Due to the newly released 2010 Census numbers showing a surge in our state’s population, Texas will likely gain four new seats in Congress in 2012, and former Highland Village Mayor Dianne Costa has set the wheels in motion to run in one of the newly formed districts.
We had the opportunity to talk with Costa and get a feel of what her campaign and priorities are about: where she’s been and hopes to go.
CTG: Ms. Costa, you’ve filed in District 26. Does that indicate that you’re running for Congressman Michael Burgess’ seat?
Costa: Definitely not. As Representative Burgess knows, I’m a huge fan of his. What’s happening is that the 2010 Census has suggested that we’ll be getting four additional seats to fill. But, those districts have yet to be determined, and, as a result, there is not official place to file yet. When they are finalized, I will file the necessary paperwork to run in one of the newly formed districts.
However, I have always paced myself when running for office, choosing not to run a hasty, unorganized campaign. With the primary elections in the spring of 2012, there would be a small window of opportunity for the voters to get to know a candidate and where they stand on issues. This type of campaign is costly and in order to raise funds over the minimum allowed amount, a candidate must file for office. It is time to roll up our sleeves and get to work on solutions and educate my constituents about where I stand on matters. While there are issues that are universal to the State of Texas, once I choose the specific district in which I will be running, I will do as I did while Mayor – meet with the residents in that area to know first hand the needs of that specific community.
CTG: So, you’re not necessarily going to represent the people of the area in which you live?
Costa: Actually, at the Federal level, there is no constitutional requirement to live within your district. Perhaps our forefathers looked ahead and realized at that level of government representation has a regional effect. Decisions made in a district will likely play a significant role in surrounding areas. The way districts are currently drawn, one US Congressman (for example) represents an area that stretches from San Antonio to El Paso, making it impossible to dictate where he lives.
CTG: In that case, since your future constituents may not be familiar with your background, please tell us a little about yourself.
Costa: I’m a woman of faith, with pro life/pro family values. As Mayor of Highland Village, I feel I used a proactive approach to problem solving in working with the other council members. During my tenure with the City of Highland Village, I became known for my regional thinking, communication skills and an ability to build consensus. As a distinguished credentialed mediator, I believe I bring a firm skill set that helps bring parties together for a common good. While I was Mayor, we continued to move the City forward by maintaining property tax rates, opening the doors to new commerce (creating a healthy sales tax base), realizing high employee retention, recognition as the safest city in Texas for many years and addressing transportation needs for the future of Highland Village, Denton County and the entire region.
I’m still very active, in addition to owning my own counseling, education and mediation business. I serve on the DCTA board and on the National Multi -Model Transportation Committee addressing the needs of transportation across the entire United States.
CTG: Would you have been satisfied remaining as Mayor of Highland Village had there not been term limits, or, is this federal post you’re now seeking kind of a personal “manifest destiny” that would have drawn you anyway?
Costa: God has always been clear as to when my work is complete in a particular area of my life. I had citizens ask if we changed the city charter on term limits would I consider seeking re-election. The answer was no. The work I had set out to accomplish was complete and it was time for another to take the helm. At that time I simply looked forward to spending time with my grandchildren and dedicating more time to my business.
After a short respite I found myself once again being called to serve, only this time at the Federal level. I have always thought “regionally” and offering my service at the Federal level seemed like a natural progression. I have been privileged to be involved in many local, county, state and national programs. From that involvement has evolved an even more keen desire to continue in service to my constituents, to bring about needed change at a higher level of government.
CTG: That said, how do you feel about term limits, both in general and specifically?
Costa: I am a believer in term limits. I am also a believer in qualified experience and leadership. At the local level it takes approximately one term (two years) to become familiar with all aspects of the city including the intricacies of a budget. Two year terms are difficult because of the expense and time required to run a campaign, not to mention the time required to continue serving the community along with your own personal business. The interesting thing at the local level is that we could sit out a year after reaching our term limit and then start over again. I was asked if I would consider that, the answer again was no. It is important however to make sure that there are adequate levels of experience and leadership from which others can learn. I was blessed that when I left council we had a great group of council members.
At the Federal level I can imagine that the learning curve is somewhat more arduous. While I would have to look at all implications, I would like to see terms as 3 years so as not to have those serving in a constant “campaign mode”. While I am sure of doing away with “career politicians” I am not sure what the limit should be at this time. You have to ensure that there is not such a turnover as to lose a large percentage of those with experience. I believe the political servants of today will forever be held to a higher accountability, more so than ever before, so as not to re-live our negative past.
CTG: When did you get the political “bug”, if you will, to run? Were you always involved in government, even as a student, or was there a burning issue or incident that motivated you?
Costa: I don’t know if they called it “government” back in the days but I had a way of looking at things and searching for more productive ways of accomplishing them. I was a Student Council Representative in high school and from the age of 19 was always involved in some aspect of community service. As a college student I minored in government, never realizing the benefit it would bring me in the future.
In Highland Village, I was active as the outreach chair of the Woman’s Club, spent 5 years on the CPS Board for Denton County and was instrumental in developing the Police Auxiliary in Highland Village. The year prior to running for HV City Council our city had been involved in a contentious council election. That year our youngest son graduated from Marcus HS and members of the community spent that next year talking me into running for city council. The rest is history as they say.
