By Vivian Roach | Staff Writer
Dave Morrow and Dillon Meek are the mayoral candidates for Waco in the November 2020 election. In March, The Waco City Council postponed the spring general election for mayor and council members of District I and III to the general election on Nov. 3.
Morrow graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and received his master’s degree from California Polytechnic State University in computer-based education. He has a background in environmental planning and engineering, with experience in government agencies as an employee or contractor. In Waco, Morrow has been involved with several transportation and infrastructure planning groups and projects.
Meek attended Baylor for his undergraduate degree, continued on to Baylor Law School and graduated in 2010. He now works as the general counsel and executive vice president of development for First Title Company of Waco. He has served on multiple Waco planning committees and groups.
Meek said he would like to see more Baylor students stay in Waco as an effect of his general platform to strengthen the economy in Waco.
“My main passion is to grow the economy so that everyone has an opportunity to find success,” Meek said. “I’m really passionate about looking at how we aggressively, creatively and actively recruit exciting companies to come to Waco. With regards to Baylor students, I have a lot of vision for students to find a home in Waco.”
Meek said he wants that symbolic divider of the highway to fall so that the student population becomes fully ingrained in the city, hopefully for more than their four years of undergraduate studies.
“I want students to enjoy their time in Waco, to get off campus, to come and explore our downtown and the rest of our city. Fall in love with it, start new businesses here, find a job here, and to make Waco their home,” Meek said. “And I think with good strategy and partnership with the University, that can be realized.”
He said he hopes with strategic communication from the city, even in the pandemic, students can be informed about businesses and downtown activities so they’re empowered to join the culture and the civic life.
A new downtown incentive, the Brazos Promenade, is in development on the Brazos riverfront. There will be multifamily apartments, intentionally for non-student housing. Meek said he hopes this retains students as well as new businesses he wants to recruit for job opportunities.
“I know plenty of people who told me over the last decade, ‘I would love to stay in Waco, but it’s been hard to find a job,’” Meek said. “And so what does it look like for us to recruit businesses that are going to pay good wages, and we can meet that need. I think supporting entrepreneurs, Baylor grads, who want to start a business is another way that we can retain some of our student population.”
Morrow, the second mayoral candidate, takes another approach to the Waco economy and Baylor’s relationship to it. Morrow said he hopes to grow small businesses with the help of the Baylor community and attract technology companies from Austin.
“What I’ve tried to do is think about ways to help people get middle-class jobs, where they’re making $50,000 or $60,000 a year. They can afford to buy a house and have a relatively comfortable life,” Morrow said. “So, today, the technology opportunities are strong, but there’s also the opportunity for people to become interns and work with someone who will mentor them.”
Morrow said he hopes to create job internship opportunities with mentors from Baylor for freshmen at McLennan Community College or seniors in high school to get on a good track.
Mentors helped guide Morrow in starting his own small business producing face masks, he said.
“I would like to leverage Baylor brain power to help local folks in the communities start businesses that will feed their family and provide a good livelihood,” Morrow said. “And perhaps they’ll be even more successful, be able to grow into a large business and hire more people.”
The advantage of growing these small businesses also keeps the spending dollars in Waco. Morrow said the economic policy bringing in big industry and manufacturing plants to generate jobs is old school. Waco has a big problem with big corporations like Target or H-E-B taking profits out of the city.
“It is the same as keeping the Baylor graduates in town, because that’s brain power. When we let brain power leave, [that’s] someone else’s gain from it,” Morrow said. “I think we should provide a competitive environment where folks feel like they can start a business and be successful here.”
Meek said it is also important to meet those needs of the generational communities and help them benefit from new growth too.
“We need revitalization, and I think that it’s going to take people that haven’t lived here before, or in these parts of the city specifically, to participate,” Meek said. “But it’s also critical that we have policies that ensure that people who have lived here for generations have a space to continue to have a say in the direction of their neighborhood and can participate as well.”