2 min read June 2022 — Sustainability, community engagement and long-term growth. Those are the plans that Stephen Mason, mayor of Cedar hill, has in store to continue securing the vibrancy and attractiveness of the city.
What are some of the strategies for enhancing workforce development and support, as well as access among minority- and women-owned businesses?
During the pandemic, there was money that was given from the CARES Act. Many cities had a plethora of opportunities of how they could be able to use that. What we chose to do here in Cedar Hill was to partner with our chamber and provide grants for small businesses. We worked on identifying businesses that might have some difficulty making it past the pandemic.
That ended up starting a slogan called Cedar Hill Strong. The campaign was essentially for us to lift up businesses in our community, to help them to grow and thrive, and to build a network of support in Cedar Hill. Now that we have that network, we are putting more emphasis for local businesses to try to get involved right here in their backyard, for them to be able to be a part of opportunities and projects within our city.
Cedar Hill has also partnered with other cities in the ‘Best Southwest’ region on regular workshops for minority- and women-owned businesses. On a quarterly basis, each city shares information on different opportunities to do business with that city. That whole partnership, the coalition that we have established over the last three decades, has strengthened, bolstering our capacity to bring awareness not just to the minority- and women-owned businesses, but to all businesses in our backyard.
What is the importance of community involvement and support as you move forward in accommodating growth?
The best example of this is in the way that we implemented our most recent bond program. Most communities would pass a bond, then hire a consultant to design it, and build it. It will be done in two years. That is not how we do it in Cedar Hill. We get the community involved. Each neighborhood we went to, we wanted to design a special and unique park. We brought the community out. Asked them what they wanted to see in their neighborhood. You would be amazed that none of our parks look the same. However, it is still a high-quality design in each location. We may have one park that has more emphasis on shade over the playground, with a pond and a fountain feature. We may have another park that has a little bit more of a trail connected to it, for that park to be more walkable. They are customized to each neighborhood based on their input and unique needs.
The largest project in that program was for a new public library. We appointed a citizen library design committee to guide the design. That committee went out to the community with several different city events for them to be the ambassadors to ask for their input. Our library is going to have a recording studio. That came from our youth, who are coming to our library to do their podcast, to do whatever their interests are. Our new community pool is going to have a lazy river, which is pretty unique, because that’s what the citizens said they wanted. Community engagement is our standard. That is just how we do things here.
What are your thoughts on the approach to green space and infrastructure as it relates to Cedar Hill’s growth and sustainability?
We continuously ask our constituents what it is they love about Cedar Hill, and the answers are consistent: they love our open space, our tree line, the area that surrounds the lake. The council has adopted a policy that we want to maintain at least 25% of open space in our city. That is very unique in this area, but it is just part of our nature, part of our infrastructure.
What is your outlook for the city of Cedar Hill in the near term and your top priorities?
My top priority is to complete this library project. We are looking to break ground in July 2022. We are hoping to cut that ribbon for 1Q24. I also want to put a little pressure on getting the hospital underway from Texas Health Resources. We do not have a hospital in our city, but we want to be able to have more professionals in our city that can also enhance our daytime population, so they can experience and bolster our local businesses. In short, I would love for us to continue diversifying our economy and to be able to continue to give our community a great quality of life.
For the long-term, our priority is the Hotel Convention Center. We had a lot of community excitement around the project, and we literally shut down a week after breaking ground on the project due to COVID. Because of the impact of COVID on the hospitality market, the developer had trouble securing financing for the project, so it has been on pause. We would love to restart this project and continue the legacy of our previous mayor relating to this project in the near future.
We have hired consultants to do a market analysis to see what it will take to get the project restarted and potentially to revise the plan from the original 4-star hotel to be a 5-star property and be able to get that type of full-service hotel in our community. We are not doing the status quo, we are going to push the reset button. We still want the Hotel Convention Center, it is just a matter of selecting the provider. There is an opportunity for us to be able to see what else is out there that we could get for Cedar Hill.
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