Sanger Mayor Candidate Profiles: Incumbent Thomas Muir and Jeffrey W. Jarecke
1. Name: Thomas Muir
2. Age: 52
3. Family (spouse’s name, children’s names and ages):
I have been married for almost 29 years to Elizabeth Muir. We have three daughters -- Grace Davidson (22) and son-in-law Oliver; daughter Bella Muir (19); and daughter Julia Muir (15). My wife and I, along with our family, have been raised in Sanger. We are excited that we are about to be grandparents!
4. Education: 1988 Graduate of Sanger High School
MS and BS in Accounting from UNT
Certified Public Accountant
Certified Financial Planner practitioner
5. Profession/Title/Company: President/CEO of Cultivar Capital, Inc., a fee-only investment management firm.
Portfolio Manager, Cultivar ETF (CVAR), a publicly traded equity fund.
6. How long have you been a resident of Sanger? I have lived in Sanger my entire life --- this is home --- so 52 years.
7. Why did you choose to run for Mayor? I run for Mayor in order to make a difference in our community and to serve our community. Consistent leadership, with a long-range vision, is important for any community, but especially a growing community. My family has been raised here, in Sanger, and I want to see future generations of my family have a good quality of life should they decide to set roots in Sanger also.
8. Why do you believe you are qualified for the seat of Mayor? My track record as past Mayor is probably the best qualification. I have held the office of Mayor since 2010, which has been a growth-oriented time. The growth has come with challenges to our infrastructure, but the Council has been able to navigate these challenges and continue making improvements. Certainly, we see many additional improvements to be made and look forward to continued improvement in and around our city.
In addition to experience as your past Mayor, I bring a business-like, financially conservative mindset to the position. As a CPA and CFP®, I bring a broad understanding of management, business operations and critical thinking.
Through the proactive efforts of city management and your Council, the city has improved its bond rating multiple levels, which saves taxpayers money in the form of cheaper financing on our bonds. We have a strong Aa3 rating with Moody’s and AA rating with S&P, evidencing our prudent responsibility with taxpayer funds.
9. What can the City do to attract more businesses to Sanger? The city has always been open to offering incentives to larger businesses that bring jobs and commercial tax base, which can ultimately remove some of the burden from residential taxpayers and provides jobs and economic development. We are careful to ensure that these incentives are still beneficial to all citizens of the city from their outset, such that bringing the business is incrementally positive for the city, as a whole, not just a single business beneficiary.
Sanger is uniquely located at the tip of the DFW metroplex, at the crossroads of I-35 and FM 455, on the edge of Lake Ray Roberts, and with an historic downtown. These community assets position us well for the next wave of growth, which we are already seeing. These are the critical selling points that we have built into our Sanger 2040 Comprehensive Plan, that was just completed. We sought community-wide input and had multiple forums seeking input. We are hopeful that this plan will amplify our ability to highlight our current businesses and attract new businesses.
When the “new business” question is asked, implied in the question is always the question of when we will get a new grocery store. It is my feeling that this is likely an imminent event in our city. We have always solicited numerous grocers to come to town and have done economic studies to show them the gap need. Many prospective grocers, in the past, have said that the community household demand numbers were just on the verge of their desired economic trade base. With the FM 455 expansion and the loss of the current grocery store, our available trade base just got larger; there is a larger gap now between demand and supply within our trade area. Consequently, there has been much more interest from grocer developers willing to look seriously at Sanger.
10. What would you say to residents about the current state of the streets that are in need of repair? And if you believe more money should be made available for ongoing street repair, where will this money come from?
If you have carefully watched the city over the past 10 years, you have seen some significant changes in the city street infrastructure. We began with some of the significant collector streets (i.e., Keaton, 2nd, Freese, etc.). On many of these, we replaced the underlying infrastructure as we rehabbed them.
Along the way, we rehabbed various areas within the city (i.e., the Indian Springs neighborhood, Wayne and Jackilu neighborhood, Holt and Berry around the school, Smith, Sims, Kirkland, Melinda Myrl, etc.).
With many of the collector streets and neighborhood streets improved, the Council entered in to a 5-year plan several years ago to improve the streets in the center of town. You have seen the acceleration of several years of these steps over the past few years with many internal streets being resurfaced. We are not yet finished with this plan and recognize that we still have work to do, but I and your Council remain committed to this process.
