New Richmond mayor hopes to ease tax burden

Becky Kennelly Haas takes the oath of office as Richmond’s new mayor. She defeated incumbent Evalyn Moore in the Nov. 3 general election.

The city of Richmond has a new mayor who knows where the bodies are buried — as well as the skeletons in the closet.

And Becky Kennelly Haas will share every fascinating detail if given half a chance. Haas has offered guided ghost tours through historic Richmond for years.

She took the oath of office on Monday. She defeated incumbent Mayor Evalyn Moore in the Nov. 3 general election. Moore, and her late husband Hilmar, have served as mayors of Richmond for just over seven decades.

Hilmar, at one time, was America’s longest-serving mayor. His wife was appointed to replace him in 2014 upon his death. She has been elected twice.

“You are the new face of Richmond,” Moore told Haas during Monday’s city commission meeting.

Haas, who used to operate an antique store in historic downtown Richmond, has pledged to make city business more transparent and to hold city employees — and its elected officeholders — more accountable. Specifically, she vowed some sweeping changes to the city’s ethics review board.

She said she will propose that the five ethic board members be appointed by each individual city commission member — Places 1-4, and the mayor. In addition, the appointees will serve in concurrence with each city commissioner that appointed them.

“Ethics complaints, hearing, and judgments will be presided over by the municipal judge, as a neutral non-voting member,” she said during her 2019 campaign for public office.

Haas also wants to increase street lighting in neighborhoods and help property owners with their property taxes.

“People that live, work, raise their families in our city for generations are being taxed out of their homes,” she has said in the past. “I will propose the city ease these burdens by offering a robust homestead and other exemptions in the $50,000-plus range.”

It should be noted that Haas can cast only one vote on these issues and will need to have at least two other commissioners support her intentions.

She said she would also like to help businesses in the historic section of Richmond where she once operated an antique store by investing in parking and improve “pedestrian mobility.”

Haas said she would also like the city to establish a community park in the central area near LCISD’s Seguin campus and allow each city commissioner to nominate volunteers to city boards and panels.

Haas and husband Robert have been regular attendees at the city commission meetings and workshops for years. Robert Haas retired from the city of Richmond several years ago after serving in the fire department for more than four decades.

Haas was mum on whether she would continue to give ghost tours through historic Richmond during her reign as mayor.

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