The City of Wharton Community Development Department (CDD) responsibilities include planning, directing and reviewing housing assistance, grants and economic development programs, as well as coordinating activities with other city departments and outside agencies. For director Gwen Teves and assistant Krystal Hasselmeier, they adapt and use current events to ensure the community’s needs are met.
Created in 2017, the CDD has implemented many grant resources following Hurricane Harvey, the city’s Food Truck Mondays — held 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the first and third Monday of each month at Guffey park, contributed to the revision of the Wharton County Farmers Market and is currently assisting businesses during the COVID pandemic.
“I think my favorite way to explain who we are is saying, we are who our community needs us to be,” Hasselmeier told The County Gin. “So, it can be anything from finding grant resources, doing infrastructure projects to supporting small businesses. We cover all of it. We help bridge the gap and bring everything together.”
The department introduced Back in Business — a response to changes within the State of Texas that apply to local businesses.
“We really wanted to make sure our businesses were informed and aware of what they can and cannot do,” Hasselmeir said. “A lot of times we see the news out of the big city and we’re not the big city, so it doesn’t always apply the same way.
“We immediately started releasing Back in Business additions to go along with the governor’s changes and updates to let all of our businesses know about what’s new, what changes were made and what they can do, to be smart under the circumstances.”
Teves and Hasselmeier created a Facebook page in March to assist with getting information out to community members as each new change or addition arises.
“The Back in Business evolves with each new change that comes out,” Hasselmeier told The Gin. “We’re seeing some pretty good success with it. We’ve been emailing those updates to businesses, putting them on our Facebook page and initially, we put out a letter from our mayor with a list of resources. We try our hardest to release information in Spanish and English to make sure we are reaching all of our Wharton business owners.
“Right now, we are addressing the COVID-19 questions and concerns because that is what is pressing. I know we have released Back in Business as a COVID-related measure, but in the future, I can see this evolve into other opportunities based on what the outcome of this instances is.
“We just want to make sure that across the board, no matter what, we are getting that information out to our city’s businesses.”
Currently, the CDD is supplying businesses with fewer than 50 employees face masks to help ensure the safety and protection for their staff.
“We’ve actually had almost 100 businesses within the first day,” Hasselmeier said. “We do intend for those to be used by businesses to supply to their employees for protection, especially in high customer area environments like retail stores and restaurants. That is 50 masks for each of those businesses, so there is high number of masks going into the community.
“We have been pretty successful with this. We’re not out of masks and can still service a pretty good amount of businesses. If we have any left over after reaching out to all, we will make sure that those businesses that did come in will get additional masks if needed.”
The City of Wharton City Hall offices will be closed on Friday, July 3 and the CDD is requesting all businesses still needing masks to come by before then. Supplies are limited to one box of 50 masks per business as of yet, but announcements or changes to those limits can be found by visiting their Facebook page.