We also stretched Sanger citizens’ tax dollars by partnering with the County to totally redesign and rebuild McReynolds Road ahead of the FM 455 work, in order to provide a better secondary way into and out of town as we anticipated the traffic challenge of the FM 455 work. Likewise, we are currently advocating with the County for use of some of its future bond funds for the rehab of Marion Rd., Belz Rd. and Duck Creek Rd. If we can leverage County funds for these larger projects at the edge of our city boundaries, we can further stretch city taxpayer dollars.
Sanger’s growth will likely continue to allow us to keep a stable or declining property tax rate, while still accomplishing significant ongoing street rehab programs.
11. What do you believe are the most important projects to be either started or completed in the city in the next two years?
The big projects that will impact the city most visually and impact immediate growth will be the completion of FM 455 and the coming I-35 expansion. While these are both initiated by TXDOT, we have to manage the city’s portion of the project and understand the longer-term positive impact of what is likely to be a challenging time of construction.
Beyond these obvious projects, you can be certain that we are watching closely all the services and infrastructure necessary to maintain services for all residents as the town grows. I call these areas the “blocking and tackling” of city work. It includes our police, fire, EMS, electric, water, wastewater, etc. It is these folks in our city staff that make it all work.
One example of how we made appropriate investment and contractual decisions was during the freeze of February 2021. I could not have been prouder of our city employees and leadership during the freeze that incapacitated many other cities. We had proactively contracted on a fixed-rate contract for our electricity. Our electric department made sure we did not exceed our contracted amount with minimal, well-timed and consistent periods of down time. Consequently, the rate payers of Sanger received no additional ancillary charges and did not have to pick up any of the state deficit caused by the historic outage. Likewise, our water department kept wells running and unfrozen; we avoided a boil notice in Sanger, while other communities around us suffered with this inconvenience.
12. Is it important to you to keep the property tax rate from rising for the residents of Sanger?
The only time the city has raised property taxes in my twelve-year tenure was in 2013 and it was solely for the purpose of putting additional funds toward streets. Otherwise, Council has maintained a steady tax rate and even lowered the property tax rate in the most recent budgetary cycle. Sanger’s growth will likely continue to allow us to keep a stable or declining city property tax rate, while meeting our growth needs. Just like with your personal budget, we want to make prudent expenditures and live within our means for our normal ongoing expenditures. We only want to use longer-term debt to fund infrastructure with long useful lives. The city’s property tax rate is only about 30 percent of the overall property tax paid by residents and we are very aware of the need to only generate revenues that allow us to meet the needs of the community -- no more.
13. Do you think our main street/downtown is healthy and successful?
I believe the downtown is healthy and continues to improve. We have the “bones” of a strong historical downtown that many communities wished they had or try to build. The new Sanger 2040 Comprehensive Plan identified some elements that may be helpful to further develop the downtown area and we will be exploring these items going forward.
However, we cannot escape discussing the challenges of the COVID era that was a very trying time for small businesses everywhere, including Sanger. We had many creative businesses that found a way to adjust and survive through this difficult time. In a small town, we are always grieved when we see a local small business suffer at no fault of their own; this was difficult. The city partnered proactively with the county to use some of its stimulus funds for our local businesses.
Our town was resilient, and our overall sales tax revenue maintained and continued to grow during this period. This is a testament to current businesses and new ones that came into the downtown area and other areas of the city. This occurred even in the period where other sales tax revenue generators were also affected negatively by the FM 455 expansion. I am grateful for all the hard work our Sanger area businesses have done over the past few years – it shows.
14. What’s most important for the city as far as growth and new homes being built?
We want quality growth, not just growth for the sake of growth. Yet, we need growth to draw the local conveniences and services that our citizens desire. It is important to build a larger commercial and retail base that would allow citizens to get their goods and services locally. Additional households are required to attract further retail development. This also has the likely benefit of reducing the residential property tax burden over time. For some years now, Council has laid out a desired mix of housing that is aimed to improve the size and quality of Sanger’s housing mix, all to improve the overall future lifestyle for residents.
15. If you could change one thing in our zoning code, what would it be and why?
The zoning code is meant to allow for consistent development of both residential and business-type enterprises in a cohesive and planned manner. We are looking at the new Sanger 2040 Comprehensive Plan and seeing what changes might be necessary to achieve the vision that citizens shared with the city. This will likely include some changes along the FM 455 area and some of the allowed business and housing types around downtown to allow for a walkable area within historic downtown. By using the rehab of FM 455 and I-35 as a catalyst to consider any zoning redesignations, we hope to further facilitate a quality look and feel for Sanger.
