When Dr. Andy Mack decided to run for mayor nine years ago, he had a couple of key goals in mind.
He wanted to unite the city to bridge the gaps between north, south, east, and west. He also wanted to help transform Longview into a place that younger generations – like his children – would return to work and start families of their own.
In the last nine years, Mack led Longview through a bond election that has enhanced city parks, facilities, and infrastructure. He prompted changes at Longview Economic Development Corporation that set LEDCO on a trajectory to bring more than 4,000 new jobs and $157 million in development to the city. He advocated for development on Interstate 20 and promoted efforts that helped revitalize Downtown Longview. Mack also helped guide the city through a health pandemic, striving to provide accurate information to citizens.
Through every moment and milestone, he believed in and advocated for the idea that Longview is better together. The term “#OneLongview” is synonymous with his tenure as mayor.
“When I ran for mayor, I had a few simple goals. I wanted Longview to close the gap. I wanted to reunite our city, create new opportunities for business, look for new efficiencies, and create a new legacy to leave for future generations. Together we have done all that and more,” Mack said. “We’ve supported each other through hard challenges and been, in a word, #OneLongview.”
Throughout the years, Longview has meant many things to Mack. A Longview native, he was in the final tenth grade class at the former downtown Longview High School campus and was a member of the second graduating class at the “new” North Longview campus.
He attended Stephen F. Austin State University where he received his Bachelor of Science degree with a major in biology and minor in chemistry. He received a Doctor of Dental Surgery from Baylor College of Dentistry in 1985 and went on to complete his residency in oral and maxillofacial surgery at The University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.
He returned home in 1989 to start his own practice, East Texas Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. In addition to common procedures such as removal of wisdom teeth, Mack also performs facial reconstructions and cosmetic surgery.
In addition to opening a practice in Longview, Mack and his wife, Kelly, raised their children in the community. The couple has three children – daughters, Spencer and Madison, and son, Luke.
Mack served on the City Council in the late 1990s and early 2000s prior to making his first bid for mayor in 2005. During his time on the City Council, Mack led the charge on items that, while controversial at the time, have proven to be beneficial to the city.
The non-smoking ordinance prohibits smoking in public places. Though some people at the time felt the ordinance was overreaching on the government’s part, Mack maintained his position that it was a matter of public safety. At the time, Longview was a leader in the East Texas region for passing such an ordinance; a few years later the state would implement a similar rule.
“As science became clearer as to the effects of secondhand smoke, it became apparent that we needed to make a change in our community,” Mack recalled. “At the time, it wasn’t incredibly popular to tell businesses what they could or could not do. I completely understand that, but this was a matter of public health.”
The other item that proved controversial during Mack’s time was the Lear Park project. Mack championed the idea of developing a first-class sports complex at Lear Park. The issue of developing the park was brought before voters in 2003 and received approval.
While Longview generates visitors and hotel stays Monday through Thursday due to laborers who come into the city for work, those visitors decrease on the weekends.
“We needed something to bring people to our community. We needed sports tourism,” Mack said. “Lear Park opened us up to being a leader in sports tourism. We have developed an incredible network of teams and sports that come and utilize Lear Park.”
Lear Park holds a special place for Mack. It’s been an important project throughout his legacy, and in 2015 it was the site of his announcement for that year’s mayoral election. Longview voters elected Mack as mayor in May of 2015.
At his first meeting after being elected mayor, the Longview City Council voted in May 2015 to eliminate red light cameras.
“We had heard from many residents who had issues with the cameras. We didn’t have the data that they made a significant difference, and ultimately, we decided to remove them,” Mack said. “Our city made that choice before the state changed the laws to prohibit them more broadly.”
While that was the first decision during Mack’s tenure, it certainly wasn’t the last. In 2015, the city also addressed pay for police, and in 2017, the city increased its compensation for firefighters. Public safety compensation had long been a concern in Longview as the city wasn’t paying its police and fire personnel enough “to be competitive with other communities in our region and throughout the state,” he said.
Mack recalled that when he first took office, Longview was experiencing a significant amount of crime and gang violence. At the time, Longview ranked as the seventh most dangerous city in Texas.
“We were finding drugs that were out of control and gang violence that we couldn’t get a grip on,” Mack recalled. “We realized it’s not that we were doing a bad job; we just didn’t have enough people do the job. So we had to find a way to have more police on our force and pay them to stay, and that flipped us around in a year. We went from having double digit homicides to the single digits, and we have had gang violence and drug violence under control pretty much for the last nine years because of the awesome job by our police department.”
In 2022, the City Council approved a budget that provided another increase to the rates to make Longview’s pay scale on par with nearby Tyler’s. That year, voters also approved a $45.6 million pension obligation bond to stabilize the Longview Fire Pension fund.
In addition to the 2022 bond election, Mack also led the city through a 2018 bond election when voters approved a $104 million package to invest into the city’s public safety facilities, streets, and parks. Lear was among the parks that received improvements as a result of the 2018 bond election, and Mack said it was nice to see that project come full circle.
“Everything about this project, now more than twenty years old, has been worth it,” he said. “Every year, Lear Park brings millions of dollars and thousands of visitors to our community, and it pays for itself year after year.”
The “crowning jewel,” as Mack described it, of the 2018 bond is the new Longview Police Department, which features a multi-story design and more than 68,000 square feet of space with state-of-the-art equipment. The city celebrated the building’s completion in December 2023 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house.
Among other public safety items, Longview also was proactive in supplying its police officers with body cameras. The late Tom Chinn, a local businessman, donated the funding for that endeavor.
“This commitment provides accountability to our residents and ensures we continue to provide professional policing, which is what we are charged to do with our city,” Mack said.
