Brianna Chacon is blazing a new trail in a growing Collin County community.
She has just been elected mayor of Princeton. She expects the city population to effectively triple in size from the previous census when they post the next census; that means the population of 6,807 posted in 2010 could exceed 18,000 when the 2020 census is announced.
She succeeds former Mayor Jon Mark Caldwell, who has moved to Rockwall, but who was allowed to stay on as mayor until the city conducted its election, which it did on Nov. 3.
Chacon emerged the winner, even though she didn’t score an outright majority in the multi-candidate field. A quirk in the Texas election law allows her to take office without a runoff, given that she was running for an unexpired term.
No worries. Chacon will run for re-election in 2021 for a full three-year term as mayor.
The trail she is blazing suggests that she has staked out a vision that seeks to appeal to a younger population, with a changing demographic. Princeton, which some have suggested has been a hide-bound community for as long as anyone can remember, is becoming more diverse, younger and more attuned to its changing outlook.
Chacon intends to lead the community into its new age.
She is a 38-year-old Realtor who has lived in Princeton for 15 years. She and her husband, Nick, have five children who range in age from 1 to 19 years of age.
I wanted to learn from Chacon what she had in mind regarding two key issues facing the city’s residents. She said she is new to being interviewed by a media representative, but that didn’t stop her from speaking freely about two key matters: downtown development and whether Princeton was ready to adopt a home-rule charter to govern the city.
Princeton has conducted four municipal elections to enact a home-rule charter. They all have failed. Chacon wants to make another try at enacting such a charter, which she believes will enable the city to manage its growth according to its own needs and not be hamstrung by state law. “People have been afraid of the annexation issue,” Chacon said, “but the Legislature took care of that issue,” noting that the 2017 Legislature passed a law requiring homeowner approval of any effort by a city to annex territory.
The city, which is governed under general state law, cannot set limitations where a sex offender can live, Chacon said. A charter would give the city some additional teeth to enact such limitations.
“We need to do a better of educating our residents” about a home-rule charter, she said.
Then there is downtown Princeton, which Chacon acknowledges is going to be a long, difficult project to see to fruition. “We’re going to have two city centers,” she said. The city has begun construction on a new municipal complex at the eastern end of the city just north of U.S. Highway 380. “That will be a new and vibrant district” adjacent to the new Princeton City Hall complex.
However, she wants downtown Princeton to become a place “where we can preserve our history.” She noted the existence of a comprehensive plan that includes an overlay that envisions development along Main Street, along Fourth Street and improvements along the still-small business district.
As for the new municipal complex farther east, “We hope to have a Christmas party there next year.”
Chacon calls herself a “sensitive person” who felt “out of control” when the time came for her to decide earlier this year whether to run for mayor. She made the decision on the final filing day, and then she filed her papers at 4 p.m. that day. “I wanted to serve and I asked God to put me in a place to serve,” she said. God granted her request, Chacon said, “and the rest is history.”
She has joined a City Council that already has one new member, Bryan Washington, who was elected on Nov. 3. A runoff is set for later this month to determine whether another council seat will be filled by Keven Underwood or Jessie Lopez, both of whom are newcomers. That means of the six members on the council, three of them will be new to the business of setting public policy for a city on the move.
“The city is changing,” Chacon said. She intends to help lead Princeton from its past into a future that she can help write.
John Kanelis, former editorial page editor for the Amarillo Globe-News and the Beaumont Enterprise, is also a former blogger for Panhandle PBS in Amarillo. He is now retired, but still writing. Kanelis can be contacted via Twitter @jkanelis, on Facebook, or his blog, www.highplainsblogger.com. Kanelis' blog for KETR, "Piece of Mind," presents his views, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of KETR, its staff, or its members.
Kanelis lives in Princeton with his wife, Kathy.