With local election day fast approaching on May 5, the race is on for the six candidates vying for Place 1 on the Anna City Council. One of the people running is incumbent Justin Burr.

Burr has lived in Anna with his family since 2009. He is a Technical Support Manager at RMG Networks where he leads a staff of support engineers, a position that has allowed for him to obtain some of his leadership skills.

Burr said being deeply involved with various government and city capacities makes him the optimal candidate. “I have been involved with the city since shortly after buying our home in Anna in 2009,” he said. “I served on the Planning and Zoning Commission for five years, most of that time as chairman of the commission. I have also served on the Anna Downtown Redevelopment Advisory Group in 2015, the 2017 Comprehensive Plan Review Committee and the Neighborhood Design Standards Committee that is just getting started.

“I have also represented the city at the ISCS conference in 2016 and 2017 with the goal of increasing retail development in Anna,” Burr continued. “I regularly attend Texas Municipal League events, most recently the Elected Officials Conference in San Antonio where I met with city leaders from around Texas to learn how they handle issues in their communities and learn about issues and policies at the state level that affect us here in Anna.”

Listening to the community and doing what is best for Anna is one of his strong suits, Burr said. “I base my decisions on council and citizen feedback, empirical data and always target fiscal responsibility and what is best for the city overall. I am proud that we are recognized with distinguished budget awards and for three straight years we have been awarded the Gold Leadership Circle Award for financial transparency by the State Comptroller’s Office. Due to our fiscal responsibility we have also improved our city’s credit rating in two consecutive years.”

Burr said transparency and communication is key. “While filling in for Mayor Crist when he resigned I started the ‘Mayors Message’ as an initiative to improve communication from the city. Mayor Pike has continued this, and I hope to see it come out on a more regular basis in the future.”

Burr said he has quite a few accolades under his belt since sitting on city council. “I approved new digital water meters and pushed for the creation of the soon to be released citizen portal for viewing real time water usage. I suggested and championed a pedestrian mall in the historic downtown plan in 2015 that was ultimately approved and incorporated into the comprehensive plan.”

“I worked with the economic development director in meetings with prospective businesses that are desirable to locate in Anna,” he continued. “The new Walmart is a success story of these meetings at ICSC and we have several more high-profile companies in the pipeline to build locations in Anna. I partnered with the Historical Preservation Society bringing the long-held goal of restoring the original train depot and creating a historical park in downtown Anna to compliment the historic Shirley Bros. store, water tower and church. This is happening now, and the plan has grown to include a statue honoring Collin McKinney and the building of a replica of his original homestead as part of the new park.

“I enjoy working with local community organizations — for example I have recently been involved with the Boy Scouts assisting with their citizenship merit badges, including visiting their troop meeting, meeting with individual scouts, and having them as guests for at our city council meeting including a pre-session question and answer session,” said Burr.

Burr said he has voted to raise water and sewer impact fees on new development so, the city can fund improvements to this infrastructure, and other acts to improve Anna. “I instituted streets impact fees on new development to fund improvements in transportation infrastructure and ensured efficient use of taxpayers’ funds on the new water tower. During design review, I made changes to the proposed drain valve design to ensure lower maintenance costs on an ongoing basis,” he said.

Burr said the growth of Anna is inevitable, and there needs to be a plan in place to be ready for it. “Collin is in one of the fastest growing counties in the country and of course we are growing incredibly quickly also,” he said. “The growth in population is going to continue and we must have, and do have, a solid strategic plan to deal with that growth.

“My goal is to retain a small-town feel, continue to raise our building and design standards, and to bring more business investment to Anna. If we grow population without increasing our business base, we will fail to be a quality city — meaning low levels of city services, higher taxes and mediocre parks and landscaping, and we will be more impacted by economic downturns. We must be economically diversified and have a strong base of primary jobs and retail sales tax revenues.

“Planning appropriately for the growth that is happening now is critical and our 2015 Downtown Plan, 2017 Strategic Plan, 2018 Comprehensive Plan Update and my new Neighborhood Design Standards Committee are all part of this,” he said.

