Improving Spring Hill's infrastructure appears to be at the top of every candidate's list of priorities this election season. How to actually go about doing that, mayor candidate Jim Hagaman asserted, is what sets him apart from his opponent, Vincent Fuqua.
Born in Minnesota, Hagaman served in the United States Air Force for 21 years in a number of different positions, ranging from a non-commissioned officer in charge to a senior controller. After retiring honorably in the early 2000s, Hagaman and his wife of now-34 years Gina moved to Spring Hill at the suggestion of an old friend.
For 17 years, Hagaman worked at Vanderbilt University as a facilities manager. He worked for three years as a director for emergencies management at Nashville General Hospital and for one year as the director of The Lantern at Morning Point in Spring Hill.
In 2015, Hagaman made an unsuccessful bid for mayor campaigning on responsible growth. Many of those same issues, Hagaman argued, are just as present, if not worse today nearly six years later.
"I want to change the trajectory of the city"
Hagaman recognized that improving the city's infrastructure was what virtually every candidate would have at the top of their priority list. Spring Hill has faced tremendous growth over the past 20 years, and its road infrastructure has struggled to keep pace.
What sets Hagaman apart from his opponent, he argued, was his interpretation of what "smart growth" was as defined by the city's Unified Development Code (UDC), essentially the city's rule book for development.
"I want to say this, I am not slamming anybody at all, I mean no disrespect to anyone, [but] there's a document - the UDC - that basically tells the city leaders how to plan a city," Hagaman said.
"My interpretation and [Fuqua's] interpretation of that document are completely different. We all pretty much have the same platform: let's fix the roads, let's fix the infrastructure, let's be good to the fire and police departments - it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know the problems that we have."
Hagaman went on to explain why he felt he and his opponent had different interpretations of this crucial city planning document.
"The issue for me is that the UDC, my interpretation and [Fuqua's] are completely different, and what I mean is this: right in the beginning, it says 'focus growth to support the principles of smart growth by preserving open space and natural areas by reducing traffic congestion, by utilizing existing infrastructure and resources, and preserving the quality of life,'" Hagaman said.
"So [Fuqua] has been a leader in this community on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen for four years, and since he has been in that position, as far as I see it, all of those things have gotten worse. I cannot stand by and let one person go into continued leadership unopposed when these things are not being followed.
"I do not feel the quality of life has gone up in Spring Hill because of the infrastructure issues. I certainly do not feel that we have reduced traffic congestion. I definitely don't feel that we are utilizing existing infrastructure and resources."
Roads and city leadership
When asked what he viewed as the largest challenges facing the city, road inadequacies were the immediate answer. Secondly, however, Hagaman stressed the importance with filling city staff will qualified candidates, something the next board will be tasked with immediately after the recent departures of the city administrator, engineer and planner.
"Our city administrator Victor Lay, he has resigned from his position; our city planner has resigned from his position, we do not currently have a city engineer," Hagaman said.
"Leadership roles are important because if there's a vacancy in a leadership role, things can turn bad. If I'm elected, one of my top priorities will be to hire a city administrator; it has to be somebody who has credible experience so that he or she can hit the ground running."
Hagaman said that he would look for a candidate who comes from a city "significantly larger" than Spring Hill, as well as - preferably - someone with "a proven track record" of resolving infrastructure inadequacies.
Regarding roads, Hagaman stressed that the city's trajectory has to be changed, arguing that were it not, the city's course for the next decade will look largely the same as the last.
"I want to change the trajectory of the city, and it's not smart growth by what we are doing," Hagaman said. "It's not right for the citizens of Spring Hill to have to bear the burden of non-smart growth, and that's what we are doing."
Amenities, economic development
Hagaman said that Spring Hill's current amount of green space, parks and other recreational amenities were woefully inadequate, and that if elected, preserving land for the purpose of building more parks and trails would be a major focus of his.
"We have over 40,000 people here, and the recreation with regards to green space, walking trails and parks is completely inadequate as far as I'm concerned - I 100% support more green space, parks and things like that," Hagaman said.
"The land that we have right now, [we need to] stop turning it into development for single residential homes - all the land that's around here, the developers keep buying it up. When we take up all the space that could have been green space, that is not giving the citizens good livability."
In regards to spurring economic development within the city, Hagaman argued that the city's population, location and more already made it an attractive spot for businesses to move into.
"Again, looking at that word livability, part of it certainly encompasses what people have to do [for entertainment]... people do go north or south to do things that we do not have," Hagaman said.
"We have enough people for businesses to want to come here, so we don't have to spend a lot of resources - i.e. hiring somebody or spending money to attract business - because we're already attractive because of our population. With that being said, if there is somebody that has a significant skill set in attracting businesses, I do support that."
"Never forget where you came from"
When asked what past accomplishments best demonstrate his ability to help lead the city of Spring Hill, Hagaman pointed to two things; his achievements in the military, as well as his ability to not forget his humble beginnings.
"When I started rising in the ranks in the military, one of my chiefs said to me he wanted to give me some advice: he said 'never forget where you came from,'" Hagaman said.
"That was profound to me because a lot of times when people get up into the [upper] echelons of leadership, they forget how hard it was to the frontline staff. So I have taken to practice to make sure that I always have on my mind what those guys and girls are going through right now.
"My bottom line really is I just want to serve the citizens; I'm in a position to do it, I don't have any axes to grind. During my campaign I have had people approach me with carrots if you will, and I tell them 'if you want to support me, this is where I stand, but you're not buying me.' I'm a fair guy and that's how it goes."
Hagaman is just one of nine candidates running for office in the upcoming city election, and will be running against Vincent Fuqua to represent Spring Hill as mayor.
Early voting will be from March 19 to April 3, with Election Day landing on Thursday, April 8. The last day to register to vote is March 9 — click here to register to vote online.