Episode #009 - Join us for our second Community Highlight episode! In this episode we visit with Burleson Mayor Ken Shetter. Ken was elected as Mayor in June of 2004, while serving his second term on Burleson’s city council. Join us as we get to know Mayor Shetter and learn about how he serves our city. (https://youtu.be/V4AnPsM8bes)
Ken’s Bio: Mayor Shetter was born and raised in the Burleson, Texas area, and is a 1990 graduate of Burleson High School. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in education from Baylor University in 1994, followed by a Master of Arts degree in applied sociology from The American University in Washington, D.C., in 1995. While attending The American University, Shetter was a Dean's Scholar and a Sociology Department fellow. In May 1998, he graduated from Baylor Law School with a Juris Doctorate degree. As a 3rd-year law student, he was a member of Baylor's prestigious Mock Trial Team. Following graduation, the mayor practiced law for 7 years, concentrating in the areas of civil litigation and real estate transactions. Shetter is active in regional public policy planning and advocacy. He is a former member of the North Central Texas Council of Governments Executive Board and Emergency Preparedness Planning Council. He is a former chairman and current Executive Committee member of the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition and currently serves as Vice Chair of the Greater Johnson County Transportation Coalition. He is currently promoting initiatives to support Burleson families in the areas of health and wellness, a safe and vibrant community, and child and youth development. Shetter is also a former Co-Chair of the National League of Cities Council on Youth, Education and Families. In addition to being mayor of Burleson, Shetter currently serves as President of One Safe Place, a non-profit corporation focused on preventing crime and violence. The mayor and his wife, Ashley, have 3 children, Lexi, Hogan, and Olivia.
Links from this episode:
Coffee purchased from Dwell Coffee & Biscuits: http://www.dwellcoffeeandbiscuits.com
City of Burleson Website: https://www.burlesontx.com/
Episode #009 REN Podcast Transcription (Mayor Ken Shetter)
Jason: All right, good morning everybody and welcome back to the ‘Real Estate Now’ podcast. I am Jason Reynolds and today we are lucky.
Ken: Are we live.
Ken: It’s alright.
Jason: It’s unfortunate.
Ken: No, it’s okay. It is probably a good thing.
Jason: I used to but there are technical reasons. So we are not live.
Ken: You don’t trust what I am going to say, you might need to edit it out.
Jason: I am already going to edit it. So if you don’t know, this is Burleson mayor Ken Shetter who I have here with me today. Thank you for being with us mayor.
Ken: You are welcome, thank you for having me.
Jason: I did some research on the mayor here and that is a lot to read. So, I am not going to read it.
Ken: Please don’t
Jason: He was elected in June 2004. Born and raised in Burleson. 1990 graduate of Burleson high school. Nothing against Centennial, right?
Ken: No, it wasn’t there when I…
Jason: It wasn’t right?
Ken: My two youngest kids go to Centennial. So I have absolutely nothing against Centennial.
Jason: Okay, perfect. He earned a Bachelor of science degree in Education from Baylor in 1994.
Ken: Sic ‘em Bears!
Jason: Alright, Gig ‘em! Also a Master of Arts degree in applied sociology from the American University of Washington, D.C in 1995. In 1998, you were in Baylor law school and you got you Juris Doctorate degree, is that right? (1:23)
Jason: And you practiced law for 7 years. Former co-chair of the National League of cities Council on youth Education and Families. You are now the president of ‘One Safe Place’.
Ken: That is right.
Jason: We are going to jump on the road and get to know the mayor. We just had coffee from ‘Dwell’s’ so we are trying to support a local business here. Tell us about yourself? Obviously, you live in Burleson.
Jason: Does your family live here, are you married? How long have you been married? (1:27)
Ken: Yes, I am married. My wife Ashley and I have been married for 17 going on 18 years. We have three kids. Our oldest Lexi would be a senior at Oklahoma state university. I am not sure how she ended up there but there she is. She would want me to point out that she has gotten a 4.0 for 2 semesters in a row. She goes by 4.0 now.
