Conversations with Candidates: Randy Christian for Lubbock City Council District 5
One of the seats on the municipal election ballot this year is for city council District 5. That's southwest Lubbock. Randy Christian is running for a second term in the position.
Sarah Self-Walbrick: To start, just introduce yourself to us and share some of your background.
Randy Christian: Well, as you said, I'm Randy Christian, and I’ve been the councilman at District 5 for the last four years. Prior to that I was in the marketing department for the McGavock Auto Group. But before that even, I owned my own ad agency, started from scratch. I had a very successful run, and closed that in 2007. I had a wide range of clients, from very small mom and pops to Covenant [Health System] and Wells Fargo, several cellular companies that were large, so we did a lot of things.
So in regards to my candidacy, I've consulted with small businesses, large businesses and businesses in the middle. So I think it gives me a good platform to serve our business community. I’m married to a wonderful woman named Margaret, we've been married for 41 years and have two sons. And as we're talking off-mic, one of them is a Red Raider and is a mass comm major like yourself, our youngest son is Phillip. And our oldest son is Peter. And he's living his dream. He's living in Salt Lake City, Utah, and works for a big international high-tech company. Just off as a side, over the last, I guess about eight to 10 years, he's been in China twice. He was there for a lengthy period of time. So that was pretty interesting to talk to him.
So here I am. Some people asked me if I’d consider running four years ago, and I said, ‘You got to be crazy.’ And I was crazy when I said yes. And it's been an incredible experience. The last four years have challenged me professionally as a councilman and personally. When some people talked to us and chatted with us about some votes that we took that they weren't particularly fond of… I've never experienced something like that. So in a nutshell, I'll stop there. And the main thing is this is a great city. And after my first year of serving, I told somebody that the number one thing I learned is that a city of any size is an engineering marvel. You walk over to the wall, you hit the switch, and the lights come on, you turn the faucet and get a drink of water. And I said, but the most important one is when you flush. That's a really important one. And it just blew me away what it takes for all of that to happen in most any facility or building or home or whatever, in Lubbock, and we're growing at a rate that we're having to move that out further as we annex too. And that's another subject too.
Sarah Self-Walbrick: You've kind of touched a little bit on the next question. You enjoy the job, but why are you running for re-election?
Randy Christian: I want to finish some stuff and I just enjoy it. And I think the thing is that I've got four years of experience. I know the job. If I was to lose, I don't like to say that word, but that would mean we would have four new council members. That could be a huge shift in the city. It’s direction, it’s progress. Do we go forwards or backward? I don't know a lot of the politics of some of everybody that's running but four changes is the majority. It’s something to think about.
Sarah Self-Walbrick: To get more specific into the term you're currently serving. What are you most proud of accomplishing in your time on the council so far?
Randy Christian: Two things immediately come to mind that I'm incredibly proud of - our Source to Solutions Addiction & Recovery Symposium. We had the first one in 2019, didn't have it in 2020 of course, had it in 2021. We have another one, the third one is scheduled for either October or November of this year. From family experience, that was one of the things I looked around and I said ‘Where are we in regards to approaching and looking at that addiction recovery from a city's perspective?’ There was nothing, literally nothing, going on in our health department about addiction recovery till we started the Source to Solutions Symposium. We had about 500 people attend, we had a number of people came up to me and personally thanked me for doing this. Either they were in recovery… there was one young man that he openly admitted, he says, ‘I’m still using, but I wanted to come here.’ And then, of course, family members.
But, as I call her, our rock star Katherine Wells with the Health Department, she saw an opening there, to use a football phrase. After the Source to Solutions Symposium, she started writing and we now have about $1.2 or $1.3 million in grants, both state and federal, that are specifically for addiction recovery programs. We're using a lot of that money already, from adolescence to adults to families. So that's the thing that I'm very proud of is the symposium. Katherine picked up the baton and started doing some incredible things that we are, as far as we know, we are the only city health department in the state of Texas that has ever done anything like the Source to Solutions Symposium. And Katherine is actually going to Austin because people want to know how we did it.
And the next thing would be McAlister Park. Three-hundred acres of city park that has been a dump but probably in the most highly visible area in Lubbock, Texas. We're going to transform that. It’s going to be the Central Park of West Lubbock. Our dog park should be opening, five acres with three different sections. But the thing I'm also proud of in regards to that - 80% of the construction of the park is private dollars. People tell me they don't know of a councilman has ever done that. But I used my marketing skills and personal connections and we got a $2 million contribution for the park. And some of that money is going to the dog park. We have a master plan that is going to be, as we say magnificent McAlister Park someday and we're working on it one step at a time.
Sarah Self-Walbrick: We have to address the flip side of that, as well, what has been a low point of your term?
Randy Christian: The street bond package. Never should have happened. I'll take as much blame as anybody for that. But it was a communications debacle, and I've worked in communications all my professional career, and wasn't asked to participate with the marketing of that. I would have been happy to do that. But I told some of my colleagues, straight up, I said ‘This could probably fail because we're not giving enough information,’ particularly on the Broadway portion of the bond package. And we should have also started with a citizens group to look over that, that’s the standard. In my advertising agency days, I did a number of bond packages. And we always started with a citizens group to massage that last version of a bond package, whatever that might contain, and then we let those people go out and advocate. Because it's not the place of the city council to go out and try to sell the deal. We can say ‘yes, we support it.’ But that's not really what we're supposed to do. So that citizens group was very important.
