Picture the game board of Monopoly with its colorful properties, powerful utilities, and crisscrossing railroads all sitting there waiting for avarice to strike. Candice Edmondson, deputy director of community services, Southlake, Texas, resisted the temptation to stain Boardwalk green but instead unleashed her scottie dog directly towards the Community Chest space. The card read like a fortuneteller peering into a crystal ball: “Advance quality of life; Build a community center.”
Candice admittedly had no idea about local government when heading to college. She entered the University of Texas at Austin wanting to learn what made people tick, graduating with a psychology degree in 2003. Candice’s friends were seeking MPAs and as “a servant at heart” who “always enjoyed volunteering and helping others,” Candice decided to earn her own master's of public administration from the University of North Texas (UNT). The UNT program required students to complete an internship and luck so had it that Candice interned with the Southlake city manager’s office. There, among other duties, Candice tracked financial indicators, analyzed budget data, and provided staff support for the Southlake Program for the Involvement of Neighborhoods.
After graduating from UNT in 2007, Candice served nearly three years as a management analyst with the city of Hurst’s Community Services Department. Candice returned to Southlake in 2010 first as the assistant to the director of community services and now in her current position that she has held since February 2013.
Overview of Southlake
Home to more than 28,000 residents, Southlake completes the northern apex of a 30-mile-sided equilateral triangle with Forth Worth to the southwest and Dallas to the southeast. Just as its name directs, Southlake rests about five miles south of the Grapevine Lake. Pioneers circled their covered wagons around the Southlake area in the 1840s but it took another century – 1956 – until the city incorporated. Everything might be bigger in Texas but do not let Southlake’s small 21 square miles fool you. What Southlake might lack in land area, it more than makes up for in personality and wealth.
Candice described Southlake as a “vibrant, attractive, safe, healthy, and fiscally sound community that epitomizes both economic and environmental sustainability.” Forbes Magazine labeled Southlake as the most-affluent neighborhood in the United States back in 2008 based on its median household income of just under $173,000. In its 2012 quality-of-life On Numbers study, the Dallas Business Journal ranked Southlake number one in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and number three among 1,145 southern cities.
Like the Lone Star State, Southlake might love its football but finds itself executing a different type of tackling drill. Candice underscored the challenge of local governments maintaining control over their jurisdictions as one of the most important issues facing local governments. She pointed to the recent passage of House Bill 40, which prevents Texas municipalities from enacting or enforcing ordinances that prohibit oil and gas drilling within their limits. Southlake currently prohibits drilling in public parks and has requirements in place to help regulate drilling activity within city limits. Similar to many of her local government colleagues, Candice finds the rising costs to provide services and maintain aging infrastructure quite challenging as well. She noted, “As the cost of doing business increases, local governments are finding it more challenging to maintain service levels and infrastructure. Revenue from sales and property taxes are not increasing at the same rate as expenditures.”
Patience Is a Virtue
Ever since we first watched Jack court Rose on the Titanic and hummed along with the Hanson boys, Southlake residents desired a multipurpose recreation center. The city heard those cries and included the recreation center as a priority project in its 2030 Parks, Recreation, Open Space, and Community Facilities Master Plan. Residents kept the faith as Y2K scared but fizzled; the Red Socks broke the curse of the Bambino; and smartphones became ubiquitous. Southlake’s tides changed finally as Phase 1 construction on The Marq Southlake began in September 2014. Candice serves as the Phase 1 project lead making that fictitious Community Chest card a reality. Phase 1 of The Marq Southlake, when completed this year will include an events hall, multipurpose conference and meeting spaces, club lounge, catering kitchen, senior center, and outdoor amphitheater.
In early May, Southlake voters overwhelmingly approved repurposing a sales tax revenue source in order to construct Phase 2 of the project and to offset some of the operating costs. Phase 2 of the Marq Southlake – design to commence later this summer – focuses on exercise of both body and mind. The 84,000 square feet – more than one-and-one-half times that of the White House’s floor space – will have areas for fitness, swimming, an indoor track and playground, as well as early learning and multipurpose classrooms and child care services.
Guilty by Association
To simply say that Candice is a member of a professional association is wildly understated. Candice holds membership in the Texas City Management Association, North Texas City Management Association, Urban Management Assistants of North Texas, Texas Recreation and Parks Society, the Dallas-Fort Worth Directors Association, and the National Association of Women.
Last but not least, Candice has been an ICMA member for the past four years. Candice had the unique opportunity to serve on the planning committee for the 100th ICMA Annual Conference where she made suggestions on themes, speakers, sessions, and activities for what turned out to be a memorable centennial celebration in Charlotte, North Carolina. Candice could not attend the Charlotte conference because she was on maternity leave with her first child, a baby girl who peacefully falls asleep to the sounds of the Commodores.
Dropping back to punt is not an option for Candice. She remains optimistic in light of the profession’s challenges. She summed up her playbook saying, “I find my job in municipal government to be both challenging and rewarding, and I look forward to serving my community for many years to come.”