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Keane looks forward to Eden
San Angelo, Texas — Small-town living has a special draw for some people.
Kathy Keane is one of them; she has always wanted to live in a smaller town. The prospect of bringing a lasting impact to a small community sold her on the idea of relocating to Eden, 45 miles southeast of San Angelo.
“I have no connections to Eden other than it being a gateway I’ve gone through to get to other places in Texas,” said Keane, executive director for the San Angelo Development Corp. “I never dreamed that this opportunity would have presented itself.”
Keane announced her retirement last week after working 31 years with the city of San Angelo. She began working for the city filling various roles in the finance department, where she stayed for about 20 years. Afterward, she moved to the city clerk’s office and worked there seven years before she went into the economic-development sector, where she spent the past four years.
“It’s the passion I have for the community,” Keane said of why she has devoted her career to the city of San Angelo. “I really value the true meaning of public service. I speak for those who don’t have a voice here at City Hall.”
Her service to residents will continue after she retires from the city of San Angelo. She is taking a similar position in Eden, becoming the economic-development director for the city, which she should start by the beginning of July.
Eden has about 2,500 residents, as compared to about 90,000 in San Angelo. She said it will be different working with a reduced budget and on a smaller scale than in San Angelo, but the job will still have its challenges.
“There are a lot of programs geared toward the rural communities,” she said. “I think while the dollars may be smaller, the resources may be comparable when looking at the total package.”
Keane had a role in a plethora of San Angelo accomplishments during her stint with the SADC. She was a strong advocate for the half-cent sales tax, which she said had residents feeling skeptical for a few elections before it passed. As director, she oversaw the spending for the tax and has received recognition for how it has been distributed.
She also had a hand in the building of two livestock facilities at the San Angelo Fairgrounds, renovations to the McNease Convention Center, constructing the Rio Concho Sports Complex & Community Park, and bringing and maintaining businesses in San Angelo.
“She was one of two people, her and Pat Malloy (former vice president of economic development for the Chamber of Commerce), who played a big role in bringing Martifer,” said Phil Neighbors, president of the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce. “I worked with her on a number of different projects, and she’s always been passionate about San Angelo.
“She does things well by surveying the citizens of San Angelo.”
Keane said attracting Martifer, a wind turbine tower manufacturer, to San Angelo was a citywide effort to appeal to the European company.
“I think Pat and I were intimately involved in that, but I cannot say how much the community came together to bring that here,” she said. “Every segment of the community was involved. I think they will tell you it was that personal touch that sold them on San Angelo.”
Keane stressed how important it is for new businesses to come to town, but also stressed the importance of maintaining the current companies.
“The opportunity to get a large manufacturer is pretty slim, with the exception of Martifer,” she said. “Eighty percent of the city’s growth is going to come from local businesses. We’re not so dependent on recruiting as we are maintaining.”
Throughout the rest of this month, Keane will be busy tying up loose ends. One big project she is working on is a one-stop shop for entrepreneurs.
She has been working alongside Dave Erickson, director of Angelo State Small Business Development Center; and Donna Osborne, executive director of Concho Valley Center for Entrepreneurial Development, to give people who are starting a business a central location to access economic development partners and resources.
Keane has been “a great source of sending clients to us” at the SBDC, Erickson said. “She was always interested in what we were doing and was a strong supporter of SBDC. Hopefully, whoever replaces her will provide the same effort she provided.”
Keane said one of the biggest rewards of working with the SADC was having a hand in a housing program that educated future homebuyers on the market and helped them buy houses.
“I think the thing that really touches my heart personally is I have been able to work with housing communities and see things revitalized with the city helping,” she said.
Another project that touched her on a personal level was Hirschfeld Steel building an 8-foot wooden fence to separate the residential section of the Blackshear neighborhood from the industrial part.
“I have to commend Hirschfeld for doing that. It was very admirable for them,” she said.
“My biggest rewards have been seeing neighborhoods revitalized and people achieving the American dream of home ownership,” she said. “But I do think San Angelo’s greatest asset is its people.”