CTG: In a geographical area of such conservatism, do you find it at all surprising that women have won so many political positions, whereas one might expect to encounter a ”good old boy” atmosphere…or was that a motivating factor?
Costa: It’s interesting because I was discouraged by some to
run for Mayor because it would be hard for me as a woman, although I would not be the first woman Mayor in Highland Village. Yet I looked around our county and surrounding counties and recognized how blessed we were that gender was not an obstacle. There were a significant number of female Mayors, Judges and Commissioners. These women demonstrated leadership capabilities and worked hand in hand with their male counterparts making it a win-win combination for all.
CTG: How do you feel about the gas drilling going on in this area? Do you trust the gas drillers to act with public interest in mind if they’re not closely watched?
Costa: I view drilling with the same precaution we used for economic development in Highland Village. Without a strategic plan it can be riddled with uncertainties and become a burden instead of a blessing. The issue is not one of trust but one of ongoing reassessment and reevaluation of the understanding of risks and benefits to the community. This must include education, accountability and transparency to ensure that the needs of a community are addressed appropriately so that the resource can be leveraged for the best use of the community.
On a grander scale we must seek to free ourselves from the dependency on foreign energy sources. To not take advantage of the God given resources given to our great nation, particularly those located in remote areas, is irresponsible and short sighted. We can not continue to have our economy influenced by those dominating these energy sources. Every opportunity must be explored.
CTG: I hate this question in job interviews, but, nonetheless, where do you see yourself, in your political career in 10 years?
Costa: I would hope to see myself in a town hall meeting reminiscing of a time when federal government was out of control and what we did to bring government back to the basics of what government should be and back to the people. I would see myself on the downside of my service to our country from Washington.
CTG: Who are your political mentors?
Costa: I consider myself a life-long learner and seek out those who are not satisfied with the way things have been done or live by the “that’s the way we’ve always done it” attitude. Fitting that profile for me currently is my own Congressman, Congressman Burgess, as well as Paul Ryan. While I am still studying his budget proposal I admire the fact that he has not just offered lip service but has put a draft together that gives us a place of from which to begin a productive, reasonable dialogue.
CTG: You’re already organized for your own 2012 campaign…but what do you feel that the GOP needs to do so as not to fumble the ball again as it did against Obama in 2008?
Costa: The GOP must hit with strike two – November of 2010 being strike one. The party must find electable candidates for the Presidency and Senate and beef up our numbers in Congress to solidify our position. They must engage the citizenry with social media and seek out those who may share the values of the GOP but have not voted that way in the past. We must engage the religious community to not fear open and honest discussions about a government that affects every person in our organization.
We must recognize the value of our youth. We have some of the brightest young minds that are just waiting to be tapped. These young conservatives are eager and waiting to join with us to ensure that a future full of opportunity, prosperity, and security remains in the hands of all Americans.
CTG: You have to put a lot of time both into your campaigns and public service. What personal, family sacrifices have you had to make?
Costa: I am fortunate to have the overwhelming support of my family, friends and pastor as I travel this path. In fact it was a daughter-in-law who spoke to me of her concern for her children (my grandchildren) which led her to encourage me to seek a position where I could help secure the hopes and dreams of an America that we enjoyed and they desire. She offered that we are all gifted in diverse ways and my philosophy of returning to the basics of what government needed to be could serve our nation as it served the city of Highland Village. She offered that while she understood the desire I have to be near my grandchildren and be an impact in their lives, my service to our country would be more significant to not only my grandchildren but the children and grandchildren of all.
While many parents work to leave a financial inheritance to their children, I believe leaving a strong, healthy and robust government to our children is a higher calling.
A lot of time and travel is necessary to campaign for any position. The expense of a campaign is significant especially for those of us who refuse to “buy” our position. Many contacts are necessary to secure the funds, particularly with the contribution limits that are placed on a candidate. Yet I believe that we are at a time when all are willing to contribute whether financially or with our time.
As a small business owner, I must balance my responsibilities as I serve my clients and take time away from my business to address the needs of my constituents. As a wife, mother and grandmother, I must balance time away from my family with the time it takes to insure their future. Coming from a military family, with 2 sons currently serving our nation, my entire family knows the sacrifices made when one serves to protect our future. As a woman of faith, I must balance my personal needs with the direction God has chosen for me. When you say the word “sacrifice” the natural meaning is to do without something. I would rather focus on what will be returned to us tenfold by offering our service for the greater good of all.
CTG: Finally, if we could look into a crystal ball, what achievements would you like to be recognized for in your political career, when all is said and done?
Costa: I would like to know that I exceeded the expectations of those who sent me to make a difference and encourage those around me from all parties to do the same…that I was able to stop the divisiveness among those in politics so that we never forget where we came from, whom we serve and the awesome responsibility that we have to those who follow. I would also like to have a hand in helping reduce government spending while standing strong on a fiscal and moral conservative voting record.
Finally, that those around me understand that I was about my Father’s work and that He created me for such a time as this.
To learn more about Mayor Dianne Costa and her Congressional Campaign, visit her web site at www.diannecostaforcongress.com.