Wants a ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ on long-discussed project
The City of Fredericksburg has continued with its tradition of electing homegrown residents to its mayor position after Charlie Kiehne received the nomination and was sworn in Monday ahead of the 6 p.m. city council meeting.
Kiehne, a fifth-generation Fredericksburger, was born here in 1950. While he moved away for a short stint to attend college at Texas A&M University, he came back as quickly as he could.
He’s worked in Fredericksburg for over 40 years, starting in construction at Blanchard & Associates. After that, he operated the Exxon service station, previously across from the Nimitz Museum, for 24 years. Then, he became a realtor, which he still holds as his current profession.
Along with working in his hometown, Kiehne has also focused much of his time on community service. He served on the Fredericksburg Independent School District school board for 11 years, the Fredericksburg City Council for just over four years and was on the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Adding to the list, he was also Justice of the Peace in Gillespie County for a period of time, and has been a member of the Optimist Club.
Kiehne’s love for community service is one of the reasons why he ran for mayor.
“I do believe that community service is what drives me,” Kiehne said. “I thought I could be a positive influence on the direction of the city.”
Teamwork focus, goals
While Kiehne does have some goals he hopes to accomplish, his focus is on teamwork.
“The mayor has only one vote,” Kiehne said. “He or she is not a dictator.”
One of the topics Kiehne hopes gets addressed while he’s mayor is the relief route.
“We’re moving into what could be the last phase of that deal,” he said. “That needs to come to a resolution. We’re looking at some areas that we might, with bond voting, approve some inner-city connectors and I think that’s important to relieve traffic for the locals.”
Kiehne also wants to put more of a focus back to the idea of a sports park, or at least just adding new facilities.
“The public did vote not in favor of the bond for the sports park and I respect that,” he said. “I think we can work in partnership with organizations, Little League groups, soccer groups, tennis groups and social organizations to see what we can do out there, whether it’s a few soccer fields, a softball field.”
He wants to show supporters of the town that the idea of new recreational facilities isn’t “dead in the water.”
“I think we’re such a giving community and I think we’re going to find some people to step forward and organizations to step forward to help the city start that process,” Kiehne said.
Along with goals, Kiehne also addressed some challenges facing the city.
One challenge was the noise complaints related to increased usage of short-term rentals.
“We seem to be getting more complaints about noise and behavior that’s not appropriate, whatever that might be,” Kiehne said. “So, I think we’re going to be looking at something to help with that concern.”
He believes some of the increased usage could be driven by people wanting to get away during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“People are coming here wanting to enjoy Fredericksburg and these short-term rentals, or B&Bs, are being booked,” Kiehne said. “Their occupancy rate is pretty high, so families can get there, gather and be isolated, so to speak.”
Kiehne said he hopes he can work with the council in the very near future to get a handle on these concerns.
Lastly, Kiehne addressed the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in the area and the mask order expiring soon.
“It’s an evolving situation,” Kiehne said. “I’m not going to nail myself to one thing or another. I want to see as time goes along, as we progress and if we see an upsurge in that.”
He said he’ll have to look at gathered information and advice from individuals and organizations and make a decision based on that.
Forecasting the future
While Kiehne did note he doesn’t have a “crystal ball,” he believes the city won’t change too much in his upcoming two-year term.
“I think we’ll see the Albert Hotel being built if it gets started there downtown. That’s going to impact the downtown area,” Kiehne said. “If the facility across the Nimitz Museum gets going again, well that’s certainly going to affect the downtown area, as well.”
He also noted the interest from people in putting in hotels and event centers, which could foresee coming to fruition in the next year-and-a-half to two years.
Kiehne said he also expects to see more traffic relief with inner-city connectors.
But, he said, this will all be up to what the council agrees on.
“I want it to be a council-driven process for us,” Kiehne said. “I expect that all our councilors will share some of the concerns I have and some concerns I don’t have.”
The council will meet in a workshop session on Nov. 30 to talk about its goals. More information on that meeting will be available later.