Jason: That is her nickname?
Ken: She wants to be called 4.0
Jason: Okay, what do your other kids think about that?
Ken: The don’t participate in that. She is studying speech pathology. We are super proud of her.
Jason: That is awesome.
Ken: As you were saying, my other two Hogan and Olivia are sophomore and freshman respectively at Centennial high school. Lexi graduated as an elk so that makes for a very interesting sibling rivalry. Hogan’s passion is the band; he plays the trumpet. In fact, this last weekend, we went to Austin because he made the state for solo and ensemble and band.
Jason: That is awesome.
Ken: At the state competition so we are really proud of him and Olivia, is an accomplished singer in the choir and she is also very active in theatre. So we are…
Jason: Very diverse.
Ken: We are all about the fine arts in our family right now.
Jason: That is awesome, that is really cool. You are the mayor of Burleson Texas and you are also the president of ‘One Safe Place’.
Jason: So, you are probably a busy guy.
Ken: Most days.
Jason: Most days.
Jason: What does the mayor do to relax to kind of get away from being the mayor? (4:08)
Ken: I like to run.
Jason: I do see you post it on Facebook.
Ken: Most mornings, I like to go for about a 4-mile run, which helps to keep the stress level down and helps me be reasonably healthy I guess. Then, I love to read and I love to go hiking. I don’t get to do that as much as I like but we go to Santa Fe a lot. I love to get away to the mountains and go hiking whenever I can and we all love to travel so we do that as much as we can. That is about it.
Jason: Okay. What would you say as being a mayor do you enjoy most about that because you are doing the president of ‘One Safe Place’ and you are doing the mayor too?
Jason: What do you enjoy most about it and what has made it most frustrating, not in a bad sense but just maybe… (4:57)
Ken: Sure, I really enjoy the interaction with citizens and I know every politician might say that but I really do. I love talking to people and the more we can do that in a context where people have the opportunity to engage. So, you are not just talking to people but you are listening as well, that is really important. I would say that is probably the most important we do because, if we are not talking to people, how do you know what people’s perspectives are and how they feel about where you are and where you are going. I think it is important as an elected official on any level, to have a vision for your community. Whatever community you are serving it’s important to have a vision for it and to clearly communicate that vision to people so that when it is time to vote, they know what they are voting for.
Jason: For sure.
Ken: I enjoy public policy generally so I love the ideas of understanding issues, problems, challenges, opportunities and developing policy to address those and try do the best job of taking advantages of opportunities. I really like public policy. I have been interested in that my whole life and studied it for most of my life. When I was in law school, I really tried to have a perspective of understanding how the law applies to public policy. That was my main purpose of wanting to go to law school. I really just like policy development, policy making.
Ken: In terms of challenges, I think right now, the thing that frustrates me the most is the culture of division. We are really lucky on local government that we govern on a non-partisan basis. So we are not elected as democrats or republican. So that makes it a joy to serve in so many ways but one of the things I am seeing is that country is so divided right now and that often can trickle down. I have my opinions on national and state politics too and I am not afraid to express them. So, that gets brought on. I really don’t mind if people want to argue is in partisan way, thoughts about national and even state issues. But, when some of that gets brought down to local level, it is really irrelevant and why would you want to pollute local policy making, which is non-partisan? Why would you want to add an element of division? That just makes no sense to me. Right now, it is particularly bad, we are seeing something that we’ve never seen out of our state, some of our state law officials.
There is really a desire to diminish local control, which I think is really troubling. There seems to be this effort to really make local politics more partisan on the part of some of those who were elected statewide. I think that is really offensive so, that is the most frustrating by far I think.
Jason: I think that makes sense. As a mayor, what does your typical day look like? And you are president of ‘One Safe Place’. How does that intertwine? (9:09)
Ken: Today is a pretty good example of how I kind of go back and forth. I am starting today with this awesome podcast interview.
Jason: Keep going.
