As a longtime resident and public employee in northeast Texas, I have often observed that the two most important issues for House District 1 are education and economic development. These two issues, both of which receive a mix of state and local public funding, are highly interrelated and critical to our state’s future development and a strong workforce, particularly so in northeast Texas.
As a longtime rural educator and later a superintendent of schools, I have great respect for the tax dollars that hardworking east Texans put into their schools, expecting accountability from educators and results for their children. Parents expect to see excellence in the classrooms their tax dollars support.
I enjoyed being part of what I believe is a noble profession, teaching, and worked hard every day to ensure students were learning and growing, and that parents saw the value of the education their children received.
Today in Austin, as a member of the House Public Education and Appropriations Committees, I continue to be a budget hawk, mindful of taxpayers expected “return on investment” and ensuring accountability in state budgets.
I am also a believer in local control, and support taxpayers making decisions for their local expenditures, including in the critical area of economic development. Texas has more than 700 locally-funded, locally voter-approved economic development corporations.
In fact, the law formulating EDCs was authored by a former state senator from our region, the highly respected Bill Ratliff of Mount Pleasant, who worked to create these voter-approved corporations as he had seen that state permitting large metropolitan cities create local voter authorized transportation authorities.
As then Senator Ratliff must have felt, I, too, believe EDCs are critical to our region, where many towns have worked since the 1950s to grow beyond the farming, timber and mineral sectors to attract good paying industrial manufacturing jobs and take part in today’s “Texas Miracle” economy.
I wish every city and town in House District 1 had an EDC to help promote the east Texas blessings of good weather, affordable land, abundant water and hardworking people to raise awareness of their town and compete for jobs. Yes, economic development is an inexact science, requiring a mix of investments in incentives, retention grants, loan guarantees, job training and funds to generally promote and market a city and its attributes to attract interested corporations seeking new sites for expansion.
Economic development is an area where investment may not be immediately recognizable, but the long-term return generally proves invaluable.
Coupled with a commitment to fully funding local education, I believe EDCs, with voter local support, make great sense for economic development, particularly today in Paris and throughout House District 1.
Gary Vandeaver, a Republican, represents Bowie, Franklin, Lamar and Red River counties in the Texas House of Representatives, Texas House District 1.