Young professionals in Victoria need representation and for their voices to be heard, they say.

The Victoria Advocate hosted a roundtable Q&A with seven Victoria young professionals last week. The city has opportunities but lacks an environment that encourages young professionals to engage with each other and grow in their careers, they said.

Taking part in the roundtable were Inez Elder, 29, resident doctor with DeTar Healthcare System; Jill Trevino, 32, owner of Trevino Water Engineering; Destiny Hood, 25, owner of Kidz of Destiny; Kyle Noack, 30, managing member at Keller and Associates CPAs; Zachary Smith, 30, mortgage banker at City Mortgage Group; Gloria Rodriguez, 30, accounting clerk and community programs at Golden Crescent Habitat for Humanity; and Katy Walterscheidt, 37, marketing manager at Golden Crescent Habitat for Humanity.

Q: What is it like living and working here as a young professional?

Walterscheidt: When I first moved to Victoria six years ago, it was really hard to get involved with the community or know where to start. ... I didn’t have many friends outside of work. I didn’t know what to do. But when I joined an organization, the Junior League of Victoria, that opened up a lot more doors ... It just made it a lot easier to be involved with the community by knowing what’s out there and what’s available, but having that initial step, it took about two years.

Noack: There are a lot of opportunities in Victoria. ... A lot of people don’t recognize there is a change (that) is going to be happening, if not already. Victoria is aging as far as business owners, community leaders ... It’s time for the torch to be passed. But it’s how do you promote the awareness to have the young people in place to accept it and run with it?

Trevino: We need to have more engagement for the young professionals – some sort of group that can weigh in on things like economic development and the city planning. Right now, it is the boomer generation that is making all the plans for the community. They’re here, but we’re here, too, and we need to have a voice. ... Victoria can be evolving with the average age group instead of Victoria just continuing to be an aging population.

Smith: I know I don’t want to listen to a 50- or 60-year-old tell me about my community. I want to listen to people my age tell me about my community.

Hood: Opening a business (here) was challenging. It was very, very difficult to go through all the rules and regulations and city ordinances. However, even overcoming that, I’m still faced with challenges that I don’t know if young business professionals know. When I talk to people and reach out to people, it’s typically the older generation because they’re very knowledgeable. But you feel kind of out of place, and you need that younger generation to communicate with because we tend to do things on a different level.

Rodriguez: When I moved to Victoria, it took me a while to figure out how to get into the community. It wasn’t until starting at Habitat and me finding my way through I started the Victoria Outdoor Women’s Club. We have Habitat Young Professionals and Habitat Student Builders, and I’ve noticed it is so hard to engage people and get them to do something one night a month.

Q: What does Victoria need recreationally to accommodate young professionals?

Elder: I want a dog park so bad. I have a golden retriever and a cocker (spaniel.)

Smith: I don’t know if anyone was at the last chamber luncheon. ... (Mayor Paul) Polasek said he doesn’t want to tackle it until after he’s out of office. Why? The city has the land. ... Why haven’t they done it?

Elder: When I was in San Antonio, one of my outlets after medical school was a big group of our friends would grab our dogs ... and chill at the dog park. ... There would be so many people just meeting and talking there. ... I know it just seems like a dog park, but you have infrastructure, and you have something that brings people together. I think that’s the basis to community, and that’s a great way to start something.

Noack: I have a staff of about 20 people, and about 12 of us are under the age of 35. So I sent out an email to see what I’d get back. ... One of the young women, she went to A&M, and she said there was a big park there. ... There was an amphitheater for outdoor concerts, a running trail on the outside. They had marathons there, family movie nights there. ... As a woman, she said ‘I wish there was an area I could park my car and safely walk around to these areas.’ ... You don’t think about something that small, but maybe that’s a small hurdle that keeps someone from coming out and doing something.

Q: What does Victoria need professionally for young professionals to want to grow and stay here?

Trevino: I would love to see some sort of entrepreneurial mentorship program. When a young business owner like you or I comes in, we kind of don’t really know what to do. I went to the (Small Business Development Center), and they were helpful. ... It would have been so great to have a local business owner that could have helped guide me, too. I reached out to a few engineers in the community, and they’re competition in Victoria. In Victoria, it’s not an inclusive atmosphere of growth. As young professionals, we love growth, and we want to be better, to have support for our personal and professional development.

