Carolyn Vaughn: A Leader with a Servant’s Heart

Corpus Christi, Front Page, Personal History

Carolyn Vaughn

     It seems appropriate that Carolyn Vaughn, the feisty, no-nonsense Corpus Christi council member from District 1, came into the world in Sumter, South Carolina, a city that bears the name of General Thomas Sumter, the “Fighting Gamecock” of the American Revolutionary War.  Her parents moved the family to Lubbock, Texas, when she was just five years old.  This wife, mother, grandmother, business owner, and devout Christian overcame her shyness and answered the call to serve her city by running for council almost two years ago.  After a hard-fought campaign, which included a run-off election, Vaughn emerged victorious and set to work trying to solve the problems of the city.

     However, serving as a council member requires that she speak publicly, something that made her more than a little uncomfortable in the beginning.  “God has taken away my fear of talking in public.  It doesn’t bother me anymore.  I still don’t like making a speech or something like that on the spur of the moment, but He has given me peace about it when I have to talk.  I’ve been shy all my life.  I was timid and hated to get up in school to talk. Even now, I don’t like crowds.  I have enjoyed working on the council, but I don’t like doing all the little things like going to luncheons.  That’s not me.  I actually enjoy solving problems, taking the calls of the people, and trying to help.  That’s what I really enjoy doing,” said Vaughn in a recent interview.

     Vaughn credits her mother with teaching her about God and hard work, two things that have helped her experience success in her personal and public life.  “I had a very good mother; I really did.  She worked very hard to put food on the table.  We never went hungry.  We didn’t have the greatest food in the world, but we never went hungry.  Once a week we had meat, what we called stew beef.  We had a lot of beans, but she was a great cook.  She could make a good meal out of just about anything.”

     Vaughn’s mother endured three difficult marriages after losing her own mother at an early age.  From the first two marriages came a total of eight children, 4 boys and 4 girls.  “My mother was a good woman, but she married three horrible men.  My dad was a very abusive man.  We were always fearful when he’d come home.”

vaughn siblings

     The council member described the violence surrounding the evening meals that often resulted in her father knocking the food off the table, shoving her mother into a corner, and putting a butcher knife to her throat while the children fearfully looked on.  Once her older brother stepped in to defend their mother, and the father turned on him.  Vaughn’s mother ran to the neighbor’s house to call the police for help but had to leave her son who had muscular dystrophy in the house.  “I remember my brother just lying in the bed because he couldn’t walk.”

     Vaughn’s father wound up in prison, and her mother married yet another abusive man.  This time, the abuse was heaped on her older sisters.  “When the fighting would start, my sisters would hide me in the closet to keep me from hearing what was going on.  They took good care of me.  There were a lot of things that happened to them that didn’t happen to me.  I am so grateful that they protected me.”

     “My mother worked all the time,” said Vaughn.  “She worked so many hours that she couldn’t do what other mothers did.  But, she made sure we were clean, had food to eat, and went to church.  Because of that, we grew up with really good morals.  We had some good people in church who took great care of us.  I think about them often and am grateful for all they did.”

     Vaughn learned to work hard at an early age.  Her mother made sure everyone had chores and that the kids went to school.  Carolyn’s education, however, was cut short.  “My younger brother had muscular dystrophy; that was another responsibility my mother had on her shoulders.  So, when I was in the tenth grade, I quit school to take care of him.  We didn’t have anyone else, and we didn’t have the money to hire someone to care of him.  I’m glad I stayed home with him because I got to have that time with him.  He died two months shy of being sixteen.” Carolyn eventually earned her GED and went to college.

brother-glenn-vaughn

     Vaughn says her work ethic stems from having to work hard as a teenager.  “We all worked.  I was a waitress when I was fifteen and even worked at der Wienerschnitzel, which I loved because it was across from Texas Tech. That was kind of fun.  All of the others, except for my younger brother, worked at Furr’s Cafeteria.  I worked in the school cafeteria to earn my lunch.  I really hated those hairnets! My siblings and I all did very well because our mother taught us to work.  Growing up poor really helped me to appreciate what I have now.”

     Her mother always worked to provide for her children, opting not to accept welfare.  “We got our water turned off a lot, but we made it.  What I experienced as a kid, has also given me a strong compassion for low-income children and the programs that are provided.  For example, the police sometimes take needy kids shopping.  It’s a good program.  A group did that for us too when I was growing up.  Once a year we got new shoes.  They would pull me out of school, and when they took me back, I’d have those shoes on.  Everybody knew, and I hated it.  I hope that all our nonprofits and other groups who provide this type of help learn to do everything possible to do good work quietly and privately so that children who have less won’t be embarrassed by the attention some get for all the good things they do in these children’s lives.”

