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“I am going to provide a leadership that guides the council to see that even if we do not agree on something, there is more that unites us than divides us.”
Newly elected Pearsall Mayor Ben Briscoe was positive he was done with politics after losing his bid for re-election in May 2019. Within two years, however, he would be back on the campaign trail, building relationships with the public and taking note of the people’s concerns.
“I enjoyed walking the streets,” he says. “There are a lot, I mean a lot, of good people in this town. No one was unfriendly to me.”
The mayor feels that citizens really embraced a candidate who took the time to go door-to-door campaigning and listening to them.
In a Monday afternoon interview, the mayor shared stories of residents who anticipated his visit; one man even invited Briscoe onto the porch and an hour-long conversation ensued.
With nearly four decades of work in banking, the mayor feels he can bring a better understanding of the city’s financial
state to councilors and citizens alike.
“I enjoy financial analyzing,” the 1983 Texas A&M graduate says. “It is paramount in what I hope to do, which is to have the council see where we stand.”
The mayor says he is not focused on going backwards but knows it is imperative to help the council understand where the city stands today and wants to establish priorities.
“I want to provide leadership to show the council where we are, how we got here and where we will go,” he says, “and I will accomplish this by being patient, kind, stable and humble.”
Briscoe understands the community has wants and needs but says he realizes that without the proper financial stability not all these desires are attainable.
“Everything is so expensive, it is mind-boggling,” he says. “I want to analyze the debt service. Borrowing money is not always the right answer, but I am very positive about what the city manager and finance director are doing and I am excited about that.”
He learned last week in his first council meeting as mayor, that for the third year in a row the fiscal audit would be late.
“It is our fault,” he acknowledges. “But with the way Santos [Alarcon, finance director] is moving, I expect this upcoming fiscal audit to be submitted in November.”
His expertise with finance comes from the years he served as branch manager at a number of banks across South Texas, and he is quick to offer his knowledge with numbers. He plans to read the audit and provide what he describes as a thumbnail schedule to the council, where he will point out financial weaknesses, trends and fund balances.
As of Monday, the finance director confirmed the city is behind $125,000 in projected sales tax revenues. As Briscoe takes over as mayor in a time of economic struggle due to the coronavirus pandemic, he makes note of his uncertainty of the oil boom returning.
“It is a blessing of the resources we are sitting on here,” he says. “It is not going away; we have the resources of technology to tap into it. We are blessed that the service-related companies remain. But the price of oil has to go up and it is trickling upwards.”
Addressing the people’s wish that the city be cleaned up, Briscoe says he is proud to say the council has already begun considering a year-long tax abatement for business owners in the downtown area.
“We need to take pride in our hometown,” he says. “We can provide incentives to help them, but everything has consequences. What we need to do is support those business owners who took a risk to open a business.”
The mayor says his decision to re-enter politics comes in the wake of national political change.
“Things are turbulent,” he says regarding his decision to run for mayor. “I recognize they are turbulent and there is very little I can do. But I can do something about it here. It is time for me to stop complaining and do something to help make a difference.”
Briscoe says his approach is patience, kindness, humility and stability; qualities that turned the 1980’s cowhand into a bank manager.
Fresh out of college with a master’s degree in agriculture economics, Briscoe lived every day for two years on a saddle as a cowhand for a 180,000-acre ranch in New Mexico.
“It was an adventure of a lifetime, but my dad told me I needed to come back to Texas and get a real job,” he laughs.
In 1986, he began his banking career as a teller, bookkeeper and cattle inspector for Security State Bank in Pearsall. Shortly thereafter, an opportunity presented itself and he took a job with Frio National Bank, where he worked himself up the ranks to branch manager.
“That was an integral part of my financing background,” the mayor says.
Finally, in 2017, he opened his own business as a commercial loan broker, a job he continues to hold.
Since he is self-employed, the mayor plans to have an office at City Hall for citizens to come and visit him. Spending time at City Hall, he intends to be a tool for the city administrator by providing answers or resolutions to citizens’ concerns.
“I want to have a column in the paper to have a medium for things that are said and are untrue, and to get information out,” he says. “I am here to lead the council. I am not a dictator, not a tyrant. I want to focus on understanding.”