Commerce city manager seeks to build trust with the community

John Parsons, Co-Editor in Chief

Howdy Lisenbee (John Parsons)

Howdy Lisenbee, city manager of Commerce, seeks to “build and preserve trust” between the city and the members of the community.

Lisenbee has 20 years of experience with Texas city governments, starting with Anson. He has also worked in Abilene and Pecos. He hopes to do another 20 years in Commerce.

He has a degree in finance plus an MBA from Abilene.

Lisenbee brought his wife of 19 years to Commerce, their 16-year-old son and their eldest daughter with her children.

His father was a ranch hand. Lisenbee grew up working cattle and participating in cattle drives. These experiences taught him to value hard work.

Lisenbee says the best way the city and Texas A&M University-Commerce can work together is to have conversations about mutual goals and partner in collaborations. This will allow both groups to understand each other’s future and “avoid sibling rivalry,” which breeds discontent.

“Our futures are tied together,” he said.

Lisenbee wants to create “a lot of synergy” between the city and the university. He recognizes that Commerce has very limited resources to meet the long list of needs within the community.

He wants to improve staff efficiency. Operate lean, “smart but effective,” he said.

Lisenbee has been in contact with Lacey Henderson, director, career development of the university, about creating a vibrant internship program that will provide students with real-world experience with minimal cost to the city. These internships will include paid and unpaid positions. Some positions will last a full semester, some will be for specific projects and others can be part of a student’s coursework.

He sees Commerce supporting the university’s development goals and has had several positive meetings with Dr. Mark Rudin, university president. Some ways to do so include transferring W. Neal St. beside Whitley Hall to the university, working together on dual-purpose streets, a recycling program and supporting both water and wastewater infrastructures. A&M-Commerce has its own water program but the two groups need to work together for maintenance and improvements.

Lisenbee committed to supporting “the mission and goals of the university.”

He wants to “keep seeing us work together.”

Open communications between the city and its residents are crucial as “what people don’t know, they make up,” Lisenbee said.

He expects to develop trust in himself and city government by being transparent and consistent. He participates in a radio program on Tuesday mornings with Dr. John Mark Dempsey, professor, mass media journalism.

Commerce should see an increase in jobs by Huaru Pipe, Inc. coming to town. The company is leasing existing space in town and has committed to having 50 employees. Lisenbee did not know how many would be local hires versus personnel brought in by the company. Huaru received a 10-year city tax abatement that will start at 100% and then decrease 10% each year.

The Commerce Economic Development Corporation provided $408,000 to Huaru and will add an additional $125,000 for reaching the goal of having 50 employees.

Lisenbee expects Huaru’s presence to have a positive economic impact with new jobs being the biggest benefit.

Commerce will also be receiving a new retail store as Tractor Supply Company will be building on Live Oak street west of SH 24.

The Biden administration has announced a $25 billion relief program called the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The money will be funneled through the states to cities and counties that have a rental assistance program. Commerce does not currently have one but Lisenbee committed to looking into the program which is intended to help renters and property owners by paying up to 12 months of overdue rent or the next three pending payments.

The Commerce city council recently held its first in-person meeting of the year. Future meetings will be broadcast on the city’s YouTube channel which can be accessed from the homepage. The meetings will also be archived for people unable to watch them live. Lisenbee will work on a way to take phone calls during the meetings.

“Trust is the single most powerful thing to do our job,” Lisenbee said. “My job is to improve it.”

He committed to building and preserving trust and said that local government’s job is to serve the public.

“We’re here to serve,” Lisenbee said.