Burr said he has and will continue to have goals for the improvement of the city that he loves. “There is a lot to accomplish over the next several years and I have the following specific goals and plans. I proposed the idea of the Neighborhood Design Standard Committee at the beginning of 2018 with the goal of raising standards for new residential development.

“In addition to our city ordinances adopting a Neighborhood Design Standards, the committee will help give our staff direction and a valuable tool when they work with developers on plans for new neighborhoods,” he continued. “I would like to see a plan that encourages more open space, playgrounds, parks, amenities and more friendly and livable layouts and streetscapes in our residential areas.

“I want to see a program around Parks Beautification and improved facilities,” he said. “To do this we will need additional staff and budget for parks. Winning the Green Ribbon Grant from TxDOT in 2018 will provide beautiful streetscapes along White Street at no cost to the city other than ongoing maintenance.

“I have a vision for a comprehensive Recreation Department and programs for our youth and providing summer jobs for our teens. This is a longer-term goal, and if elected, I will lay the groundwork and work with city staff and possibly a citizens committee to outline a strategic plan to achieve a robust recreation program in Anna,” said Burr. “I will champion policies and ordinances targeted at achieving “Scenic Cities” recognition for Anna.

“I feel we need more community events apart from Glowfest. I would like to start city sponsored Arbor Day and Earth Day activities. Events such as a BBQ or Chili Cookoff as a fundraiser for the Fire and Police departments. I would love to hear feedback and suggestions in this area,” he said.“I want to promote opportunities for the city to encourage volunteerism. Things such as parks clean up days, adopt a street, scout projects in the parks, and others.”

“Start a “Save-Up” program for large public safety capital expenditures such as new fire trucks. This would be a program to set aside a fund in the budget for these costs. Improve infrastructure by dedicating $4 million of the upcoming CO to streets,” he said regarding other plans for the city. “I want to continue repairing streets in the older parts of downtown, improving our sewer infrastructure by finding and eliminating Infiltration and Inflow, and ensuring we continue to have a robust plan for water infrastructure.

“We need to build new city facilities so our staff can better serve the community,” Burr continued. “This is in progress with plans for a new Fire Station number one and a new City Hall facility that incorporates a large space for the Police department. Our site plan has room for expansion with space for two additional municipal buildings and an eventual stand-alone Police building.”

Burr said water quality is important and he will do what he can to make sure it is good. “As we switch more and more away from our traditional ground water and use more surface water purchased from the NTMWD we have faced several challenges in perceived water quality. Our ground water from the wells is a high quality and very soft water supply while surface water is harder and has a distinct taste from Lake Lavon. We traditionally used a free chlorine disinfection on our well water. Mixing surface water treated by a different method has resulted in more chlorine taste and odor in some parts of the city.”

“We have a project that is in the final stages to match our disinfection method with that of NTMWD. We are informed by our public works experts that this will significantly improve the taste and odor situation in Anna. Water quality is very important to all of us and I will work with the rest of council and staff to ensure our water is high quality. I also want to explore what additional measures we can take to improve our water beyond what regulations require.”

Burr said he is proud that the city has lowered taxes every year since he has been on the council, but the city needs retail and commercial development to keep up with the growth. “As our community grows, we will have more demand for city amenities and programs, city facilities, services and a growing city staff to accommodate all of that. In order to fund this and continue to lower the residential tax rate, we must encourage retail and commercial development. Specifically, we need to grow commercial development with high paying primary jobs in Anna.

“I have advocated for and approved the creation of the Anna Business Park to meet this goal — this is an 80-acre business park owned by the city through the Community Development Corporation, and we should have our first tenant very soon. Anna has the lowest average household levy compared to other similar cities in our area of Collin County — Princeton, Melissa, Little Elm, Frisco, McKinney, Allen, Fairview, Celina and Prosper. As we have more commercial and sales tax revenue I hope to continue to reduce the tax rate on our residences while still providing high levels of city services and accomplish all the goals I set forth above.”