Name of Professional: Rick Crowley
Profession/Title: City Manager of Rockwall
Business/Company name: Rockwall City Government
As I continued to expand my research to non-elected positions in local government, I interviewed the Rockwall city manager, Rick Crowley. In this interview, we discussed how national events shape local discussions, tax rates, and water sales. I was quite surprised by the fact that selling water throughout the city is one of the biggest challenges that city managers face. From interviewing Mr. Crowley, I gained great knowledge regarding the day to day functionality of a city which greatly strengthened my research.
While the challenge is unique to areas prone to droughts, Mr. Crowley discussed in length how water sales affect the city of Rockwall much more than one would assume. The city receives a great source of revenue from its water sales, despite the resource not always being the most dependable in North Texas. He explained that a few years ago, the lake that the city receives water from was significantly under capacity, while the lake on the edge of the city was full. During this summer, the city actively campaigned to encourage citizens to conserve water. However, a problem quickly arose when residents saw no reason to conserve water, assuming that they used water from the lake on the edge of the city. In this given year, Mr. Crowley explained, the city had a sufficient amount of revenue from water sales, but the lake was greatly depleted from the lack of conservation.
He continued to discuss the challenges that arise from water sales. The following summer, the lake near the city was also significantly below level, inciting the residents to conserve water. With the city campaigning to conserve water and residents doing as so, the city manager’s office found the maximum amount they could restrict water usage by and still earn a substantial amount revenue. Due to the local government and residents’ conservation efforts, the city of Rockwall conserved more water than their goal. Despite the environmental benefits, this greatly hurt city funds, as they lost a large source of revenue.
As I listened to Mr. Crowley explain how water conservation over the course of two summers limited government revenue and actions, I began to consider the broader causations and consequences of the scenario. During the first summer he described, Rockwall’s government had trouble effectively communicating to residents about why they needed to conserve water. However, the communication challenge the following summer was in how much water to conserve. While these were two separate situations, I noticed that the two summers were similar in the fact that the city and the residents were approaching the drought with very different mindsets. This led me to question how governments can ensure that they are on the same foot as their residents. What causes ineffective communication? How can local governments effectively communicate to residents?
At the end of the interview, Mr. Crowley quoted former Lt. Governor of Texas, Bill Ratliff, saying that “the world is run by those who show up.” Leaving with this in mind, I was inspired to take the information regarding Rockwall’s dilemma between water sales and conservation and further evaluate communication between the government and its people. After this valuable interview, I felt as if I had information that would allow me to “show up” and begin synthesizing my research so far for my future projects.
Date of Interview: October 14, 2016