Volunteers step up to join planning commission

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

July 15, 2013 at 2:15 a.m.

After being forced to leave his seat on the planning commission to seek an elected office, a Victoria man hopes to be reinstated at Tuesday's City Council meeting.

John Hyak, a department manager at Formosa Plastics, is up against six others for three openings on the planning commission, the board responsible for recommending ordinances and variances to the City Council.

Hyak, who lost the election for District 3 against Jeff Bauknight, said he never wanted to leave the commission.

"I feel that I have something to offer, and I just want to be a part of our city's growth," he said. "Whether or not it's on City Council - obviously, it's not going to be - or the planning commission or another committee, I certainly want to serve. That's my goal."

The council will vote Tuesday how to fill the vacancies.

Seven Victoria residents put their name in the hat for a spot on the planning commission: Vic Caldwell, a parks commissioner; Scott Houston, a Gulf Bend caseworker; Zachary Koenig, a builder; Randy Pilsner, a project engineer at Dow; Bruce Woods, an insurance salesman; Mary Anne Wyatt, an attorney; and Hyak.

Bauknight, who served as chairman, is ineligible to continue with the commission now that he is a city councilman, and Keith Williams has hit his term limit.

Commissioners can serve three, three-year terms.

The commissions give insight into the groundwork of city business, Bauknight said.

The biggest challenges during his time on the commission was fairly applying criteria for variances and keeping ordinances updated, he said.

"I thought it was extremely impressive that there were so many applicants willing to plug in their time," he said.

It shows that more people are taking an interest in the direction of the city, he said.

He wants commissioners who have the time to make well-informed recommendations to the City Council and the experience to do the job, which is not always simple.

"There's the frustration that the commission had worked for eight to 10 months on sign and billboard issues," he said. "We thoroughly investigated it, but when a variance request comes up and City Council overturns the planning commission's recommendations, that's frustrating."

Remaining members on the planning commission are Richard Janecka, Dan Mikulenka, Louise Hull Patillo, Sharon Steen, Greg Spears and James A. Wayne.

Serving on these commissions can be a gateway to elected office, Bauknight said.

However, Councilman Tom Halepaska said the only precursor is having a desire to improve the community.

"There have been times in the past when no one wanted to volunteer," he said. "Now, we have a nice crop. Even those who don't get it are fine citizens."



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