The Texas Municipal League recognized and honored the City of San Angelo Wednesday morning for its annual blitz to transform blighted neighborhoods and for its partnership with the Upper Colorado River Authority to educate citizens about stormwater issues.
City officials collected the City Spirit and the Public Works awards for cities with populations greater than 25,000 at the TML’s annual state conference in Austin. San Angelo was the only double-winner at the conference, winning two of the five honors awarded to the state’s largest cities, including metropolitan centers such as Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio.

This was the first time City officials could recall San Angelo being honored at the TML’s statewide gathering.

“We could not be prouder,” Mayor Dwain Morrison said. “I’ve always known the City of San Angelo has an outstanding staff of public servants. Today, the rest of the state knows that, too. These awards are testaments to their talents, their professionalism and, most of all, their dedication to our community.”

In recognizing San Angelo’s annual Neighborhood Paint and Clean-Up Blitz, the TML noted the effort “began with a simple challenge: to paint as many houses and pick up as much trash as it could in one day. The impact of that challenge has resulted in the complete transformation of neighborhoods from blight and stagnancy to progress and vibrancy.”

The TML applauded the City’s partnership with volunteers from West Texas Organizing Strategies, a grassroots organization; Angelo State University; Goodfellow Air Force Base and various nonprofit agencies such as Habitat for Humanity to grow the event to two days and to tackle a range of projects. Those have spanned from the renovation of Little League fields and improvements to historic Fort Concho to the repainting of two recreation centers and the freshening of the Concho River trail. The annual clean-up has eliminated potential code violations, which has saved an estimated $75,000 in staff time, the TML noted. More importantly, it has “rekindled neighborhood pride and spirit among residents.” The neighborhoods touched include Blackshear, Fort Concho, Lincoln, Reagan and Rio Vista.

“It’s fabulous to be recognized by our peers – from towns as small as Dalhart to cities as big as Dallas,” said Bob Salas, Neighborhood and Family Services director and the point person for the blitzes. “But the true reward comes in seeing how beautifully my colleagues have transformed neighborhoods that desperately needed some attention. Only one word can do their work – and this award – justice: Wow!”

In the Public Works category, San Angelo took top honors for “A Creative Approach to Storm Water Education.” TML judges lauded the City for collaborating with community partners – chiefly the UCRA – to develop an innovative stormwater education campaign that emphasized the deterioration of water quality in San Angelo’s rivers and lakes. That effort included logo development, billboards, brochures and water bill inserts. But the TML was most impressed by efforts to reach and employ middle school students to spread the message.

All San Angelo ISD seventh-graders participated in a watershed education program, and a select few were chosen for the student ambassador group known as the Aqua Squad. Members receive extensive training and travel to unique sites to learn about water issues in other areas of the country.

“These youth initiatives have been instrumental in raising awareness and affecting change in the quality of the city’s water bodies as well as fostering a sense of pride for the local environment,” the TML said.

“There is no more motivated and effective group at impressing upon adults the messages of water conservation than these youngsters,” said Christy Youker, education director for the UCRA. “The Aqua Squad has made being environmentally conscious cool. They couldn’t have done that without the support of the City of San Angelo. This is a prime example of public partnerships working perfectly.”

The Texas Municipal League is an organization of 1,135 cities encompassing more than 16,000 elected officials and municipal managers. It provides legal guidance, political representation at the state and federal levels, training, and networking and issue-resolving opportunities for its membership.

“This is a proud day for the City of San Angelo,” City Manager Daniel Valenzuela said. “And it’s a direct result of the pride our City employees have in the public service they deliver every day and in the pride they have in being San Angeloans. The exciting thing is, this is only the beginning. Our staff and the City Council, which has provided both great leadership and steadfast support for these award-winning efforts, are brimming with ideas and with the motivation to continually improve our community.”