Business was the top subject on outgoing El Campo Mayor Randy Collins’ mind as he contemplated the future: his own and the city’s.
“We need to continue to be an aggressive economic development force,” he said Thursday, driving for business, trying to gobble down a late lunch and somehow manage to talk to the press too.
Collins said he couldn’t point to any one thing in El Campo and say it was his legacy to the town, despite a collective total of 20 years in service to the city.
“That’s because there were six other council members there working on things also. It’s not just my legacy.”
The El Campo City Charter limits council members to five consecutive two-year terms, but allows a person to run for office again after sitting out a calendar year.
During his terms, El Campo has changed dramatically. From new structures like the police station on the West Loop, to the extension of South Street, drainage improvement efforts like the recently completed Tres Palacios Creek Widening Project and far more.
“Mayor Collins has a long standing history of service for this city, as he terms out a second time. For the last year and a half, I have worked side by side with the mayor and during that time his dedication to this city was unquestionable,” City Manager Courtney Sladek said Thursday.
“As we have faced one of the toughest times in our community’s history, Mayor Collins was always available, ready and calm. I have been in awe of his dedication and commitment to our city. His positive impact on this city will be felt for a long time to come,” she added.
Collins led the council that opted to promote Sladek from finance director to city manager.
“I have absolute, total confidence in the staff from the department heads on up. I think we have one of the best staffs in the state,” Collins said.
The outgoing mayor’s term was supposed to expire in May, but the state of emergency prompted by the COVID-19 global pandemic caused the governor to postpone council elections until November.
Fears soon sparked statewide and nationally of COVID’s effects. How many would be sickened? How many would die? In El Campo, infection rates are not as bad as initially feared, largely, officials say, because of precautions taken.
“The times I didn’t sleep was looking at the economic effects,” he said, once all could be done with all the health precautions the city could take to assist residents.
The April state-ordered economic shutdown is still having effects on El Campo, but, he said, there is promise.
“I’m happy that things are coming about as they are coming about,” Collins said. “But I’m still concerned about the COVID issue and the effects it may have on the economy.
“The fact that we took hits in the economy and bounced back from those shows the resiliency of the community as a whole.”
As mayor, Collins works closely with the City Development Corporation of El Campo on efforts to expand business and diversify the tax base.
“It has been a joy to work with Mayor Randy Collins during my time here in El Campo. He has been consistently positive and uplifting in his championing of El Campo,” CDC Executive Director Carolyn Gibson said. “As a local small business owner Randy knows the value of economic development and partnership with stakeholder organizations. I have no doubt he will remain that champion of all that is wonderful about our community.”
Economic development remains Collins’ top concern, calling for council to remain conservative, but not miserly.
Getting the biggest bang for the buck is almost an El Campo business motto.
“We have to be pro business and support our local businesses ... my concern is that we will become way too conservative ... and not spend money on anything. If you’re just patching things you are delaying the inevitable,” he said. “We don’t need to go back to being miserly ... I don’t want my kids to say council 20 years ago had just done that.”
Collins also urged council to continue with blight fight efforts. Councilman John Hancock will help ensure the focus remains on cleansing the city of blight, Collins envisions.
There was more he wanted to do, Collins said, but each effort takes money, and money should be spent conservatively.
More needs to be done with aging infrastructure. He’d like to see citywide WiFi.
“It would help with economic development,” he said, adding his children helped point that out.
Youth is needed in the city and on council, he said.
“We’ve got to attract younger people to come back to El Campo, to get younger people involved in politics. I’m the second youngest person on council,” Collins said.
The owner of Collins Music Center, he plans to focus more intently on that, well mostly. “I also have a two-year-old granddaughter who’s just stolen my heart,” he said, predicting grandpa will see the little girl as often as possible.
He’s enjoyed his time on council, Collins said.
“It’s rewarding for me to help make the community a better place,” he said.
“It’s time for the next generation and the next generation after that to come ... to get them involved in city government, county government, the school district,” Collins added.