This week I had a chance to sit down with Jeff Wagner, one of the candidates vying for the open City of Pasadena Mayoral seat. Although I am no longer a resident/voter in Pasadena, I wanted to hear his story and find out why he threw his hat into the ring in a city known for its rough and tumble politics.
First a bit of background on Jeff. He is currently in his first term as a council member in Pasadena, representing District F. His district includes the fantastic beach at El Jardin, which is just around the corner from my home in Shoreacres. I probably shouldn’t publicize that beach and keep it as a hidden secret! Jeff’s prior political experience includes two unsuccessful runs for Mayor in Galena Park, along with one successful run for commissioner in that city.
Jeff has been a Houston Police Officer since the age of 19, but he was a reserve officer in Galena Park for a year before that. That’s right, he was a licensed officer at the age of 18. He has also served two term’s on Pasadena’s Crime Control Board. Clearly, public safety is his passion.
When I asked him what his biggest accomplishment has been in his single term on Pasadena’s council, he told me that it was increasing the pay for police officers in Pasadena, including the starting pay to $58,000, which he thinks is the highest in the state. His reasoning for increasing the starting salary is that it will help Pasadena recruit the highest quality candidates, which in turn sustains Pasadena’s low crime rate. The city’s policy of allowing officers to take their patrol cars home also helps in recruiting and retention. He also told me that Pasadena has one of the fastest police response times in the area.
When I asked him about areas of improvement for the city, he quickly seized upon employee relations. He told me the biggest area for improvement is to empower the current city employees and capitalize on their ideas and innovations. He thinks that the current administration has created an environment that keeps city employees from speaking up out of fear. The employees are talented and work hard but their input is not welcomed by the current administration. Jeff also sees a system of favoritism in place where certain employees receive priority treatment for overtime and he plans to stop that system and make it fair. He plans to use his years of experience as a representative for the Houston Police Officer’s Union to mediate between department directors and line employees, and thinks that unleashing the potential of the employees will increase the overall efficiency of the city.
Overall, I found that Jeff has a positive attitude and outlook for Pasadena. He thinks that he current capital improvement plans in place are the right ones and will develop an accountable timeline to ensure their completion. The police, fire, water, sewer and garbage services are all in good shape. He wants to focus on neighborhood streets, safe routes for kids and to allow everyone’s voice to be heard.
It’s been almost 20 years since I last lived in Pasadena. When Jeff told me he hated negative politics, I had to laugh because growing up, that is the only kind of politics that existed in Pasadena. And when I read news accounts of the current climate, it seems like nothing has changed. But true to his word, during the hour we chatted over coffee he never said a negative word about any of the other candidates. He focused on the need to break out of the mold that puts personal agendas above the public good and his desire to treat all council members and citizens fairly and equally. That is a goal worth pursuing for anyone in public office.
You can find out more about Jeff Wagner at his campaign website: JeffWagner4Mayor.com.