Ken: Which I think is a really great way to interact and talk about the community. Then I go to my office in Fort Worth and I kind of get caught up. I have been out of the office for a couple of days, we had a golf tournament yesterday. So they would be some catching up and I will be back down in Burleson at noon at Huguley for a community health assessment meeting. That the folks at Huguley are leading. That is a great opportunity to wear both hats because a lot of the work we do at ‘One Safe Place’, particularly as it involves childhood trauma. It really involves public health issues. I love to get opportunities to war both hats. That is also an opportunity to promote this tie between public health and community buy-outs, which I would definitely do. Because that impacts Burleson as well as all the other communities I serve in Tarrant county.
Then I would head back to ‘One Safe Place’, I have an important meeting this afternoon with some folks from Verizon. This is really cool. Verizon has really taken on the issue of domestic violence and particularly childhood exposure to trauma, which is a big part of the domestic violence issue as a cause. So we are part of a national alliance of organizations that receive really generous funding from Verizon. So, we have a representative of Verizon that is going to be at ‘One Safe Place’ this afternoon and we are going to be doing a tour and be talking about issues that we have in common.
Jason: We are going to talk more about Burleson near the last half of this but, I think it is really neat the ‘One Safe Place’ and how that plays a role in you being a mayor. Can you elaborate on what ‘One Safe Place’ does and how you got involved in it? (11:23)
Ken: I have two of the greatest jobs in the world and one of them happens to pay so that is very helpful. I actually earn a living at ’One Safe Place’ so that is nice. But, we are a comprehensive crime prevention agency and I was lucky to be hired as one of the first… that time, it was executive direction of the organization and we serve Burleson too. We serve all of Tarrant County and in most part of our programming, we have reached into the Johnson part of Burleson too. That is nice, it makes it easier to wear both hats sometimes. We operate the ‘crime stoppers’ program in all of Tarrant County, which includes campus crime stoppers programs and all the high schools and middle schools now even in a few elementary schools. We have a really cool art program called ‘Imagine no violence’. Every year, about 40,000 students across Tarrant County participate in our program. They create original artwork. This year, our theme was ‘Creating pathways to hope”. So we got some really amazing artwork. We sent two kids and their families to Disney world as part of our prize winners for the year.
Jason: That is awesome.
Ken: Which is why we have tens of thousands of kids participating every year, but the artwork is really great and inspiring and we use it as part of our public education throughout the year. We do a lot of education and training for law enforcement and other crime prevention professionals. We have a project called ‘Project safe neighborhoods’. Right now, we are in the Poly stop 6 neighborhood Fort Worth and the Las Vegas trail neighborhood, Fort Worth. It is funded through the department of justice so we go into neighborhoods that have been hard hit by gun and gang violence and we develop strategies that include a network of community agencies and law enforcement agencies to develop innovative strategies to reduce gun and gang violence and we have been really successful with that.
Then, we have something we call the ‘Bike patrol support group’, which provides specialized training and equipment to the bike control officers, which I really like because I consider the bike control to be one of the purest forms of community policing.
Jason: It is right out there in the community.
Ken: Our biggest program is the ‘Family justice center’ and the ‘Family justice center’ is one location where you bring together all of the services that victims of domestic violence and their child need in one place. We have 22 partner agencies that are providing services on site in ‘One Safe Place’. There are two things about us that are really important. One is, the co-locating of these services is important because domestic violence is really about power and control. It is not about anger management, it is power and control, which means that abusers really set out to control every aspect of their victim’s lives and part of that is mobility. abusers really do everything they can to prevent their victims from being able to get around. A lot of times, they just simply won’t allow the victim to have a car of their own and even if they do, it is pretty common that they will keep an accounting of the miles that are driven and want to know where they are coming from, from what those miles were everyday. The idea that someone could go to multiple places and get the help they need is unreasonable and unsafe.