When Mack first took office, he provided a new vision for the Longview Economic Development Corporation and made adjustments to the board in line with that vision.
“The projects they’ve supported in the past eight years are mind blowing – accounting for more than 4,000 new jobs and $157 million net to the city,” Mack said. “LEDCO is blowing it out of the water. Projects like Nation Star, El Dorado, Dollar General, GAP, Eastman, AAON, Komatsu, STEMCO, Aviagen, Total Card, and more have changed the landscape of our city.”
The city also saw an increase in park amenities, such as a new skate park, dog park, disc golf courses, and more.
“We also re-imagined how we support the homeless population in our community. Recognizing a problem, we called together a task force to review the situation and make recommendations. From that task force came the Homeless Resource Day initiative, which each January provides homeless people in our community a one-stop to connect with services,” he said.
Mack noted that one area of town that has changed dramatically is downtown Longview.
“Growing up in Longview or even just a few years ago, people didn’t just go downtown,” he said. “Now we have a vibrant city center with food, shops, and activities.”
Mack attributed several factors to the revitalization of downtown Longview.
First, the City of Longview laid the groundwork for revitalization by making infrastructure improvements. Mack recalled the old brick roads downtown and noted that while they have a lot of “character,” it was necessary and significant to reconstruct the downtown streets capes.
“The impact is immeasurable,” he said. “This work really was the prerequisite for everything that has gone on since that time.”
The renovation of the former blighted Petroleum Building into Alton Plaza, which features residential living, also was a contributing factor. Along with other downtown apartments, the facilities have brought residents to the city center. Those residents have contributed to the success of downtown businesses by patronizing and supporting them.
The city also decided in 2016 to allow food trucks to operate in the community. Food trucks not only oftentimes pop up downtown at events like Downtown Live and ArtWalk but also appear throughout the city.
Just as he led the city through many accomplishments, Mack also served as a leading figure who guided the community through difficult moments as well. Notably, he served as a leader during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mack used social media throughout his nine years as mayor to update residents on a variety of things, but during the pandemic, social media became a primary way of sharing factual information with residents.
“I felt it was necessary because I feel like fear comes from the unknown. If you know something – even though you may not like it – at least you know it, so I thought it was important for our residents to stay informed,” he said.
That was another time when Mack was criticized by the community. Some people thought he shared too much; some thought he didn’t share enough. Some thought he pushed face masks too much; others thought he didn’t promote wearing them enough.
“It was a no-win situation, no matter how I turned from a messaging perspective,” he recalled. “But we struggled every day to provide our residents with the information they needed to live healthy, safe, and happy lives.”
The city and county also partnered with Christus Good Shepherd to bring a vaccine clinic to Longview for those who wanted to take advantage of it.
“The clinic provided care for our community through a worldwide time of uncertainty,” he said. “It’s challenges like COVID that show what you’re really made of, and we pulled together and we’re stronger for it.”
As it did during the COVID-19 pandemic, the community also pulled together to support each other during a winter storm in 2021 that was dubbed “snowmageddon.” Mack said he was pleased with how people came together during that time.
The city also has celebrated some of those people throughout the years. Through programs like the Walk of Honor and the Go-Giver Gala, Mack said he’s been proud to recognize people who give back to Longview. The Go-Giver Gala raised money for a variety of causes, including a plan to renovate East Marshall Avenue and Teague Park. The Go-Giver Gala raised about $360,000 for the project, and in September 2023,
LEDCO decided to contribute $1 million toward the endeavor.
“Teague Park is one of the most beautiful areas of our city, and most people drive right by it without ever even knowing it is there,” he said. “They don’t know about the tremendous Veterans Memorial Plaza, the pond, the playground facilities, or the acres of open play space right in the center of our community.”
The city is continuing to seek support for the project, which will include extending the trail and providing access to the park from Marshall Avenue.
“I believe in future years Teague Park will be considered one of the most important areas of our community, and the steps we have taken for the past five years have given us a solid foundation for the work ahead,” he said.
While the Teague Park project started under Mack’s tenure, it did not come to completion; however, the groundwork has been laid for a strong future for the endeavor.
Similarly, Mack believes the city needs development along the Interstate 20 corridor. It’s an issue he’s talked about publicly since he ran for mayor and one which he hopes to see come to fruition in the future.
“It’s been clear since I first ran for mayor that I believe Interstate 20 is a vital corridor for our community. We need to see development and redevelopment along that highway to continue to thrive in future years,” he said. “We have a gift of an interstate running through the southern part of our community. We need to capture that gift and utilize it for our betterment. We can. It’s just going to take some effort.”
Many ideas have been tossed around for development of the area – most notably, the idea of an amphitheater that ultimately didn’t move forward. Mack said it doesn’t have to be an amphitheater, but there needs to be some sort of anchor development on I-20 that will draw tourism and encourage people passing through to exit the highway to stop in Longview.
If an anchor development can be secured, Mack believes it will have a far-reaching effect that will kick off a redevelopment process along the main roadways, such as Estes Parkway, that feed off of I-20 and lead into South Longview.
“I believe is vital for our community leaders to continue to look for ways to provide and promote growth and revitalization in and around Interstate 20,” he said.
While he looks forward to seeing the city continue to progress, in May, he will end his tenure as mayor. Due to City of Longview term limits, mayors may serve no more than three terms with each term being three years.
While Mack feels Longview took many strides forward, he said there is still more work to be done, and he is hopeful that the next mayor will continue to push for progress in the city.
“We need someone with a vision who will not be afraid to make tough choices,” he said. “We’ve come a long way in nine years, but we have a lot more we can do. … I hope the citizens of Longview elect someone who has that attitude because otherwise we’re going to slide backwards. You’re either going forward or you’re going backward because there’s no stationary – not in a city like Longview.”