DeSoto State Of The City: Charting A New Path Forward

Mayor Proctor headshot
DeSoto Mayor Rachel Proctor. Photo courtesy City of DeSoto

DeSoto’s Future Looks Bright

Vanessa Sterling from the DeSoto Chamber of Commerce began by discussing some of the things that Rachel L. Proctor, the 22nd Mayor of DeSoto, has accomplished. In addition to being Mayor, she was previously on the City Council and during that time served as Mayor-Pro-Tem. She was recognized in the Dallas Business Journal and has too many other numerous accomplishments to list here.

Mayor Proctor began by saying the theme of her address would be “Charting a New Path Forward.” She illustrated her involvement in all things DeSoto by saying “Together we choose the path to make DeSoto soar. DeSoto’s future has never been brighter.”

DeSoto’s strategic plan, “our roadmap for the future,” for the next five years was approved this past December. Mayor Proctor said trust was needed for the plan to be a success and the key to building this trust is effective two-way communication. She presented a video to discuss steps that were taken to show ways that this was being done. Examples include the Police Advisory Committee (residents can see a video online of this presentation). She praised police chief Joe Costa on steps he has taken to ensure the success of the committee as it works with citizens.

DeSoto Assistant City Manager Kristoff Bauer directed the implementation of a new computer system which integrated all data from various systems to make community information much more available and transparent to citizens.

Judge Scott Kurth and Justice of the Peace Sasha Moreno have been working together to help people who have committed minor offenses with ways to keep their driver’s licenses and be able to support themselves to improve their future.

Promoting the Image of the City

“Image must be backed up by deeds,” Mayor Proctor related. She and City Manager Brandon Wright have been working with a firm to promote the image of the city to the outside world. Wright pointed out that the city logo is currently being redesigned. Just one among many other things being done to help the city and it’s residents. One very important aspect of this is to look out for the health and safety of all city residents.

A primary way the city did this was through the DESOTO CARES program which offered ways for businesses and residents to receive help throughout the COVID pandemic. DeSoto provided more than $800,000 in direct financial assistance to DeSoto residents and $500,000 to DeSoto businesses through this program. “DeSoto In Depth” has produced nearly 40 news and information television segments to help inform citizens. This is also being done through Mayor Proctor’s “DeSoto Rises” series.

DeSoto was even listed in the New York Times as one of the top ten cities in the United States to live in due to its diversity and success in so many endeavors.

Hampton Road Project

DeSoto recently hired Matt Carlson to bolster the Economic Development program in the city. Mr. Carlson discussed the Hampton Road Project, which had been contemplated for past decades and is now being worked on in earnest. The project consists of creating the Hampton Road Corridor. Mayor Proctor concluded the economic development part of the presentation by saying a thriving business community is essential to a thriving community but there is more to a thriving community than business alone.

Focusing On Knowledge, Learning, History

“I’m talking about the qualities that appeal to our emotional happiness such as knowledge, learning and history,” she said, emphasizing that building a DeSoto where learning flourishes is very important. Mayor Proctor and City Manager Wright said the city is collaborating with the school district in every way possible to foster such an environment. The mayor pointed to the creation of a tutoring program which will help children learn outside the classroom. CM Wright said that many students from the third to the fifth grades are now taking advantage of that program.

Transportation is also important to improve this aspect of life. Thus, the city has been working with STAR transit to improve the city’s bus system. They are working toward a same day system similar to an Uber experience. This has been promoted through legal notices and reporting in Focus Daily News over the past few months. Residents can now access same day rides.

DeSoto Parks Improvements

The mayor then discussed activities in the DeSoto Parks and Recreation system.  Recent projects include creating the Natatorium in DeSoto. Chris Glover addressed this and many new facilities at Mosely Park and Pool. There will be more swim lessons and aerobics and more at the park. He and the mayor discussed the many new things that will be available at Ernie Roberts Park and Briarwood Park.

The presentation included a report with Dr. Hunter Hayes, who recently passed away, concerning the DeSoto Library system. In an interview with Hayes prior to his passing, he related that there were people from nine different countries living in DeSoto and they needed to be served as well. He pointed to one event where more than 400 people with Hispanic heritage participated. He mentioned partnerships with neighboring cities that broadened opportunities for DeSoto residents as well as residents of the other cities.

A Safe & Healthy DeSoto

DeSoto is dedicated to building a safe and healthy community, Proctor said. She said a new fire station was pressed into service last year. It served as a place for COVID vaccinations, the gun collection program and other things as well as serving as a fire station. Chief Duffield said the new station was built to withstand very adverse weather situations. “It is a state-of-the-art fire station,” Duffield related.

While several other cities had problems with their water systems during the past years storms, not DeSoto. Extreme cold damaged various systems but quick action by DeSoto’s emergency response team prevented this problem. In addition, a safe and warm place for affected residents was provided. The city worked with Beto’s Powered by the People program to obtain a grant which offset the high cost of emergency arrangements.

Keep DeSoto Beautiful

More than 600 residents participated in DeSoto’s Keep DeSoto Beautiful program last year through the shredding and cleaning event which had been postponed in previous years due to COVID. The event was a large success and residents were thanked for their involvement. The DeSoto Arts Master Plan was also implemented in the past year. The plan recognized five aspects: investing in people, in the arts, making some noise about the arts, incorporating public spaces, an implementing the plan with building DeSoto. Eight DeSoto artists will be working in public spaces as part of this plan.

A tree mitigation ordinance was passed to ensure that the cities natural beauty could be preserved. Another ordinance was passed to keep tenants and landlords properties up to date.

Fiscally Responsible

Mayor Proctor supplied information showing that the financial situation in DeSoto is excellent. “I am proud to report that in 2022 our tax rate has not increased for the past eleven years,” she said. “In January the city council approved increasing the senior citizen tax exemption for those over 65.” In emphasizing that the city is prepared for future emergencies as well, she said the city has ample reserves, and was served well through the pandemic because of reserves already on hand. “The city continues to estimate revenues conservatively,” she said.

She thanked former Mayor and current Texas Representative Carl Sherman, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, our man downtown Dr. Phillip Huang, and Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price. Dr. Huang said residents of DeSoto are very lucky to live in a city with leadership that takes COVID seriously.

Mayor Proctor remembered former Mayor Curtistene McCowan and her great contributions to the city and the area. She said a special award, “The Curtistene S. McCowan Community Service Award was created to recognize someone exemplifying service. The first award will be announced in the near future.

2022: Thirteen New Goals

Mayor Proctor said the council has come up with thirteen new goals for the new year. 2022 will be the year of the mural, Grow DeSoto and the Small Business Incubator, Hampton Road redevelopment, adding a landmark aquatic and recreational center at McCowan Park, refining the vision for the future through redefining the city master development plan.

Mayor Proctor concluded by saying “DeSoto has bucked the trend toward polarization evident through many areas of the country,” thanking citizens for their civility.