“When I look back over my life, I wouldn’t change a thing.  Everything that happened – even the bad things – made me who I am today.  I have good memories of having fun with my mom and my siblings.  We did things that kids today just don’t do very often.  We were always outside playing games like kickball, dodge ball, Red Rover, and things like that.  I tried to play all those games with my own kids when they were growing up.”

     At the age of sixteen, Vaughn met her husband, a young man who started working in the oilfield at sixteen.  She married him at seventeen and had all three of her children by the time she was twenty-one.  She and her hard-working husband moved to Mississippi, lived in Pensacola, and now own and run a very successful energy services company in Corpus Christi.  “He started his own company.  We’ve had several companies that we’ve bought and sold.  God has really blessed us.  He has blessed us because we’ve paid our tithes, and we have always looked to Him for direction anytime we’ve done anything.”

     Vaughn’s children, two sons and one daughter, were raised in Corpus Christi.  “I am very proud of them.  Two of them work with us, and one has his own business.  My daughter is also a former teacher who taught for several years.  We have seven grandchildren and one on the way.  Our kids and grandkids are what we value the most in life, and we have instilled in them a love of God and the value of hard work.”

     When the questions turned to concerns she has about the city, Vaughn responded candidly:

“People shouldn’t profit from sitting on the city council.  It was an ethics problem that needs to be resolved.  I knew there were loopholes, so I hired a lawyer out of Dallas to look at our Ethics Ordinance.  It was presented to the Ethics Commission over a year ago, and I still haven’t gotten a response.  They agreed there are loopholes, so they are looking into it.  I hope to get the report back within the next few months.  I believe that things that have gone on in the past that allow a council member – or a council member’s spouse – to use this position for personal profit must stop.  I want us to be so transparent that there are no questions from our citizens about if and how we profit from our votes.  They should have a calm assurance that every vote we make is a vote for what we believe is best for everyone in Corpus Christi.

“We need  zero-based budgeting, and we need to quit wasting money.  We should demand that our city manager be accountable for every tax dollar we spend and be able to explain why we need to spend that money.  This isn’t the city council’s money – this is taxpayer’s money.  We owe it to all those people who work hard to make life better for their families, who want to build their businesses without unwarranted red tape and regulation, and who sacrifice to pay their taxes to show them why we need to use their tax dollars.

“While I am on the council, I will continue to work to cut waste, to stop raising rates on our citizens, and to save money in a rainy-day fund.  For the sake of our city’s future and our children’s future, we have to work together to rebuild our infrastructure, but we still need to work to cut waste, find ways to stop raising rates on the citizens, and put money in a rainy-day fund so we will have a cushion in the time of financial need,” she said.

“One of my greatest desires is to help Corpus Christi find its niche.  We are not San Antonio or Austin or Boston.  We are unique, and every one of our districts is unique.  District 1 is probably the most diverse district in the city, and we have to find a way to make everyone feel they are getting their fair share of attention and improvements from the city.  There are those who feel as though we concentrate too much on Southside and the Island.  While we have to continue to help those areas grow and expand, we can’t forget the needs in Districts 1, 2, and 3, as well.  It’s not my district, but I get calls from voters in Flour Bluff who feel as if their needs have been forgotten by the city, and they’re in District 4.  We really need to examine how we spend our available money and spread it across the city.

“As I have come to know the people in my district, I understand the need to bring workforce training to our younger people, to help small businesses thrive, and to assist industries and refineries in providing jobs and economic development to our area.  I see the benefits from downtown revitalization and the Sports*Arts*Entertainment (SEA) district for both tourists and local residents alike.  I want those same benefits to trickle over to North Beach and other areas of District 1 and the city.

“But even as we see tremendous benefits from ongoing efforts in business and infrastructure, we can’t forget that we also need to focus on the poor, the senior citizens, and the veterans.  I am happy to have been a part of helping our senior centers get much-needed repairs.  I want to find a way to help the poor lift themselves up so they can be proud of who they are, where they live, and what they have.  I support programs that allow people on limited incomes to become homeowners, clean up their neighborhoods, and become taxpayers and contributors to our economy.

“And, I believe we should honor our veterans and – as a country and a people – keep the promises we have made to them.  These aren’t just pie-in-the-sky ideas.  Decisions made by the city council affect everyone.  We can’t just give to those with the most.  The Bible says we are to give to the least of these.”

     Carolyn Vaughn may be one of the newest members on the council, but she hasn’t let that hold her back.  She asks questions, digs deeply, and ferrets out the answers.  She is a woman of God who has the courage of David as she takes on the Goliath of municipal government.  She, like General Sumter, is a patriot who believes in the rights of the people and is willing to fight for their rights.  Her mother would be so proud to know what her daughter has become, a confident servant of the people who gets her direction from God.

