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Strengthening our city through innovation & partnership

Updated: May 15

As his term as Waco Mayor comes to a close, Dillon Meek reflects on a time of growth, the desire for a stronger middle class, and hopes for Waco's future.



Dillon Meek was elected Mayor of Waco in November 2020, a year that will always be synonymous with the impact of a worldwide pandemic. While Meek’s early months as mayor were certainly marked by the unprecedented challenges of helping our community navigate the implications of COVID-19, Meek cites the previous five years of serving as on City Council as a key time of development as servant-leader, “learning the importance of listening, fostering collaboration, and building consensus” on behalf of our community. As Meek, who has served on Prosper Waco’s Board for the past three years, finished out his final weeks as City of Waco Mayor this past month, he sat down with Prosper Waco to reflect on his tenure as mayor, Waco’s pioneering spirit, and why “building up a middle class” continues to be one of his greatest hopes for our community’s future.





[PW]: You began your tenure as mayor in November 2020 when our community—and the world at large—was still reeling from and seeking to understand the impact of and adjustments required by the COVID-19 situation. What do you remember about that time?


[Meek]: The election was supposed to be in May and was moved to November that year because of the pandemic. And, in those months, I think Mayor Kyle Deaver did the brunt of the difficult work of trying to build a team of people who had some expertise on the subject matter and laying the foundation for a transparent communication process from city leadership to the public. So I was able to come in and carry forward that legacy he had already established.


[PW]: Backing up a bit, what made you decide to run for Waco Mayor?

[Meek]:  The bigger question might be why I decided to run for City Council five years prior to that. For both, I think one reason is that I really did—and still do—believe that Waco is in a unique time in its history with a lot of opportunity that every member of this community should be able to capitalize on—both economic opportunity and cultural opportunity. Waco's size and its geographic location are two of its biggest assets. We're between DFW and Austin, two of the fastest-growing economies, if not the fastest-growing economies, in the country. And when it comes to its size, Waco is a city where if you want to be a pioneer in something and have an impact, the city’s big enough that the effort feels worthwhile and small enough to where you're able to do it. So whether that's starting a small business, creating something with the arts, or launching an event of some sort, there’s plenty of opportunity to jump in and thrive as a pioneer here.

May 2021, Economic Empowerment Meeting

But I would say the ultimate driver in seeking election was to serve the city by finding ways to build financial security in our community, to try and build up a middle class. Historically, Waco has had higher poverty rates. While I think many problems remain to be solved and much work remains to be done regarding our financially insecure population, there is more opportunity for people to achieve financial security now in Waco than before.


[PW]: Why is “building up a middle class” so important?


[Meek]: When people have financial security, a lot of the chaos in their lives leaves the scene. You’re no longer worried about that rent check, you’re able to buy good groceries for your kids, and to support your family. It's not the end-all; I don’t believe that money is the answer to all problems. It’s complex and layered, but I do think that when people have access to good jobs that pay good wages in our community, they're able to resolve some of the problems that create hardship for families. Financial security is one of the common denominators for families being able to thrive, as Prosper Waco has identified.


There are a lot of issues in our city that are worth working on and resolving. But bringing economic opportunity to Waco families has been a priority for my team, something we’ve worked hard to do through the recruitment of jobs to the community, job training programs that the City, Prosper Waco, and others have brought about, and working on transit-oriented to where prospective employees have better access to jobs.


"When people have financial security, a lot of the chaos in their lives leaves the scene."

[PW]: You’ve served on the Board of Prosper Waco while Mayor and were also very involved with the organization while serving on City Council. What are your observations around how Prosper Waco can best serve our city?


[Meek]: If there's one word for Waco over this last decade, which is about how long Prosper Waco has been around, it’s strategy. As a community, we have really tried to come together in alignment and collaboration to solve for big problems. And although there have been different iterations of Prosper Waco over the years, the organization’s throughline has been to work strategically to solve for issues facing our community. To wrap your head around these big problems, you need an organization like Prosper Waco working collaboratively with others to map out a strategy on how you’re going to get there and show that it’s possible. We can see the impact of that work in very tangible ways. And that's been really rewarding to be a part of.


[PW]: What is one of the projects or initiatives you’re most excited about for Waco’s future?


[Meek]: Probably The TSTC WorkSITE because I do think it can create the most opportunity our community has seen in a long time. TSTC has been such a great partner with the City of Waco and McLennan County on this effort. And it's been fun for Judge Felton and I to get to really be champions of it. But it goes back to this heart we have for creating as many avenues for financial security in the city as possible. And The WorkSITE is going to showcase how Waco operates when coming together to solve for a problem.

"I hope it becomes a statewide model that TSTC can roll out into other communities modeling how we can work with industry and community partners to create a non-traditional space for people to go get the skills they need to secure better jobs and earn a little more money to support their families."

We have incredible traditional institutions in our town, but there are some members of our community who are not going to be able to go to campus for traditional coursework. We've hit this jackpot moment, which wasn't the case before, where we do have jobs in the local economy that need to be filled and pay good wages. And we've got industry here as well as funding partners. So seizing this opportunity by bringing all those factors together was an innovative approach. I hope it becomes a statewide model that TSTC can roll out into other communities modeling how we can work with industry and community partners to create a non-traditional space for people to go get the skills they need to secure better jobs and earn a little more money to support their families.


Prosper Waco shares that hope, as we seek to support and partner with organizations who are innovatively and collaboratively creating solutions to remove barriers for people in our community. As a team, we are tremendously thankful for Mayor Meek’s leadership both in our city and on the Prosper Waco Board. We look forward to continued partnership with the City, as well continuing to draw from Meek’s insights and expertise as we work together with community partners so that more Wacoans are able to prosper and thrive.


 










Charis Dietz

Director of Marketing & Communications

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