Because, when a person is reaching out and is trying to begin to be independent and be safe, they really have to do that in secret because what they are doing is essentially taking control back in their life. That is the trigger for the escalation of violence because an abuse would escalate the violence in order to take back control. Very often, when you see a homicide that is related to domestic violence, the victim either has left or is either in the process of trying to leave. It is critically important that we try co-locate those services. Before there was ‘One Safe Place’, there were 32 different geographic locations across Tarrant county where services were provided to victims of domestic violence.
Another important thing in addition to co-locating those services is integrating those services so that these agencies are working together. We do the best we can to share information and work on cases and clients together. We work really hard not to duplicate services to be really efficient. When someone comes into ‘One Safe Place’, we always do a danger assessment so that we understand what kind of danger a person is in and they understand. I think that is probably the most important thing that we do because typically, it is the first time somebody understands what kind of danger they are in.
Jason: Wow! They have been blind to it.
Ken: Exactly. Then we will develop a safety plan and we will develop a service plan and connect folks to the service that they need. It is all based on what the person is willing and able to do at that particular time. For our clients who have children, we work a little hard to access the needs of the kids because when you are exposed to domestic violence as a child, as a witness, it has a lot kind of the same impact that child abuse has. That child is more likely to have a lot of horrible things happen to them in life but, if we can address their needs, we can reverse that cycle and end that cycle of violence. One of my favorite things we do is called ‘Camp Hope’. We are part of a national alliance of camps called ‘Camp Hope America’ and we are ‘Camp Hope Texas’ and it a week long summer adventure camp, it is pretty traditional. We have a special curriculum. In addition to doing all the cool stuff like rope courses and water sports and that kind of thing. We also have a hope based curriculum. A whole week is designed to increase the hopefulness in the kids, which is the key to being resilient and to overcoming trauma. That is next week.
Jason: That is awesome.
Ken: We will take 160 kids this year, this is our 5th year, the most we have ever had. We will spend a week at the campground called ‘Carolina Creek’ and it is right on the shore of lake Livingston, near Huntsville.
Jason: Awesome. That will be really cool.
Ken: No mayor in that week.
Jason: You have to be gone that week.
Jason: What I really like is in our last episode, we had Chief Cornell on and he was talking about Burleson is the first city in the nation in regards to the strangulation law that we have. (19:02)
Ken: Absolutely. We have 2 offenses that we are the first in the nation on. The most recent one is the strangulation protocol. This is one really big focus area for us at ‘One Safe Place’. About 60% of our clients report to us that they have been strangled as part of their abuse and it turns out this is very common within domestic violence. It is this thing that has always existed but people really don’t know about it. It turns out that strangulation is particularly dangerous. A victim who has been strangled by their abuser is 700% more likely to ultimately more likely to be killed by their abuser.
Ken: It is one of the most significant danger factors. It also turns out that someone who survives strangulation often thinks that they are fine and they didn’t suffer permanent damage but, they did. For example, you could have a partially crushed carotid artery and not know it and be at severe risk for a major stroke. It can be debilitating.
Jason: Down the line and they might not even know it.
Ken: It could be in the near future or a distant future thing. Our ordinance does a lot of different things. Luckily, the state of Texas had one of the best laws on strangulation in the entire country. So, we didn’t have to address that. Our ordinance attempts to address the response to strangulation. We require our first responders to go through a protocol and ask particular questions and to take evidence, the ordinance require training among multiple disciplines because this is a real emerging trend areas where there is a lot of information available today that was not available 5 or 10 years ago. Perhaps, the most important thing that the ordinance does is requires an emergency medical response if they is a suspected or alleged strangulation. This is really important because most law enforcement officers are really good now about talking to victims about how dangerous and significant strangulation is and encouraging them to seek medical help.
Victims think that are often fine and don’t need it just intuitively. The other thing is very often when you respond to domestic violence on scene, the abuser is right there on the scene and so there is either implicit or explicit. Sometimes, the abuse is standing there and applying pressure to the victim to not seek medical help and even if they are not, that pressure is implicit because the victim feels that there are potentially consequences. That have already perhaps called law enforcement and there are already consequences to that and they don’t want to compound that by asking for medical help. Now, it is already easy.
