Spotlight On: Gerard Hudspeth, Mayor, City of Denton

Spotlight On: Gerard Hudspeth, Mayor, City of Denton

2022-12-01T14:26:17-05:00December 1st, 2022|Dallas-Fort Worth, Economy, Spotlight On|

2 min read December 2022 —If an environmentally friendly company is looking for the perfect place to relocate, the City of Denton is in a prime position to attract those companies,” said Gerard Hudspeth, the city’s mayor, in an interview with Invest:. Hudspeth added that Denton is the only city in the state of Texas that relies on 100% renewable energy.

What have been the major takeaways or milestones for the city during the past two years?

I think one of the primary takeaways for me over the past two years is how much we depend on our partner agencies and how different our experiences can be. At the same time, it is necessary to recognize the importance of things like communication with constituents, helping to meet their most basic needs and then also problem-solving. 

Those are the key components that get addressed in the budget process where the council has to decide which “wants” get funded. Interestingly, over the past two years, no one cared about a 2040 plan, no one cared about the budget. It was about how we could implement lifesaving, life-sustaining measures and how we could better communicate with our constituents. We are now in a better position, due to our planning and the benefits of lessons learned, to be even more ready if something similar happens again. 

What are the key milestones your office is looking to achieve moving forward?

My primary task is educating the community, and we’ve done a lot of good in that regard. I think our community has done a great job regarding education. We launched a new award-winning video series, Out There with the Mayor, to help with education.

Looking forward, the priority is to drive economic development. That has become my focus because I think the Denton community has been hesitant to fully embrace economic development. But now we have our new Economic Development Strategic Plan, and one of the focuses is to provide corporate jobs for the local community so people don’t have to travel outside of Denton for those jobs. We also want to increase opportunities for people to graduate from our universities to stay and begin their careers in the city of Denton.

What types of businesses or industries are you looking to continue to grow in the city?

We’re looking to grow in several areas. We have a municipal airport and we want to leverage that resource and increase its utilization by corporate businesses and industry. We also have manufacturing here with Peterbilt, whose goal is to make higher quality and more efficient 18-wheelers. We also want all things in the distribution sector, a great example being a cold storage facility. We also have a technology focus. We have a blockchain data center and we view technology as a huge area of opportunity. Innovation, technology, sustainability, industry, and the colleges are major drivers for us. 

We also see opportunities in entertainment like sports and youth sports and trying to become a destination for basketball, volleyball and softball tournaments. We’re trying to do a better job capturing all those opportunities for the city.

Denton also has a municipal electric system that is 100% renewable energy. We want to position ourselves to attract the types of companies that have sustainability goals. As the only city in the state of Texas that relies on 100% renewable energy, we feel that we’re in a prime position to do just that.

What are the initiatives to improve the housing situation?

Increasing the housing stock is one method at our disposal that will have a great impact on our housing availability. As new residential developments come online in the periphery of the city, this will in turn reduce pressure on the availability of housing at the city’s core and downtown. The resulting availability of the smaller and older homes cater to those looking for their first home, are looking to downsize, or want a lifestyle that a downtown-adjacent home can provide.

Here is another housing issue in Denton: Habitat for Humanity in Denton County recently finished its 105th house and this home was initially appraised at $220,000. So, as a for-profit home, its price would likely start at $300,000, at least. That’s difficult for many first-time buyers when you talk about having to put a down payment on $300,000. Our challenge is to try to provide houses below those market rates or support our citizens that cannot afford market rates but want to become homeowners. We are working with HUD and our local housing authority to obtain federal dollars in Denton to make sure first-time homebuyers and renters have access to affordable housing. This supports our priority to maintain Denton’s robust workforce and our local businesses.

What are the steps in creating a more affordable and accessible transportation system?

Denton County has a transportation authority. We have buses that operate here in the city of Denton as well as the Go Zone on-demand service, so we’re pairing those two together. From a streets and roadways standpoint, we are trying to partner with the state to increase capacity in the right places. Beyond that, we want to make sure we have bike lanes and walkable communities while also partnering with the Denton County Transportation Association to make sure we have good routing. But it’s a challenge. We’re behind on the physical infrastructure side of things: streets, bike lanes, etc. We are trying to expedite the use of federal grants to support a multimodal approach to mobility within the city of Denton. 

What are your outlook and top priorities for the city of Denton over the next year?

For the next year, my goal for the city of Denton is to open a new center for the homeless. That’s important because it requires enrollment in wrap-around services so that we can get people back into the workforce. I also hope we’re moving toward some new economic investment in the development of Downtown. 

We also expect to make it easier for people to buy homes in the city. It is very important for people to be able to afford a house. That is a key priority for us.

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