As Waco’s newest city council member, John Kinnaird may not be a household name, and he won his position without a fight.
But the 32-year-old banker has been quietly active in the community for several years.
As chairman of the city’s zoning board of adjustment, he has dealt with the nuts and bolts of zoning, hearing pleas for variances on fence heights and garage encroachments.
As a board member of the nonpartisan Association for Good Government, he has helped recruit candidates for various local elections.
This year, he decided to jump into politics himself, running for the southwest Waco seat being vacated by longtime Councilman Randy Riggs.
He ran unopposed, and tonight he will be sworn in at a 6 p.m. special council meeting at the Waco Convention Center.
Also at the meeting, Malcolm Duncan Jr. will be sworn in as mayor, and Wilbert Austin will take the oath for another term as District 1 council member.
At a 5:30 p.m. work session, the council will discuss the process of appointing someone to fill the District 5 seat Duncan is vacating.
Kinnaird said he sees the unpaid council role as public service, not a means to political power.
“Having recruited other people to run, I’m not pushing an agenda,” he said. “I welcome opposing viewpoints. . . . I’m good at looking at both sides of an issue and taking in different points of view. I’m not dogmatic or rigid in my point of view. I try to be empathetic.”
Riggs, who is stepping down to run for county tax assessor-collector, said he thinks Kinnaird will learn the job quickly.
“I’m thankful he stepped up, and I’m looking forward to his service,” Riggs said.
Riggs appointed Kinnaird to the zoning board of adjustment in 2008, after Kinnaird contacted him about the need for a park in the Sendero Springs neighborhood, where Kinnaird then lived.
“When you see somebody young who is bright and energetic, you want to try to get him involved,” Riggs said.
Kinnaird, who grew up in a Fort Worth suburb, moved to Waco to attend Baylor, and he stuck around after graduating in 2002 as a university scholar. Kinnaird worked his way up to vice president and trust officer at Community Bank and Trust, where he manages investments.
He said he hopes his financial experience and his analytical mind will be an asset on the council, especially when it comes to budgeting and investing.
Wes Filer, president of the Association for Good Government, agreed that Kinnaird has a talent for analysis. For example, Kinnaird has helped the group put together statistics analyzing voting patterns by precinct.
“I think he will make a very good councilman,” said Filer, an attorney with Naman Howell Smith and Lee. “I don’t think he’s going to be a high-profile person who has an opinion to sell on every topic. I think he’s going to be somebody who studies issues very carefully and makes an analytical decision.”
The Association for Good Government, founded in 1987, seeks to ensure that well-qualified candidates run for local nonpartisan elections.
Kinnaird said he supports the direction the Waco City Council has been going in seeking downtown development and recruiting job-creating companies.
“We need to encourage new businesses to form and try to recruit companies that bring in outside dollars,” he said.
Kinnaird said he thinks the new Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative research park will have a major impact on Waco’s economic future. In addition, he said Waco’s ample water supply could give the city an economic advantage.
“We need to jealously guard our lake,” he said.
Kinnaird now lives in the Brookview neighborhood near Valley Mills and Waco drives with his wife, Natalie, who works at the Brazos River Authority. He enjoys playing disc golf and playing with his dogs in Cameron Park, and he has coached youth soccer.
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