Note:  This article is one in a series of  personal histories of local leaders.  Related articles: Chad Magill: Leading Corpus Christi in a New Direction 

                                                                                                                                                                      Margie Rose: The Story of a Southern Lady Who Became a City Manager

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Corpus Christi Council Approves Mid-Year Adjustment to Budget

Corpus Christi, Front Page

City Hall

     City Councilman Chad Magill’s questions raised about sales tax revenue at the October 17, 2015, council meeting seemed to foretell the message delivered to Council by City staff at the April 16, 2016 meeting.  At that time, Magill said,  “Corpus Christi has a strong economy right now.” Later he added, “Why I’m asking the questions I am is to prepare for potential challenges that may or may not come. But it’s better to be prepared and ready than not.”

     “We have been losing revenues through March 31 of this year,” said Deputy City Manager Margie Rose to City Council at the April 16, 2016, regular meeting. “We’ve lost about 4.9% of what was budgeted.  We believe we will continue on this track through the end of the fiscal.  If that is the case, we do believe that we will be short about $8 million as is outlined on the left side of the chart.”

Mid Year Budget Adjustment

     This shortfall staff attributes to a loss of sales tax revenue, a decrease in the property values for Flint Hills and Valero, and municipal court costs outweighing revenues.  Councilwoman Carolyn Vaughn said, “The municipal court really stands out to me.”  This concern was echoed by several other council members.

     “Whatever the issues are, they occurred beginning in Fiscal15,” said Rose, in response to Vaughn’s comment.

     City Manager Ron Olson explained what was being done to rectify the problems.  “The dip in the revenue is a result of the lag in receipts due to the implementation of technology.”  He explained that they are currently looking at this problem and at the judicial policies about setting payment plan.  “We’re in the process of looking at both,” Olson said.  “But cutting expenses is probably a bad idea in court, but getting all the planned revenue is something we really need to do first.  We’re working on that now.” Magill pointed out that outstanding warrants may also have potential revenue capture.

     Rose explained how the City could adjust the budget to make ends meet.  “We have about $10 million in of unreserved funds in our debt service funds that  we would like to use.  The $4,179,000 (See chart) would come from these unreserved funds,” she said.  Rose also told Council that:

  • $500,000 earmarked for Development Services would remain in the General Fund;
  • $151,000 of the budgeted $208,000 for Intergovernmental Relations Contracts with lobbyists at the state and federal levels would remain in the General Fund;
  • Cutting fuel costs and leaving open positions vacant in all departments except in the areas of engineering, streets, and public safety would leave $2,144,370 in the fund;
  • Rebates from MIS, Fleet, and Development Services would add another $1,025,630 to the kitty.

     Councilwoman Lucy Rubio asked about the Council’s request made last year to look into car allowances and electronic expenditures.  Olson gave an update, explaining that the car allowance policy has been amended to include contract positions only and that take-home cars have been reduced by 30 or 40 cars.  He also said, “The big money saver is going to be in electronics, like cell phones and iPads.” Olson related that in the past 10 years, each of the 34 city departments had its own service contract for the devices.  By bringing all departments under one umbrella using the same carrier, Olson said he believes the City will see about a 35% savings.

     “I know it doesn’t seem like a lot of money, but at the end of the day, it all adds up.”

“No one likes to be in this position where we have to make adjustments because we’re over budget,”said Mayor Nelda Martinez.  Referring to the drop in sales tax revenue, she said, “We knew it was going to be lower, but we didn’t know how much, but we’re prepared for it.”

     Magill reminded everyone that the debt fund balance was at $15 million two years ago, then dropped to $9.9 million, and to around $5 million with the mid-year adjustment.  Magill asked if the City was still meeting the fund balance requirements in the fiscal policy, to which Rose answered, “Yes.  We are required to keep a reserve of 2%, which would be about 4 or 4.5 million dollars.”

     Earlier in the meeting, Magill said, “I’ll start at the bottom line, and the bottom line is that healthy fund balances see us through challenging times.  This is why we have a mid-year budget adjustment.”  He continued, “Fund balances make all the difference.  I always try to push to be as clear as possible on our fund balance policies.  Policies on both ceilings and floors of fund balance give predictability to our rating agencies.  That’s what helps our ratings in the future, too, and helps us pay less interest on our debt service.”

     Magill cautioned City staff, saying, “We don’t want to compound the shortfalls in sales tax revenue by not lessening our dependence on new property growth values. Often the city over the last few years has paid city employee raises – and more – with the 6-8% property value growth each year. Everything I am hearing right now is that 2016 is stable, but 2017 is where we see 2-3% property value growth.”

 

 

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It’s my Opinion, and You’re Welcome to It!

