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Granite Shoals leaders discuss what it takes to serve on City Council

Granite Shoals councilors sworn in

Granite Shoals councilors are sworn in after being elected in May 2022. Aaron Garcia (left) was elected to the Place 2 seat on council but now serves as mayor. Councilors Steve Hougen and Phil Ort return for their second terms in office. With the May 2023 elections approaching, long-serving Granite Shoals leadership shared with what it takes to sit on the City Council. File photo

Granite Shoals Interim City Manager Peggy Smith and Councilor Ron Munos, the longest-serving member on the City Council, recently discussed the expectations, rules, realities, and responsibilities associated with serving on a council with The application window for candidates interested in running in the May 6 election closes on Feb. 17. There are five open seats on the Granite Shoals council, including mayor.

Sitting on a city council requires a foundational understanding of local government, the ability to collaborate with your peers and constituents, and a sizable time commitment, according to long-serving Granite Shoals city officials. Ultimately, it is a form of service that is necessary for a city to function properly and is well worth the time and effort, they added.

Interim City Manager Peggy Smith has worked for Granite Shoals for nearly 10 years, while Councilor Ron Munos has served two, two-year terms. He plans to run for re-election to his Place 1 seat in May. 

Both know what it takes to be a committed member of a governing body.

“You need a working knowledge of city documents,” said Smith, referring to the Granite Shoals City Charter, which acts as a constitution for the city. Having a basic understanding of this document is a requirement for anybody thinking of serving on the council, according to Smith. It lays out the responsibilities of elected officials and what they are capable of. 

The 41-page document can be found on the city’s website and is easily accessible to anyone. Among the 15 powers of the council listed in the charter are the ability to appoint or remove the city manager, adopt the city budget, and regulate utility rates.

Another important city document that should be understood is the code of ordinances, which lays out the rules and regulations that apply specifically to the city. The council has the power to adjust, remove, or add ordinances to the code. This document can also be accessed online through the city’s website.

“I think it’s most important that you understand the Texas Open Meetings Act,” Smith continued. 

The Texas Open Meetings Act is a statewide set of rules and regulations that lays out the parameters under which public meetings must be held. This document is especially important for counselors to understand because violations of the opening meetings act can result in costly legal actions against the city if the proper procedures are not followed.

Serving on a city committee and attending regular City Council meetings can be a great way to get a better understanding of what it means to serve on the council, Munos said.

“Before I got on council, I was on planning and zoning (committee) for three years,” he said. “I attended all the council meetings for a year or a year and a half before I got on the council to get an idea of what they were working on.”

Munos estimated that the typical time commitment for a councilor is five to seven hours per council meeting, which includes reading through the meeting’s agenda packet, doing the necessary research, and attending the actual meetings. 

City Council meetings are held on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at 6 p.m. at Granite Shoals City Hall. During budget season, which is June through September, more meetings and more time are required as the council and city administration zero in on finalizing the next year’s expenditures.

“It’s not a huge time commitment, but it is a time commitment,” he said. “Do your best to be there when you can.”

Councilors can attend meetings virtually by Zoom if need be, but they can be removed from office if they miss three meetings in a row.

“You don’t have to be some Einstein,” Munos joked. “You just have to have good common sense and be available when the meetings are being held. And you can’t have thin skin.”

He made sure to explain that you can’t hold grudges or take things personally when you serve on a council, even when disagreements arise with your fellow councilors. 

“People say things in the heat of battle and say things they don’t really mean,” he said. “Don’t let your emotions get the best of you.”

Smith and Munos agree that sitting on a city council is an essential act of service to the community and the city that requires a serious commitment, but is ultimately rewarding.

“It is a public service,” Munos said. “The good Lord has been good to me, and I see it as my obligation to give back where I can.”