Rebeca Guerra, Tomball's new city planner, was brought in to help the city as it progresses through several major projects, including the Downtown Specific Plan, and the city's sign and zoning ordinances.
Q: What did you do before you came to Tomball?
A: I was a senior planner for the development review section of the planning division of Orange County, Florida. I was responsible for reviewing subdivision plans and all projects located within planned developments. In addition, I did comprehensive plan amendments, drafted and amended ordinances, and was the green project coordinator for the county.
Q: What brought you to Tomball?
A: Since I was a little girl, I have wanted to live in Texas. I've always admired the way Texas has grown its diverse economy. I love the kind of independent personification that Texas has always had. I saw a job was available in this city called Tomball. When I saw it was outside of Houston—one of my favorite cities—I thought it would be a great fit for me. I saw this opportunity, in a city that had just recently passed its comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance, to really have a hand in shaping how it could grow.
Q: What are your first impressions of the city?
A: This is a very progressive city. This particular council and mayor are open to all kinds of ideas and smart growth concepts and they really listen. They do their homework, which is the most important thing of all. They are knowledgeable about what's happening, not just within their community, but with planning itself. This is one of the warmest, most open offices I've ever had the privilege to work in. The people here have been extraordinarily kind and accommodating. The city manager's office deliberately goes out of its way to make itself available to the public and to every city employee.
Coming into a city like Tomball—which is small in population, but big for the variety of things going on here—is really exciting, but also challenging. You have to balance those two very unique aspects that a municipality can have and try to plan for it in a responsible and smart way.
Q: What projects are you going to be working on?
A: I've got some pretty big shoes to fill from [previous City Planner] Kelly Violette. Right off the bat, I have the Downtown Specific Plan and the sign ordinance, which have to be brought before the council before the end of the fiscal year in October. Immediately after that comes the zoning ordinance—which includes parking, landscaping, and many other sections—which has to be amended. When I arrived, I had to take off running; there was a very short adapting period.
Q: What do you hope that you are able to bring to this position?
A: I'm hoping to bring the experience I have from Florida, and my ability to work with the neighborhoods and businesses. My biggest concern is coming in as an outsider. I want to make sure people understand I'm not “big government,” and that I'm not here to impose my will on anyone or ignore what the people who have been here think, feel, hope and desire. I want them to know that I am going to listen and that I'm here to be their partner. It was a big deal for me to come out to Texas, but I had so much faith and belief in this city that it was a chance I was willing to take, and I'm hoping that the city is willing to take the same chance on me.