Hal Richards was elected as the Mayor of Terrell in 2007 shortly before the “Great Recession” struck. In the years that followed, while other cities raised their tax rates to compensate for the severe loss of revenue that accompanied the recession, Hal led the city to live within its means. He believed that raising taxes on people who had just lost their jobs or on businesses struggling through the recession was a wrong-headed way of approaching a revenue shortfall. So he made the tough choices and tightened the city’s belt just like businesses and hard-working families were doing at the time.
When Hal left office, the city had recovered from the recession, and the culture of city hall had been re-focused to a customer service, “get it done” approach. A new team was put in place, including a new city manager and several new department heads, including those in Municipal Development and at the Terrell Police Department, which was transformed into a modern, highly-professional law enforcement agency.
Other accomplishments that occurred on Hal’s watch include:
· The establishment of Buc-ees at the U.S. 80 / I-20 Junction with all of the costs of public infrastructure absorbed by the developers and landowners, not by the taxpayers.
· The completion of the Highway 34 bypass project that had been first designated as a priority project all the way back in the 1970’s. Hal worked with TxDOT, the Regional Transportation Council, and our state legislators to finally get it done.
· Updating emergency communications to federally mandated requirements, and replacing unreliable and antiquated equipment in order to create faster response times and a safer community.
· The establishment of a Building Standards Commission to address dangerous and uninhabitable buildings in Terrell. 234 hazardous structures were removed during his tenure.
· The creation of a common-sense, customer-oriented policy for code enforcement that involved personal contact and communication, instead of impersonal form letters and threatening language.
· Launching Terrell Citizens University, an educational program for citizens to learn more about the workings of City government.
· The creation of a new airport master plan to maintain Terrell Municipal Airport as one of the few city-owned airports that receive no city taxes. Terrell Municipal Airport was named Airport of the Year by the Texas Department of Transportation in 2014.