Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere is nearing the end of his second and final term.
No stranger to controversy or crisis, LaRosiliere’s tenure as mayor became characterized by hot-button issues such as the Plano Tomorrow development plan and unprecedented crises such as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Over the past week, he has had to manage yet another crisis: a record-setting winter storm that has led to power outages for thousands of Plano households.
LaRosiliere spoke about the measures Plano’s government is taking to mitigate recent hardships and also reflected on the past and future of his current lame duck period.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Is there anything you’re doing as mayor to provide relief or assistance to residents of Plano?
In times like this, the most effective role we can serve is the [distribution] of information. As a local government, we’re closest to the people, so they tend to gravitate to us. And really, just providing accurate and timely information. Letting them know what’s going on in terms of the rolling blackouts, letting them be aware of the safety tips to engage, and most importantly, we’ve had a number of warming stations that [have] opened up throughout the city.
You said in this year’s State of the City address that Plano is a “resilient” city. Are you seeing that right now through this crisis?
Yeah, so it’s really bearing out again.
When we were determining [how to do] the warming stations, we had some real structural challenges. For example, if we wanted to do a warming station as a city ourselves, the appropriate place would be like, the Plano Center or the Rec Center. However, those were offline, and the power was spotty, so it wasn’t going to help to have them there.
So what we did, our resilience is shown as we come together as a community. The first warming station we announced was Grace Church. They’re providing the facility, but we provided security, police and EMS. It was really a collaboration between an entity and the city to do that. It was clear to us that it was going to be challenging for us to do it on our own.
The difficulty to do things like that is, sometimes the unintended consequences are worse. If you set an expectation and it’s not met, it’s worse than if you did nothing at all.
Our resiliency is shown in our collaboration for sure.
What are your plans once you leave office in May?
I think about the years I’ve been involved in the community. I moved here in 1994 and got involved immediately with nonprofit organizations and started serving on boards and commissions for the city, spent six years on council. So I think the first order of business is to do nothing and power down. I don’t have a burning desire to necessarily run for another office.
My ultimate goal is to contribute to my community, and for the most part, it’s always been about Plano to me. I’ll be around and I’ll be active.
What I found the most joy working [on] as mayor [were] the initiatives we did with younger folks and providing opportunities, so I’ll look to certainly contribute on that level.
You’re going to be handing the key to your next successor. It may be Lily Bao, it may be John Muns, it may be Lydia Ortega. One of those three people will be in charge of handling an unprecedented pandemic while also overseeing the continuation of Plano’s economic expansion. Do you believe that any of these people will be up for the task?
Well, I certainly have confidence in John Muns. I’ve known him for a long time. He was my Planning and Zoning chair for many years. He’s has quite a bit of [knowledge] and is a lifelong Plano resident, so my confidence in him is probably the greatest in terms of his abilities and knowledge.
The reality is Plano is a well-run city. The mayor and City Council’s best role is to really just make sure that they stay visionary, get out of the way and allow the city staff to do their thing, because they’re one of the most qualified, professional groups of employees you’ll find anywhere.
When you look back on Plano Tomorrow and the mask ordinance you once called “a resolution dressed up as an ordinance,” what comes to mind?
The challenge, I think, as an elected official sometimes is to, in the face of what seems to be politics, rise above and look past the sound bites, look past the talking points and make your decision based on your conscience.
The things I call intent, integrity and information – “The Three I’s.”
If you look at the information and you’re fully knowledgeable, you have good intentions and you vote with integrity, then you’ll get to the best possible place.
When I think about, for example, the mask [ordinance], I think sometimes those I’s get blurred when your intent is to make everyone happy and you can’t, [or] your intent is to make a political statement and you shouldn’t.
I think along those terms.
If 2021 Harry LaRosiliere was in the same room as 2013 Harry LaRosiliere, what would the 2021 you say?
Be a better listener. Be patient. Address your issues from a standpoint of humanity and maintain those three I’s: make all your decisions based on information, intent and integrity.