TMLIRP is committed to providing risk management services and a full suite of liability, property, and workers’ compensation coverages to Texas cities and other public entities. The Pool’s Board of Trustees is comprised of municipal officials from across the state of Texas.
In this edition of the Pool’s ‘Meet a Trustee’ series, Mayor Mary M. Dennis of the City of Live Oak was interviewed. She was asked for her thoughts on serving as a Trustee and her view on how the Pool serves the partnership.
In May of 2020, Mayor Mary M. Dennis took her oath of office to begin her 6th term as Mayor of the City of Live Oak. Prior to her current position as mayor, Mary Dennis served 2.5 years on the Live Oak City Council.
When asked about how she got interested in running for mayor, Mayor Dennis says it all started when she moved to Live Oak about 25 years ago. The street she moved to was an unpaved street and a neighbor said to her "Mary, as soon as you get unpacked, we're going down to city hall to get our street paved”. She says she really didn't want to do that because the gravel road reminded her of her grandma's house in Mississippi. With a bit of hesitation, she went to city hall with her neighbor and they were successful in getting the road paved.
Mayor Dennis was fascinated by the entire process. While there, someone said to her “We’ve got an opening on the Planning and Zoning Commission. Would you like to serve?" She agreed and did that for a couple of years and learned a great deal about city operations. At some point later, Mayor Dennis was approached about an opening on the City Council and was asked if she’d like to run. She had never run for public office but decided to “give it a try”. Ultimately, when the polls closed and the numbers were in, Mayor Dennis had lost the race by 25 votes. She, however, thought that was pretty good being that it was her first time out.
About nine months later, a councilperson unexpectedly left the council, so Mayor Dennis was appointed to finish the rest of that term. At the end of the two-year term, she ran again. Once again, when the votes were in and counted, she’d lost the race by only two votes. During the council meeting to set the new council, one of the council members resigned that night and Mayor Dennis was appointed to finish the rest of that term. She served over two years on the city council. With encouragement from her daughter, Christina, she ran for Mayor in 2010. The race resulted in a tie with the previous mayor. After a run-off, Mayor Dennis was the successful candidate. Since that time, she has only had one other opponent and she won that race by 72% of the vote. Ten years later, she is still serving as the Mayor of Live Oak.
When asked about her view on public service, Mayor Dennis says she’s known since about the age of nine years old that public service would be and is her calling. She recalls a time playing with her barbie dolls and something just coming to her that said her life would be about serving others. Of course, she says, as a nine-year-old, she didn’t quite know what that meant. That’s what her life has been, and she feels blessed to be able to serve in that capacity. As a licensed mortician, Mayor Dennis also feels blessed to serve families struggling during very trying times. Everything she’s done has always been about service, about service to others, and even added serving on the TMLIRP board is about serving the great State of Texas.
When asked about her role as a Trustee for the Risk Pool, she admits she’s still learning and takes advantage of every opportunity she gets to learn more. Mayor Dennis states while growing up her dad would often say to her “if you’re going to do a job then do it well or don’t do it at all”. She brings that attitude to the Trustee role and takes it very seriously.
When asked what makes the Pool’s mission so meaningful to her, Mayor Dennis says she loves the importance of the Pool’s Partnership logo and Core Values. “Integrity is just paramount,” she says, “followed by the equally important values of public service, financial responsibility, and operational excellence.” Additionally, she loves that the Partnership means “we’re all in this together”. Mayor Dennis recognizes the slogan We’re all in this together has been a common slogan over the past several months, but says, for the Pool, it’s true all the time and it has been from the very beginning.
During this age of the pandemic and social unrest the message Mayor Dennis would like to impress upon her municipal colleagues, her residents, and for all, is a message of hope. She says “there are many challenges we've never had to face before, but there is hope.” She says "we will get through this together, and it will result in better people, and hopefully a better organization”. In the City of Live Oak, Mayor Dennis puts together a newsletter every other month and it always ends with “Live Oak Strong’.
Mayor Dennis says she’s had so many awesome experiences over the last 12-15 years. One of her most gratifying, thus far, has been her experience and opportunity to serve as President of the Texas Municipal League during a legislative year. She says that was a very exciting time for her as she was able to meet and work with numerous legislators and attend special meetings, sometimes late into the evening. She loves being in the Texas Capitol and hopes to be sitting there one day as a senator.
Mayor Dennis worked in a high school for about nine years, and would tell her kids this, "Try to find that thing that you feel called to do, and hopefully you can get paid to do that, and you will live such a satisfying life because you find purpose that is bigger than yourself. Once you find that place, I think you have such great peace: just finding that place where you feel like you're the only person that can do it. You bring yourself to it, and no one can do it like you."
The Risk Pool’s Board is comprised of trustees who work in local government, are dedicated to public service, and understand the day-to-day challenges that are being faced. To learn more about your Board Members, visit the Risk Pool website. Look for future editions of discussions with others who serve the Pool and help to make it better for all members.