Jason: It is already part of the process.
Ken: We don’t put that pressure on the victim. We have to call for medical emergency, it is the law, we don’t have a choice. We are excited about this. I am absolutely certain that, that ordinance is going to save lives. It is going to save more than just victims lives because people who would strangle and intimate partner are more dangerous to the entire community too. They are the ones that are more likely to commit other community violence. A lot of our mass shooters, an outstanding percentage of mass shooters have a documented history of intimate partner strangulation. There are multiple studies that show that more than half of cop killers have a documented history of having strangled an intimate partner. We are the first in the country to do this.
Jason: There is one other that you mentioned, right? (23:25)
Ken: Yeah the other is child witness law so we are the first city that makes it against the law to commit… we call it ‘unjustified violence in the presence of your child’. This is aimed at what we know to be true, which is that when a child witnesses violence, particularly when they witness domestic violence, it causes them tremendous harm. There are at least 19 other states in the country that have laws on the book that do this but Texas doesn’t. So it works be much more better because in the city, we can’t make a felony. It is supposed to be a felony but we have to make it a misdemeanor but what we have at least established as a matter of public policy is that not only is a crime when you harm somebody else physically in an unjustified way. In other words, not self-defense but when you are doing it in the presence of the child, the child is a separate victim in their own right. That should be recorded, the law should recognize the harm that has been done to the child.
The other thing is that it is very common. Particularly in the domestic violence scenario, that it is done with purposeful event. In other words, it is not an accident that that accident is committed in front of the child. The abuser is willing to make a point and communicate something to the child.
Jason: The abuser maybe.
Ken: Something to the victim.
Jason: Something to the victim, sorry.
Ken: Here again, there is an intended but not obvious consequence, which is it is now a matter of practice and policy that officers are identifying children who witness domestic violence in their police reports. which creates a systematic method for us to identify children that are suffering a particular type of trauma, which is the first step to doing something about it. I am hopeful that we could get a state law passed in the next session that makes our city ordinance irrelevant and we could just do away with that and have the state law, which would be stronger. It was one of the things that I was hopeful if we could set a city ordinance…
Jason: It will set an example.
Ken: It helps prove that it works and gives it a better chance to be successful in the legislature.
Jason: Great stuff in terms of the city and how we are addressing issues. Not great topics but great in terms of what we are addressing.
Ken: We are doing something about it.
Jason: Let us do a shoot from the hip; a bunch of quick questions.
Jason: First, Burleson is…
Ken: I want to compliment you first, you are a very safe driver.
Jason: Thank you, I appreciate it. I was nervous about the chief when I was driving him around.
Ken: I can’t get you out of a ticket if we get stopped so just you know.
Jason: Well if it the chief, he would probably give me a ticket.
Burleson is growing, we all know that. Can you give viewers an idea of how much we are growing on a yearly basis? (26:32)
Ken: Just to put it in some historical context, I have been on the council for about 17 years I guess. Something like that. During the time that I have been on the council, the city has at least doubled in size in terms of population.
Jason: What would that be when you join…
Ken: We were on 22,000 when I was first on the council. By the way, I remember as a kid because I grew up here so I remember Burleson as a city of about 10,000. So the growth is not new, it is not a new thing. It has happened now over multiple generations and it feels like in certain years, the growth is more than the other. We have had a pretty steady growth rate of anywhere from 3-6% annually, which is pretty healthy. That is challenging but it is not overwhelming. The only thing we have to remember is that it is interesting that a lot of people are even angry about the city growing.
Jason: Yeah, I have seen that. I have seen that stuff before.
Ken: When people say, “No more people”. I will say, “When should we have shut the door would that have been before you moved here or right after?”
Jason: That is a good question, not for me, you should have let me in.