Hood: It’s just bringing the professional development, and everything that we’re going outside Victoria to do and all of the entertainment, bringing it into Victoria is going to be key to helping us grow and maintain the young professionals here. Because eventually at one point, people are going to start moving out, and that’s going to hurt the population as a whole.

Q: Why do you think so many young professionals leave Victoria, and what do we need to attract them?

Trevino: We don’t have the affordable housing for this mid-level. ... Our house is way smaller than what we had in Dallas for $100,000 less.

Smith: We have zero new development in terms of new developers – everything basically homegrown. ... Why is it just that the Caterpillars of the world and the Exxons of the world are the only ones that get tax breaks? ... Why isn’t there a broad “We’re going to give you a year or two years’ worth of tax breaks for new businesses in Victoria?”

Trevino: One place that people don’t feel safe is voicing their opinions. There are people that are not here today because they were afraid of the retribution of speaking up. Because the powers that be in Victoria, people are scared of that. They’re scared of their jobs and their reputations by speaking out for change.

Noack: I plan on being here. I think there’s a lot of opportunity. ... If I were to move, that doesn’t do anything to solve the problems we’re talking about. ... The only real solution is the young professionals receiving that torch to continue to advance the city.

Trevino: I will be here forever if my children choose to be here, but if my kids want to move ... I would go because that’s where my family would be. Unless we do a good job of building up this city where our kids want to live, then some of us are out.

Smith: Infrastructure is so big to keep young professionals here. It’s not just about fixing the streets because it ranges from – We attract nothing but fast food. Why? ... That goes back to the tax break. We need more new businesses so young professionals can engage on that level ... a wine bar, outdoor venues. … We need to get young professionals out of their norm.

Hood: I think, too, not just focusing on the singles but also the people with families. It is difficult to have a babysitter, but have something where families can go out and have fun and engage in a safe environment.

Q: Relating to the local government, does your opinion differ from those of longtime residents, and what would you change about the local government if anything?

Smith: That old guard – that’s the nail in the hat. … The same goes for city council, (which) is the same way. Why don’t we have a young professional on city council?

Walterscheidt: I’d be interested to know how long all of the city council members have lived in Victoria. Is there any new blood that can bring new light and different experiences into their opinions?

Rodriguez: I’m in another organization where I’m the youngest member by like 20 years, and I’m on the board. They voted me in because they wanted new blood and change. I’m trying to bring them back into 2018 because they’re kind of living in the 1950s, and anything that I present to them is the old guard in this group. They’re just like, “No, no.” They just shut me down. How are we supposed to grow as an organization if we can’t do something new or better?

Q: What do you think the larger companies could do to retain young professional talent?

Smith: Corporations sponsoring events for those kind of people. Invista does a free ticket night. Caterpillar has a free ticket night. ... Corporations need to get more involved in the community. Not just, “Here’s a check, Mr. Nonprofit.” ... They need to be putting on more events.

Noack: They need to offer incentives for their employees to join organizations. ... If you don’t have a community, you don’t have customers. Yeah, they should sponsor events but also get their employees involved.

Walterscheidt: An example – Dow does really well for their employees, offering them the chance to go out in their communities and get paid to do it. ... It’s also good for Dow. They have the teamwork of working together and getting to know their employees outside of the work environment.

Trevino: There can be so many of these great common interest groups where people can get together. But people do have to speak up and let them know about it. But what are the forums for? Do you go to the (Victoria Economic Development Corp.) meetings on Tuesday mornings to tell people about it? That’s not your demographic.

Walterscheidt: At Habitat, we did create a young professionals group a few years ago. It’s a lot of work to try to find members to join and be active. The main goal was to have socials once month and volunteer with Habitat once a month. But it’s so much work maintaining that and finding people that are willing to give their time to do something like that. ... After the hurricane, it just kind of fell apart.

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Kathryn Cargo reports on business and agriculture for the Victoria Advocate. She may be reached at kcargo@vicad.com or 361-580-6328. Follow her on twitter @kathryncargo.

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Kathryn Cargo covers business and agriculture in the Crossroads. She enjoys reporting on industry trends and getting her shoes dirty out in the field.

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