We could have already gotten started on some very much-needed improvements and expansions of a lot of streets. Some of them in our district, but they did a good job of getting them in all districts. Like 114th and Quaker, and then on out there. Those things need to be done today. But there’s a very strong possibility that we might not be able to put another bond package together that would mirror this one in a great deal. It may not happen till May of next year, because of some numbers and some things that you have to do prior to actually put it into the ballot for the people.
Sarah Self-Walbrick: Tell us about some city-wide issues that you think need to be addressed.
Randy Christian: Well, you hear people talking about crime. And I'm with you, our crime rate has skyrocketed. But if you look at some of the police statistics, we have lowered in some areas. But violent crimes, like the shootings that we hear about, are on the rise.
How I explain when we talk about crime in a bigger picture, and I imagine this umbrella, this archway here and across that it says “growth.” And underneath that umbrella, there's a lot of different silos, if you will, that would be under that growth umbrella. Traffic, we're seeing an uptick in more traffic fatalities. We’re hearing what is called street crimes, and infrastructure, all those things because we're growing at such a rapid rate, that I anticipate if we can get out of this national economic funk, that you're going to see us maybe double what we've always considered a growth rate for us of 1.5, seldom did it tick up to past 2, but I think that's going to double very quickly. People are looking for the Lubbock, Texases of the country where we still have a quality of life. I wouldn't say our housing is cheap anymore after some of the taxes that were received, but even the just the dirt and the construction of homes is going to accelerate.
The thing about crime is… I went to talk to the sheriff, and we had a real good conversation about crime. He had just received word from the governor, for him to start the Anti-Gang Task Force group. So I met with him and then I met again with him a couple of months ago, and I would talk to three guys on the Anti-Gang Task Force. The makeup and kind of the dynamics of the gangs in Lubbock, four years ago, they're much different than they are today. They're much younger, they're much more violent, they really have this attitude, they don't really cherish life like some of us here. It's just a very, very different culture and mindset.
But how it goes back to the growth, I tell people, as we grow, we're going to have good people move to town, and we're going to have bad people move to town. And so how we approach that we need to be very open about it, first of all. We need to be very, very open about it from corner to corner of the city. I wish our media would talk more about it. I would love to see them really have a standard set where they have Lubbock’s Most Wanted. I don't see that happening. I would also like us to see support and give more support to our neighborhood watch programs and where there's not one in a neighborhood, let's try to establish that and really get serious about taking care of each other kind of like we did when I was a kid.
Sarah Self-Walbrick: I hear that a lot in some of the communities and neighborhood meetings that I attend that, you know, we need to be looking out for each other a lot more than we do.
RC: And we need to lock up. Don't put your guns in your car. Kind of three things that are driving, in my opinion, the violent crimes that we see on TV are drugs, gangs and stolen guns. Any time you see some shooting or something like that, drive-bys or whatever. I guarantee you those three elements are probably a part of the equation.
Sarah Self-Walbrick: In your response to that last question, you touched a little bit on growth. We learned during the redistricting process that District 5 has seen the most population growth in recent years. If you've been in Lubbock for a while, it's easy to see. What challenges and opportunities do you think come with that kind of growth?
Randy Christian: Infrastructure, probably number one, and just trying to figure out how you start servicing and reaching out and giving the services that they should be getting with their taxes like trash, water. But I just think you have to understand if you go to District 5, there's a certain different kind of chaos, if you will, then there are other districts and that chaos primarily is traffic that you that we all have to share the road with. So I think we're going to have to look at ways to figure out how to get people to be better drivers. Every time I talk to somebody, they talk about speeders, they talk about red-light runners, and they talk about people that are just dangerous driving. And it's there, you see it every day, but why does that happen? I think it says something about our culture, as well. So I think we need to get back, and there's a couple of things I would like to do programmatically to try to get people to at least think about driving a little safer. And I think we would have some success with that, at least bring it to people's consciousness.
Sarah Self-Walbrick: Anything else you want to touch on specifically about growth in District 5?
Randy Christian: Growth in District 5 also includes a lot of dirt. Whether it's an open field or a road. One part of Upland is paved and the other part of Upland isn’t. And it's just, how do we get there? And it's a challenge because you got to balance. The interesting thing about it is this street maintenance and the street departments, they've got to balance their focus on District 5, of course. But it can't be. So they have to look at the balance so it doesn't look like one district is getting more of the pie than they should. It is a delicate balance. That's the reason sometimes we fight. Those dirt roads, we'd like paved tomorrow, but there's only so much money and it has to be allocated to the entire city.
Sarah Self-Walbrick: Absolutely. Last question. Why should constituents vote for you?
Randy Christian: As I said, a couple of days ago at a candidates’ forum, one of my opponents, he just opened up his response to answer that question. I said, “Well, I'm the old guy with experience.” We had a laugh on that, and the old guy is true. I've been around here quite a while and I know the city and I've seen it grow. There's people that I really admire that I go to for advice as well on things like this because I have been around here for a while. But the most important thing is the four years of experience. You have to do it to get it, and it will take a while. And once again, if there's four new people up there, it's going to be a very different place. So I would like to be, maybe, that balancing act as part of the way the makeup of the council would be. I just loved what I'm doing and I think I've done it pretty well.
Early voting is April 25-May 3 before Election Day on May 7.