Ken: Right, no one else. When I moved here, what was a good thing. It is not a good thing for other people to move here. I was born in Burleson but I certainly went away to college and when I came back, I lived in Fort Worth. I first got a job and an apartment. I spent the first 7 months of law school living in Fort Worth before I bought my first home here. But I chose to move back here too and so at some level, almost all of us are part of that growth. I think what we have to understand and what I want everybody to understand too is; in terms of division for the city, it is not about growth. Nobody ever decided…
Jason: Our number one goal is…
Ken: Our goal at all is growth for that matter. That we want to be a city of a certain size. I don’t think you need to be a city of any particular size to be a great city. I think you can be a great place to live, you can be a community of consequence that contributes to the region and to the world around you without being a big city. I think we have established that, I think Burleson fights above its weight and above its class. We have been able to so some really great things and have an influence regionally that is really greater than our population. It is not a goal particularly to grow but the reality is Texas is one of the fastest growing states in the country. Our region currently, the Dallas Fort Worth metropolitan region is the fastest growing metropolitan region in the country. Think about that; Burleson is a great place to live, we have a great quality of life, we have a great place to shop and eat. We have outstanding parks.
Jason: Minutes away from the metroplex.
Ken: 15 miles from downtown Fort Worth, it is convenient to get to the airport we have great schools and you have a lot of room to grow. You put all those thing together and we are going to continue to grow. We could theoretically develop policies that slows the growth by limiting….
Jason: Development or something like that.
Ken: We can say, we are only ever going have one acre lots. If we decided not to extend wastewater facilities for example. We would leave developers with a choice of either developing one acre lots or they will have to build their own water and sewer facilities, which really is not a very sustainable way to grow. A lot of developers would choose to do that because the market would demand it and what that would leave is this patch work development all over this part of the world and a lot of infrastructure that is bound to fail.
Jason: A lot of different qualities.
Ken: It is also economically a great way to build a sustainable tax base and economic base. We have chosen to try to employ the desk theories of development and the most sustainable patterns of development and grow the…
Jason: Smartest way possible.
Ken: Smartest way possible.
Jason: With that growth, I notice more bike lanes popping up. I think if someone moves here and is really an average bike rider and starts riding around and they realize that the city was not built upon “This is going to be an easily bikeable, walkable community”. (31:56)
Ken: Right, very few places were, particularly in this part of the world.
Jason: The city is actively trying to change that from what I see.
Ken: Yes, we decided several years ago that we really have vision to be a more walkable, bikeable city. Now, we realize that you are not going to go bike lanes in sidewalks and all of a sudden, they are just going to be filled with people. That is not the way that works.
I am one that loves the part of a walkable community and it turns out that there is a lot of research on this. That real estate that isn’t a walkable community is more valuable. There even is an app that is walk score app that will give you a walk score for your neighborhood. It turns out and I am proud to say that old town is a very walkable area according to the app.
Jason: That is awesome.
Ken: There is real market pressure to develop walkability. You made a great point with millennials because younger generations are particularly likely to want to live in more walkable, bikeable places. What we said is that we are not just going to be a great community today, we are going to be a community in demand well into the future. We want to be a community choice for people of any age. There is a great book called happy city and they talk about what makes people happy. People that live in more walkable and bikeable places tend to be happier people. A lot of that is not just magic, walking is good for your body, it is good for your mind, it is good for your soul. But in places that are walkable, you have more human interaction.
Jason: More community.
Jason: That makes a lot of sense. Well, we are running on 10 o’clock. That is our time schedule but if people have question or want to look up resources, I jumped online. There are a lot of great resources online in terms of… (34:14)
Ken: The city’s website in very helpful and user friendly. Most things are one click away. www.burlesontx.com. the city’s Facebook page, Diana Philips does a great job at managing the city’s external communications. It keeps people really informed on Facebook and Twitter, if you put a question up there, you will get an answer very quickly. You can communicate with me at email@example.com or you can find me on Facebook or on Twitter @kenshetter. I will say Facebook messages are the least efficient way to get an answer from me just because it takes me a little longer but send me an email and if you got a question, a question, a concern, a frustration, let me know, we really want to know those things.
Jason: Perfect. Thanks for joining us today!
Ken: Thank you. I appreciate it.