Taking over Austin: An Inside Look at Denton County Days

Mountain Cedar, musical vibes, and tacos. What else does one truly do in Austin, if not experience at minimum these three things?

For the Denton Chamber and its Denton County Days partners, there is a little more to it during the session of the 85th Texas Legislature which takes place every two years during the transition from winter to spring.

So, what is Denton County Days? Well, to dispel one theory; it is not a festival.

Denton County Days is essentially a “takeover” of our state capitol by members of our community who band together to represent Denton County on specific issues which impact our citizens and business community.

The Denton Chamber of Commerce facilitated the organization of this visit, managing registration, accommodations, and scheduling of events for a contingency of 175 attendees from Denton County; including the Lewisville and Flower Mound Chambers of Commerce on February 28- March 1.

Partners included: County Commissioners, local businesses, City of Denton, United Way of Denton County, UNT, TWU, NCTC, and Denton Independent School District.

Participants began arriving at the Sheraton Hotel as early as Sunday evening. By Monday night both the Sheraton and the Indigo Hotels were settled in by individuals who would be touring the Capitol, attending briefings, and going to team appointments with legislators to address their respective issues on Tuesday morning.

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State Capitol Building by Angelica Del Rosal

To quote everything that was discussed throughout the meetings would be impossible, but here is a summary of the range of issues which were addressed by the rock star teams that represented Denton:

The Economic Development/Small Business Teams, made up of city and Chamber staff and Denton business leaders, addressed the continued support for small businesses as the backbone of the community as well as local control over public initiatives, and continued Texas Enterprise Funding which aides Denton in competing for new businesses to our area.

The Local Control Team [Mayor Watts, city staff, business and non-profit leaders Monica Glenn, Gary Henderson, and Charles Stafford] addressed legislation that impacts home-rule authority as well as revenue caps.

The Non-Profit Teams composed of United Way of Denton County staff, Councilwoman Keely Briggs, and community volunteers informed legislators about the Collective Impact model that Denton County Homelessness Leadership Team has implemented to streamline efforts for making homelessness rare and non-recurring. They also addressed the need for support in the areas of housing, mental health and early childhood education.

TWU, UNT and NCTC made up the Higher Education Team, led by Team Leader Amy O’Keefe, which advocated for restoration of funding, maintenance and increase of financial aid, and continued growth of workforce programs.

Dr. Jamie Wilson and his Public Education Team addressed the issue of using public funds for private schooling, the value of student growth over standardized approaches, and support for allowing local control of the school district among other issues.

Around 3pm Tuesday, Chamber staff, Kim Phillips and Adam Gawarecki with the Denton CVB and Economic Development Partnership, welcomed attendees in the Sam Houston Building for a series of briefings from different state agencies including TXDOT, TEA, TX Film Commission, TX Music Office, and the Governor’s offices of Small Business, Tourism and Economic Development. Did you know that a whopping $69 billion is spent by travelers in Texas every year? The briefing with the TX Music Office even offered a great opportunity to share details about the Chamber’s upcoming Thrive Denton Business Summit.

After a productive Day 1 of team visits with legislators, on-the-run lunches in the capitol cafeteria and many crowded elevator rides, all attendees reported back to the Sheraton Hotel for a reception on the patio [accompanied by the best weather Austin has to offer] to honor the 85th Texas Legislature. The attendance was impressive and lent itself to great networking opportunities as well as an impromptu debriefing on the day’s activities via Facebook live with team leaders.

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Denton County Group Photo by Angelica Del Rosal

The morning of Day 2 got off to an early start with a 7am breakfast to receive updates from Denton County representatives Senators Jane Nelson and Craig Estes, and Representatives Tan Parker, Pat Fallon, Ron Simmons, and Lynn Stucky. The breakfast welcomed 200+ attendees and was led by Denton County Judge, Mary Horn.

After breakfast the delegation was off to the Capitol once again for another day of meetings, a group photo, and the best part of all, the recognition of Denton County on House Floor. Special thanks to Lindsey Baker with the City of Denton for making this possible.

The two-day visit concluded with a luncheon and keynote address from Land Commissioner, George P. Bush who offered valuable updates on mineral rights and support for military veterans.

The Denton Chamber is proud to organize this effort on behalf of the Denton community. It is thanks to the passionate leaders that give of their time and talents that the presence of Denton County was felt in our State Capitol and commended on numerous occasions. As Senator Jane Nelson put it, “nobody does County Days like Denton County.”

As a measure of following up with our legislators post Denton County Days, the Chamber will host a debriefing and luncheon on September 15, 2017 at the UNT Gateway Center. For details visit denton-chamber.org .

By: Angelica Del Rosal

Special Thanks to Denton County Days Sponsors: Texas New Mexico Power, Atmos Energy, Teague Nall & Perkins, Inc., Pacheco Koch Consulting Engineers, Dannenbaum Engineering, Spectrum Business, City of Roanoke, City of Lewisville, Innovative Transport Solutions, HDR Architecture.

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