When I look back at the last ten years, I can’t help but feel a sense of pride over what Highland Village has accomplished.
Our Fire Department recently received national recognition for the work they do to make our community a “Heart Safe Community.” The award, broken into two population categories (less than 100,000 population and greater than 100,000 population) and given to only one department in each category, recognizes fire service-based EMS and other EMS systems with creative approaches to implement and maintain systems to prevent and treat cardiac-related diseases within their communities. Chief Glover and his department have initiated community outreach programs such as Citizen CPR classes, training our dispatchers as Emergency Medical Dispatchers and placing AED’s on all police units. Along with this is the increased use of technology – specifically cardiac equipment like EKG’s which provide advance transmission of patient data to receiving hospitals. We saw proof of the merits of this award recently when our fire department responded to a cardiac arrest victim in Highland Village. The department began treatment, sent the receiving hospital the necessary information and when the ambulance arrived the patient was able to go immediately to surgery – all within 15 minutes of receiving the 911 call. Now that is pretty amazing!
And what is even more amazing to me is looking at where we began in our fire service. As a small community our residents were provided fire and EMS service by an all volunteer fire department and then a combination of paid and volunteer staff. And, at the time, that was the appropriate level of service for a community our size. As the city grew, it became necessary for the department to grow as well. In 2000 the department initiated a plan to move from a combination paid and volunteer staff to a full paid staff to meet the Emergency Medical Service and Fire Protection needs of our community. Since that time, the Fire Department has added 16 new positions with no impact in raising the city’s existing tax structure. Many of those who filled these positions have been dedicated volunteers who chose to make a career with Highland Village. Our last addition of staff to the Fire Department took place in 2009 when three new employees were hired and their positions were funded for five years by a federal grant. It was at this time we were able to schedule, for the first time ever, five people per shift to provide EMS and Fire Protection 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This was the public safety expectation of our residents.
We continue to strive to meet the service expectations of our community as the city has continued to grow. Over the years staff has done a tremendous job meeting those needs by looking for opportunities to do more with less. We have increased staff where it was necessary, shifted responsibilities and positions when needed and expanded our service level to a growing community – all with no increase to our existing tax structure. A big part of this is due to our Council and particularly a recent council member, Louis Robichaux, whose mantra was “sustainability.” We continue that mantra as we begin the budget process this year. Over the last ten years we have employed a five-year staff projection plan to methodically look at the service needs of our community and the staffing level needed to meet that need.
As city manager, these are accomplishments that make me proud. It is one of the reasons Highland Village is a safe community and often chosen as one of the best places to live in North Texas. It is time again for us to review our staff projections and this time we must consider the increased population of our community due our commercial growth. The development of the food and retail centers at FM 2499 and FM 407, the increased population of our adjacent communities and the opening of Whole Foods later this summer bring more and more people to Highland Village. That along with maintaining the services and stature of our community is one of the focuses of our work this year. Highland Village is continually ranked as the top places to live in North Texas and we constantly work to live up to that ranking.
In fact, we were recently recognized as one of the “Best of the Best” in North Texas by the Dallas Morning News. The newspaper rated the neighborhoods in Collin, Dallas, Denton, Rockwall and eastern Tarrant counties. Eleven quality-of-life characteristics were assessed using data from variety of sources. A total of 1,186 census tracts in the counties were scored. The following are characteristics used in scoring each community; safety from crime, affordability, good schools, well-maintained and quiet, rising home values, pet-friendliness, places to shop and things to do, commute, walk ability, attractive trees and landscaping, and finally parks and green space. Two of the categories that we scored the highest in were Safety and Empty-Nesters, at number 10 Overall. Their comment on Highland Village, “The Denton County city offers some of the region’s best access to parks and natural areas.” I agree 100%. If you don’t live in Highland Village, come see us – shop, eat and play here. You just may want to make Highland Village your home!
Michael Leavitt, City Manager
Highland Village, TX