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FULL INTERVIEW: Dan Pope reflects on six years of service after stepping down from mayor’s office

Published: May. 17, 2022 at 9:55 PM CDT|Updated: May. 18, 2022 at 8:43 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Dan Pope and the rest of the previous Lubbock City Council canvassed the municipal election votes Tuesday afternoon, ending four representatives’ terms on the dais.

Before the next councilmembers took their oaths of office, Councilman Steve Massengale thanked Pope and Councilmen Juan Chadis, Jeff Griffith and Randy Christian for their service to the city.

“Gentlemen,” Massengale, who also serves as mayor pro tempore, said during the transition, “job well done.”

The city presented them with their portraits from Citizens Tower, plaques from the Lubbock Police Department, photos of their time on the council, and their nameplates.

“I hope you will enjoy these gifts as a memento of your service here at the City of Lubbock,” Massengale said.

Ahead of Tuesday afternoon’s special council meeting, KCBD’s Abner Euresti went to Citizens Tower to speak with now former Mayor Pope about his time in office.

Proudest moments

“You’ve had time to reflect,” Abner asked during their conversation, “what are some of your proudest moments?”

“I think I’m thankful for our council,” Pope said. “There’s never been a time when six city council members have served together for six years, so there’s been some stability. We don’t always get along, but we’ve been civil to each other, and I think - because we’ve pulled the same direction - we’ve gotten a lot done.

“I think I would celebrate that council first and foremost,” Pope said. “They’re in it for the right reasons. They advocated for their districts, but Lubbock, the greater good, is always their focus. We’ve been able to do some great things with public safety, a number of things with transportation, we’ve created nearly 10,000 jobs, even through a pandemic.”

A hard year

Pope said 2020 was one of the biggest challenges during his tenure, starting with the deaths of Lubbock Police Officer Nicholas Reyna and Lubbock Fire Rescue Lieutenant Eric Hill, as well as the injury of firefighter Matt Dawson.

The Black Lives Matter Summer

After the pandemic started in March, Pope recounted what he called “the Black Lives Matter summer.”

“There was angst and unrest around the country,” Pope said. “2020 was an interesting year and it’s not something we ever expected we would deal with, but I’m thankful I was in Lubbock, Texas, for that. I think we’re big enough to have the resources to address those kinds of challenges, but we’re small enough that people all still work together.”

“I got the very best advice, encouragement, and input that you could imagine - and I learned a lot about our community that year,” Pope said about the city’s decisions during the onset of COVID-19. “I don’t think we got it all right, but I would argue we came out of the pandemic better than most cities in the country and we returned to a life that we recognized a lot quicker than others did.”

Pope said one of the challenges during the early days of the pandemic was the ever-evolving information about COVID-19 as a virus and its effect on the public health.

“We tried to be consistent,” Pope recalled, “we tried to balance lives and livelihoods. We tried to not fan the flames of fear, we tried to operate on facts.”

Pope said he hopes, when citizens look back at the city’s decisions during the pandemic, they understand public safety was the foremost concern.

“Then, how do we preserve jobs, how do we preserve this life that we want to live,” he said. “When you think about the fierce independent spirit of west Texans, some of those things clashed with who we are and it was difficult for me as a leader, and it was certainly difficult for our citizens.”

Sanctuary City for the Unborn

Pope then addressed the criticism the city council received for voting down a citizen-led proposal to allow for lawsuits against abortion providers within the city limits, effectively making it a “Sanctuary City for the Unborn.”

“There’s a few things I said I wish I hadn’t said,” Pope said of the discussions around that topic, “but I think the policy vote that I made, I think I made the right vote. I don’t think that abortion is a local issue. I, personally, feel like it should be a state issue, and we may see that happen sometime later this year, we’ll see.

Pope said he believes those votes impacted the $175 million bond proposal the city put on November ballots, something he regrets since voters declined it.

“I wish people knew my heart,” he said, “but my views - my personal views on abortion - I think I set those aside when I’m briefed as the city leader and following the city charter and the state law and the law of the land.

“It’s something we’ll talk about as long as we walk on this Earth,” Pope said, “but no regrets.”

Failed street bond proposal

Pope also said the city’s street bond proposal failed because the council didn’t communicate it well enough, saying the city should have had advocates convincing voters it was worthwhile.

“It had a minor, minor impact on our taxes,” he said. “In fact, with the way we’re growing, it may not have had an effect on our tax rates. Those were needs, not wants. There probably were a few things that could have been adjusted, but those needs have not gone away.”

Pope said he anticipates the next council to take street maintenance up again quickly, and said he will support that to the best of his ability.

Challenges for the next council

The former mayor said the next council will have to address the city’s growth and its aging population in some areas of town.

“We’ve gotta continue to create new jobs,” he said, “because we want our kids and grandkids to live here, we want them to have good jobs where they can raise families, buy cars, buy houses, take their kids to Disney World, and live the American dream.

“That’s our job,” he continued. “Our job is to create an environment that’s safe, predictable, fiscally sound, where people want to invest, whether it’s an individual or a business, we want people to look at Lubbock and go ‘that’s a good buy! I want to invest my dollars in Lubbock, Texas.”

Pope said he is optimistic for the future.

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