Editor's Note: The following is from our Candidate Q&A series. We hope the series will allow potential voters the opportunity to become familiar with candidates for Huntsville City Council and the Walker County Commissioners Court. The following is from newcomer Vickie McKenzie, who will be running unopposed for the at-large Position 3 seat. 

Vicki McKenzie

In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge the City of Huntsville faces?

Huntsville needs to benefit from industries other than just retail to generate tax revenue. The university and TDCJ occupy most of the buildings, or own much of the land in Walker County. This creates job security in a down economy, but does not generate tax revenue for the city.

Many businesses do not want to relocate here because of the reputation of Huntsville ISD. While there has been a lot of progress made by Dr. (Scott) Sheppard, teachers, and faculty, the buildings are in poor condition and in need of repairs. As citizens we must invest in the education of our children.

CEO's will consider the small-town charm Huntsville offers, but their employees will want a place their families can thrive.

Young people in our community — elementary school children, high school kids and college students — all tell us there isn’t enough to do in Huntsville. What can the city do to provide more activities for the community’s young people? Is there any way the city can try and attract more businesses that cater to families and young people?

Getting involved in the community and investing in making Huntsville great is where we must begin. There is no shortage of events going on at any given time. Getting involved in clubs is a great way to keep a family active here in Huntsville. We also need business owners to get creative to facilitate fun events that will draw people in to have fun. One of the events I hear people miss the most since COVID is Tuesday Night Trivia at True Texas BBQ inside HEB. We decided we would commit to the event for at least 6 months to see if it would draw a crowd. Two years later players would arrive early to guarantee a spot.

We have a great library with committed volunteers putting on events as well for kids. It is difficult to run any type of entertainment business when more than 20% of our population is not living in the city for four months of the year. The business model will not work for an entertainment venue unless we grow the population of families with expendable income to keep these businesses open year-round.

Is there a need for improved communication between the City of Huntsville and Walker County? If so, what would you do as a member of the city council to improve the working relationship between the city and the county?

I might be able to answer it better once I serve on council. As a taxpayer and business operator if there are issues, they aren’t transparent to me.

Many of us moved to Huntsville or stayed here after college because of its beauty and small-town charm. Should the City Council consider any kind of zoning ordinances to protect the natural resources that make this part of Texas so special?

Absolutely! It is heartbreaking to see the condition of many structures in the city limits and the fact that owners are not maintaining the history is heartbreaking. Many historic cities have put ordinances in place to increase tourism, which increases tax revenue. I operate an Airbnb and have over a hundred visitors a year. I have lots of pride in Huntsville and promote our city every chance I get. I believe it's the property owners not the business operators inside the buildings that need to be held to a standard.

What made you decide to run?

I love Huntsville and as a business operator, I knew I could get involved and do my part to give back and make a difference or I could do nothing while our city struggles. I work with many criminal justice students and many education students from the university. Huntsville has been their home from two to four years and they love it here, but when asked if they are going to apply for jobs here they complain our compensation is way lower than most other areas in Texas, so they leave the community they have come to love and call home. I want to offer the graduating students a future here if they choose to remain in Huntsville. I want families to have the opportunity to purchase a home in a safe well-built neighborhood and have confidence in the education system. I want to be involved in the city's economic planning to attract businesses and industries that will generate jobs and tax revenue.