16. If you received a $1 million grant to use for the city any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?
We are currently looking for ways to incent the acceleration of improved city-wide internet infrastructure with a move toward gig-a-bit status. One option for additional grant funds would likely be this type of infrastructure improvement that is brought to the city by outside internet providers. With improved internet speeds, we can draw workers that work locally or remotely, while being within a short trip into the metroplex for periodic business and customer meetings. Greater internet speed and access would also improve the availability of education for Sanger’s students and families. Both of these needs became apparent during the past few years. Sanger is an ideal place to raise your family locally, while accessing broader work and business opportunities metroplex wide.
17. Where are your favorite places to spend time in town?
My family likes going for walks in the Sports Park. Our dogs love the outing and we enjoy the fresh air and seeing others from around town.
1. Name: Jeffrey W. Jarecke
2. Age: 61
3. Family (spouse’s name, children’s names and ages ) Divorced
Son Matthew Jarecke Age 25
Daughter Natalie Jarecke 23
4. Education: College
5. Profession/Title/Company: Firefighter with DFW Airport / Retired
6. How long have you been a resident of Sanger? 5 years
7. Why did you choose to run for Mayor? I love living in Sanger. I enjoy the small town feel and being away from the big city hustle. We have a lot of opportunity to make Sanger a better place to live. We need good Public Safety, Good streets, and a quality infrastructure. Being retired, I feel I have the time to devote to the Office of Mayor.
8. Why do you believe you are qualified for the seat of Mayor? 41 years in the Fire Service, I was able to make decisions that produced the best outcome for all involved. I was able to be levelheaded in highly stressful situations. Those are skills I can bring to the Office.
9. What can the City do to attract more businesses to Sanger? Sanger needs to be able to attract more businesses. The citizens need more resources locally. We need to be able to approach big business, while not ignoring the small businesses. We need to get the resources to the economic development department to attract what we need. The 2040 plan addresses a lot of what the people want to see. I believe in the citizen input on what they want to see. Lets bring back Townhall meetings.
10. What would you say to residents about the current state of the streets that are in need of repair? And, if you believe more money should be made available for ongoing street repair, where will this money come from? We need to fix the streets right the first time. Patch work does not work alone. We need to look at who is doing the most damage to our streets. All the new construction is putting so much stress on our streets. Prime example is Willow Street. It may come down to limiting the larger trucks to 455. Also, we need to make the concrete thicker, than it should be done right the first time. We need to look at allocating money to do major road repair. If it takes fixing up to five streets a year, within 2 years, 10 streets can be repaired. We need to be aggressive on getting grant money for these projects.
11. What do you believe are the most important projects to be either started or completed in the city in the next two years? We need to light a fire under the Highway Department to get our major highway projects completed. I believe in the 2040 project. I want to see this completed, and the citizens visions realized. I know that this going to take a lot longer for these projects to get done but lets get them well under way. We need to be transparent with letting the citizens know if we are negotiating for a grocery store.
12. Is it important to you to keep the property tax rate from rising for the residents of Sanger? Yes, I feel we can be responsible with our taxes, People have enough of a burden dealing with everyday expenses, and rising inflation.
13. Do you think our main street/downtown is healthy and successful? No, When I first moved here, I remember walking downtown with lots of foot traffic and vibrant businesses. There isn’t much foot traffic now. When I get out visit and support our local Businesses, they are hurting. We need to promote our downtown from Interstate 35. This can be done with a billboard promoting what we have to offer. We are the gateway to the sportsman paradise Lake Ray Roberts. Better lighting at night would help Bolivar look less abandoned.
14. What’s most important for the city as far as growth and new homes being built? We need more parks, beltways, and bike paths. We also need to make sure our current infrastructure can handle the growth. We need to keep Sanger unique and not just another city on Interstate 35 that no one knows where they are.
15. If you could change one thing in our zoning code, what would it be and why? Streamline the process. The biggest complaint that I hear from citizens, and potential business owners is its too expensive, and hard to obtain.
16. If you received a $1 million grant to use for the city any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?
I would want to enhance our park system. We could use a doggie park. We also need things for our youth activities. Such as a bike, skate park.
17. Where are your favorite places to spend time in town?
I try and support all the local businesses in Sanger such as Bolivar BBQ, rated one of the best in the State. Nothing wrong with indulging in Babes Chicken. The Italian restaurants are pretty good too. Did you know we now have two breakfast places. I try to support many of the local businesses. We don’t need to be giving our sales taxes all to Denton. I want to promote more restaurants that bring more variety like our current restaurants. I also indulge in the bar called the Revival, what a great gathering place to find out what our citizens are wanting, and really care for the city.