Corpus Christi, Government and Politics, Opinion/Editorial

Abraham_Lincoln_head_on_shoulders_photo_portrait

“In this age, in this country, public sentiment is everything. With it, nothing can fail; against it, nothing can succeed. Whoever molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes, or pronounces judicial decisions.”  Abraham Lincoln

     My wife is always asking me what I think about what is going on in the city.  Usually, I am like most people; I either don’t know, don’t care, or don’t think anyone wants to hear my opinion on the matter, whatever the matter may be.   Lately though, I have quite a few opinions, especially about city council because some of its members have actually captured my attention, something that only the History Channel and ESPN is typically capable of doing.  Folks like Tom Whitehurst of the Caller-Times can get my attention, too, when he gets on a rant.  I can’t think of a single time I’ve agreed with him, so his Magill and Vaughn bashing not only gets my attention, it makes me want to blurt out my thoughts.

      I live in Corpus Christi and pay taxes, so my opinion is about as important as anybody’s.  Here goes.  I don’t know if Chad Magill has all the answers; I just know he’s actively working to find answers.  He strikes me as the kind of person who wants to do what is right for the city, as does Carolyn Vaughn.  That’s a rare thing; people like that are special.  Most politicians don’t really care about their city or its citizens; they just use the office to make their own lives or the lives of the people who put them in office better, and we have a few of those. These two, along with Lucy Rubio, Rudy Garza, and Brian Rosas, genuinely seem to want to make life better for all of us by holding city staff accountable for the way they spend our hard earned money.  When I listen to Magill speak on Lago in the Morning or at council meetings, I get the idea that this man has a vision and a plan to go with it.  Is it the right plan?  I don’t know.  But, until somebody shows up with a better idea, I say give the guy a chance to prove that he knows what he’s talking about.  It can’t be any worse than what has been done in the past, and it might just be better.

     As he forges ahead – and he strikes me as the kind who will – he’ll have some council and staff who will support him wholeheartedly.  Some he’ll have to carry kickin’ and screamin’ all the way through it.  I wish there were more people like him who can look at a situation, identify the real problem, and fix it.  I know that’s what my customers expected of me when I was hired to repair brick or rock jobs someone else messed up. It’s part of good customer service.  Shouldn’t we expect – no, demand – good customer service from our city?

    And another thing, I really think that the dissenting four on council have to see the logic in Magill’s plans.  Surely they don’t really think that taxpayers should foot the bill for every kid to take swimming lessons.  I am fairly certain in their heart of hearts they know that the real destination is the beach, not the bayfront.  Of course, I could be wrong.  Maybe they really don’t get it.  That tells me what needs to happen in the next election.  Anybody got a rail?

    Yep, it’s my opinion that Magill is onto something, something that focuses on creating an environment where the citizens can thrive without being taxed to death.  I plan on giving him – and those who share his vision – a chance.  What’s more, I plan on sharing my opinion now that I have settled upon one.  Boy, will my wife be happy!

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Keep Up with the Corpus Christi City Council

Corpus Christi, Front Page

City Hall

This page is for those readers who want to keep up with what is happening at City Hall but can’t make the council meetings.  Below are links to the agendas, minutes, and videos for each meeting.  Contact information for the mayor and council members was taken from the City of Corpus Christi website.

January Meeting Agendas, Minutes and Videos

February Meeting Agendas, Minutes and Videos

Contact Information for:

Mayor Nelda Martinez

(361) 826-3100
1201 Leopard St. 78401
P.O. Box 9277 78469

neldam@cctexas.com

Fax: (361) 826-3103


Chad Magill, Council Member At-Large

Work: (361) 826-3105
Business Address:
1201 Leopard St. 78401

Chad.Magill@cctexas.com


Lillian Riojas, Council Member At-Large

Work: (361) 826-3105
Cell: (361) 765-1499
Work Address:
1201 Leopard St. 78401

Lillian.Riojas@cctexas.com


Mark Scott, Council Member At-Large

Work: (361) 985-2004
Home: (361) 814-9220
Business Address: 5324 Holly 78413

markscott338@gmail.com

Carolyn Vaughn, District 1

City Council Offices
1201 Leopard St. 78401
Main Line: (361) 826-3105
Cell: (361) 877-0148

carolyn.vaughn@cctexas.com


Brian Rosas, District 2

Work: (361) 826-3105
Work Address:
1201 Leopard St. 78401

brian.rosas@cctexas.com


Lucy Rubio, District 3

City Council Office
1201 Leopard St. 78401
Main Line:(361) 826-3105
Cell: (361) 774-0465

Lucy.Rubio@cctexas.com


Colleen McIntyre, District 4

Work: (361) 826-3105
Work Address:
1201 Leopard St. 78401

Colleen.McIntyre@cctexas.com


Rudy Garza, District 5

Work: (361) 826-3105
Work Address:
1201 Leopard St. 78401

Rudy.Garza@cctexas.com

 

 

 

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