To the Editor,

When I was asked to be a member of Southwest Airlines’ famous Culture Committee in the early 1990s, SWA Founder Herb Kelleher challenged us with this:

As we celebrate our 20th anniversary of flying and the fact that we have now become a major airline with tens of thousands of employees, figure out how we can keep that scrappy, upstart attitude that has carried us so far and for which we are now famous. As we grow larger, find out how we can act like we did when we were small. Decide what we have to do to retain our culture.

I was not an employee of Southwest, just an interested customer and a vendor to the airline’s marketing department, but I cared deeply about this Dallas based company and wanted to help.

Similarly, I am not a resident of Waxahachie, though I once was back in the 80s for about five years. But, in a way, it has become my adopted hometown since we moved our TCR Festival to the courthouse square some 18 years ago. You even graciously gave me my own star on the sidewalk in front of the Texas Theatre, so I figure that counts for something, right? Bottom line: I care deeply for Waxahachie and her people.

I hear there is change in the air in Waxahachie.

Most people are resistant to change because we tend to fear it, but change can be a good thing. It’s inevitable and often necessary. But change must be carefully measured and studied. It can never happen on a whim or because of a person’s or group of people’s personal feelings. It is something that needs great scrutiny. And, in the case of something like changing a town, it needs to be handled in the open with total transparency and accountability.

If you are wondering what kind of change is coming to Waxahachie, just take a close look around you. I’ve been traveling all over Texas for my entire adult life and I’ve learned to recognize some of the things that signal a town is about to explode. It starts with the infrastructure, your roads, streets and public works. Drive through Waxahachie on I-35 and notice the bridges. These are not the same bridges they build everywhere else. These are the kind of structures a town gets when TxDOT knows they better get ready for the onslaught of people who are about to arrive. Look at the number and variety of businesses going in all over town. Most of these are the result of research that shows business is about to boom. New restaurants open their doors. Choices get better. You see new faces every day. Then look at what’s happening to housing. These are the signs of a town that is on the verge. And Waxahachie is on the verge.

But here is the important question: do you, the good people of Waxahachie, simply want growth…more people, more business, more traffic, more everything…or do you want to control that growth and manage what kind of town you will be? If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I suggest you drive to the north side of Dallas and take a look around. Let me know if, without seeing a city limit sign, you can tell when you pass from one of the many suburbs that spread between Dallas and the Red River to the next. Look around and see if these towns still have a distinguishable downtown area or if they are just suburban sprawl. Try driving through them during rush hour traffic and ask yourself if this is what you want to face every day. If you like the way some of those towns have grown then do nothing. Just let it happen and you’ll get something pretty close.

But if you want Waxahachie to be different, if you want to retain the culture and image that your town has today, then you probably want to get involved and help your leaders make some decisions about what’s going to happen. And you probably want to make sure you know what those decisions are and how they came about because I’ve come to know that not everybody does things for the right reasons. Sometimes things like personal reward, personal likes and dislikes and just plain petty jealousies can influence even those we select to represent us. Don’t just trust what’s going on. Question it and make sure you’re getting the truth.

And make sure you know and trust the people who are making those decisions. Make sure your town is being managed by someone who is accountable to her citizens and not some new hot shot with a bag full of promises who will be brought in to make Waxahachie look and feel like everywhere else just because he or she is billed to be an expert on change.

Go to your city council meetings and find out what they are talking about and how it’s going to affect your life and the future of your town. Make sure the decision makers are doing what you want them to do. Make sure that all the growth that’s about to hit Waxahachie leaves behind a town you can still recognize. After all, it’s your town.

There’s a special meeting of your City Council this Friday morning at 10:30 at City Hall where decisions will be made that could absolutely affect which direction Waxahachie will go. That would be a good place to start.

Bob Phillips is the President/CEO of Phillips Productions, Inc., which produces “Texas Country Reporter,” the nationwide television show started by Bob 45 years ago that is hosted by Bob and Kelli Phillips. He is a member of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (EMMY) Silver Circle and is on the Board of Directors of the Texas Travel Industry Association (TTIA). He has consulted many Texas towns about their marketing programs.