Citizens in the Panhandle know that high cotton is here today and gone tomorrow. They’ve got a knack for sniffing out posers who are all spurs and no cattle, so it takes a savvy municipal leader to navigate change in an area of Texas known for its fierce sense of independence. Working his way from wastewater supervisor to City Manager, Eddie Edwards has served the City of Borger for 38 years, championing innovation while tending to the needs of Main Street.
“I look back, and we’ve come so far in my time here,” Eddie reflects, “but the last five years we’ve really accomplished some big things. Our hazard mitigation program has definitely evolved.”
Designed to protect the city from wildfires, the initiative focuses on addressing trash, debris and excess vegetation growth around Borger. Currently run by part-time personnel, the controlled burns conducted to prevent unchecked fires take extensive coordination.
“When you perform a burn, you have to be up-front with citizens,” Eddie says. “You may not be able to please everyone, but when you’re doing these things it’s important to at least explain why. The program has been so well-received, but it takes transparency”.
In addition to using social media to increase city program awareness, Borger launched a new website two years ago and has been transitioning to paperless code enforcement and online permitting. While it’s no small task to maintain such a high level of connectivity, even the city’s remote buildings are in-network. But Eddie fully understands that progression can come at a steep price. Security grows increasingly important as the world gets smaller and bad actors gain more access to private information. Even communities that pride themselves on neighborly nods and two-fingered waves from behind a steering wheel have to be on high alert.
“Employees have been very supportive of technological changes. They understand these things make our lives easier and our work more efficient,” Eddie says. “But we take security seriously. We have a dedicated IT department who takes care of all things network related, and they get how important it is to protect the city from online threats like ransomware.”
As Eddie reflects on his decades of public service, he’s cognizant of the fact that these new horizons bring new challenges, but his down-home dogma remains simple.
“Get the right person for the job, and then give them the latitude to succeed,” Eddie remarks. “Most importantly, you have to trust your people.”
When Eddie isn’t putting out fires (or starting them carefully for that matter), his private life is filled with joys that keep him anchored in a place where phishing isn't an online scam, but a pastime to be shared with his two grandchildren on the banks of a local stock-tank. If he’s not woodworking or flying planes, he’s watching the Cowboys on a gigantic flatscreen television from the comfort of his living room. Hey, some perks of innovation everyone can agree on.
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