will make Heath a truly great City, and the type of place that people want to visit, shop and dine in, and raise their children and grandchildren.
In 2012, citizens will see Heath move closer towards this goal as the FM 740 widening project approaches completion and other community planning efforts move forward.
How do you think this year will differ from last year? What challenges and opportunities do you anticipate for Heath in 2012?
Even though Americans in general seem to be taking a wait-and-see approach to the economy, we feel very optimistic about the future of Heath.
In 2011, we experienced an uptick in our residential permits and welcomed new residents through the annexation of premier neighborhoods such as The Ridge.
However, citizens can expect us to continue to take a very conservative approach when it comes to managing the city?s budget and our financial planning for the future.
What are some of the ways residents can contribute to their community in 2012?
One of the easiest ways citizens can contribute to our community is to remain informed so that they can share their ideas and concerns with City leadership and staff. An engaged community is a stronger community.
Citizens can keep up with what is going on in our hometown by visiting the City?s website at www.heathtx.com, reading the monthly newsletter enclosed with their utility bill, and following us on Facebook. We also have a new video about the City?s accomplishments in 2011 on our website.
Periodically, the Council appoints new members to the City?s boards and commissions and we welcome applications from citizens interested in serving in this capacity. An application can be picked up at City Hall or downloaded from the City website.
Of Heath's planned events for 2012, what are some of the highlights?
Another easy and fun way to contribute to the community is to simply participate in our events. Some of the best times in Heath are when we gather, beginning in the spring at the Heart of Heath 5k Run/Walk, which had a record participation in 2011.
Next on the calendar is our Annual Independence Day Parade on July 4, where half of the community is marching while the other half cheers them on, all followed by Popsicles in the Park.
And of course, no year is complete without our Holiday in the Park and visit from Santa in December. The choirs, the brisk night air, the friends and neighbors greeting each other, it?s like something out of the movies!
Notes of Appreciation
The year 2011 has been a year of progress and promise. Some of that can be attributed to God?s good grace. The rest can be credited to a caring, hard working City staff; to the talented and dedicated Public Safety officers; to a thoughtful and progressive City Council; and to generous, resident volunteers who serve on our boards and commissions. And most importantly, to all of the citizens who invest so much, and care so deeply about making Heath a special place to live.