Waco: Councilwoman 'excited' about future of her district

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) East Waco learned what's being done to improve the quality of life across the Suspension Bridge Thursday night.

Councilwoman Andrea Barefield hosts her first post-election forum for her district. (Photo by Brad Vaughn)

"The district is definitely getting better, definitely getting more services," said Andrea Barefield, Waco City Council District 1.

District one, a diverse district that's been historically underserved, is a hidden gem, she says.

"With the streetscape project on Elm alone - that is an amazing opportunity for us to kind of 'polish' our diamond," said Barefield. "We've got so many gems and jewels, and when we do streetscape projects, when we do lighting projects, when we add elements and economic development that highlight these things, it just makes us stronger."

On Thursday night, Barefield hosted "On The One: A District One Conversation" at the City of Waco Multi-purpose Facility on Elm St.

The forum opened discussions about what's happening in the district, and to it, as Waco's economy booms.

"I'm so excited about the growth that's happening in our community," said Barefield.

Excited...but heedful.

It was a packed house as citizens voiced concerns about everything from a lack of affordable housing, lighting, economic development and more.

"With the glowing success of Waco right now, there's also a dark side to that," Barefield told the crowd. "We want to make sure no one gets lost in all the development happening."

It was the first opportunity for Waco's newest council member to formally hear from her constituents since she was elected.

"They chose me to be their voice and representative, but I thought it was important for me to know 'exactly' what they wanted me to know and say," said Barefield. "We've been interacting with different groups, but I thought a public forum would be the best way to hear from our constituents and know what their concerns were."

Citizens didn't just come to vent: Barefield says they came to collaborate on solutions.

"What I'm taking away is that our citizens are concerned, and our citizens are dedicated to making Waco better, and we're finding active avenues and venues to connect them to opportunities to do that," said Barefield.

Along with the a presentation on Tax Increment Financing (TIF), Administrators from various city departments including Police, Public Works, Water Services and more, gave citizens status updates and discussed what was in store for the district.

According to Lisa Tyre, Director of Water Utility Services, about 37 percent of the city's construction and design project funds are being invested in district one.

"I'm so excited about the opportunity to increase small business in this area and supply resources that will be effective and helpful to build our community from the outside in, but also from the inside out," said Barefield.

The councilwoman says they have "a lot of work to do" and repeatedly encouraged citizens to get involved by joining city boards and commissions to help Waco carry the growth coming its way.

"It's up to us to be a part of the change that we want to see," said Barefield.