Joe Geistman grew up on the same road where his great-grandparents grew up. A fourth-generation Victorian, his family has roots here.
“I got a lot invested in here,” he said. He and his wife have two boys. He wants them to be able to go to school and want to come back to Victoria, he said.
Geistman is one of five people on the ballot for the special election to fill Jeff Bauknight’s District 3 City Council seat. The special election is July 3.
Geistman received his associates degree from Victoria College and went on to work as a drilling fluids engineer for Halliburton and then as an operator for Formosa Plastics Corp.
After battling a rare blood disease for several years, he was let go by Formosa this year. Since then he has been working to start his own carpentry business.
“I do believe that God puts you in places for certain reasons, and sometimes it’s hard for us to see what those are,” he said. “But I believe he led me to this point right here.”
The 9/11 attacks was the beginning of Geistman’s interest in national politics and news, but over the past year he said he’s come to realize the importance of local government.
“You can’t do a lot to change everything in the world,” he said. “But if you start in your own house, you can make a real difference.”
Why did you decide to run for City Council?
“I’ve always been so big on following everything that’s going on at a national level,” said Geistman. “About a year ago, I decided, local is where it’s at. All politics, all government starts locally.”
He said after that he began getting more involved with people and groups in town. He began attending the Victoria Economic Development Corporation meetings and town hall meetings, trying to immerse and educate himself on Victoria’s government.
“I want to see some change,” he said. “I’m not saying we’re doing a horrible job, but if we’re not trying to do a better job and improve every single time, what’s the point?”
If elected, what will you prioritize as a councilman?
One of his main priorities would be to look through the budget to see if there’s any area for improvement, so that more money can be spent on roads.
On top of that, a priority for him personally is quality economic growth.
“Not just bringing in a big corporation,” he said, “But also entrepreneurialism and economic growth from our own citizens. What can we do to encourage that?”
Creating more economic growth and outside sales tax revenue, he said, is also a way to generate money to improve our roads and do other things without raising people’s property values and increasing taxes.
How would you prioritize communicating with residents and receiving citizen input?
“I believe in making our local elected officials more accessible,” he said. “People feel like there’s a big disconnect between their local government and them.”
He pointed out the fact that most people he’s talked to while campaigning have never talked to a candidate much less their elected local officials before.
Officials should run for office to carry out what citizens want to see done, he said, which means they have to be out there doing the footwork and hearing residents’ concerns.
How do you think we should prioritize spending in next year’s budget?
“I believe we could make some decisions to not spend as much downtown,” said Geistman.
While he would like to see downtown fixed up with more businesses, he said he thinks the Loop is the city’s new Main Street. “That’s where I think more focus should go toward as far as our economic development.”
He’d also like to see the city focus on investing money on things where they will see a return, and not spend money on projects that are just going to cost more money down the road.
The city of Victoria is set to receive $14.5 million through the American Rescue Plan. How would you like to see that stimulus money spent?
Geistman said he’d like to make sure that money is spent on projects that will benefit the entire community.
While it depends on what exactly the money is allowed to be spent on, he thinks using it on projects to improve drainage across the city would be one possible option.
“I would also like to go and personally talk with first responders to see is there anything that you don’t have that can help y’all do your job better?” he said.
“I think keeping it kind of in that realm of public safety, drainage, first responders, all that,” he said. “I believe that would be a great place to see the money. And I think that’s a thing that will benefit all of the city and not just a few people.”