HENDERSON — Henderson City Council members welcomed the new director of the Henderson Animal Center on Tuesday, a personnel move that’s part of a broader attack on high euthanasia rates that already have significantly dropped.

“We have been blessed with support from the community for rescues, for people willing and able to step up and make a difference,” new Director Charissa Pool said, after a meeting at which City Manager Jay Abercrombie announced to applause that the kill rate at the city-owned shelter plummeted from 290 in June 2018 to 15 last month.

“We’re going to continue to get there,” Abercrombie said, tacitly referring to the goal of running a no-kill shelter.

Abercrombie, who was named liaison to the then-troubled shelter at his first council meeting after taking the job in March, previously announced separation of the city’s animal control officer from the role of shelter director. Backy Jeffus will continue as animal control officer, as part of the police department, but no longer has the administrative and adoption-promotion roles that Pool takes over.

The volunteer coalition, Rusk County Pets Alive, which vocally pushed for action as euthanasia rates soared in 2018, gave its stamp of approval to Abercrombie’s plan.

“We still have a long way to go,” the city manager said. “But we’re moving in the right direction.”

Pool has worked at the shelter the past few years and was a police department dispatcher before that. She also has eight years’ experience as a veterinarian technician.

“I really feel like I’m where I belong,” she said. “All my roads led to this position.”

Abercrombie on Tuesday also announced dates for required public hearings on the 2019-20 budget and tax rate. The city manager and staff have been preparing next year’s spending plan for the council to hash out before the fiscal year begins on Sept. 1.

The public can weigh in on the budget and the tax rate, which has not been set, at the 6 p.m. Aug. 13 meeting and on the tax rate at 6 p.m. Aug. 27, the council decided.

Also Tuesday, a nearly filled council chambers erupted in applause as the council and Keep Henderson Beautiful celebrated the volunteer beautification group earning the 2019 Governor’s Achievement Award. The designation goes to 10 cities in as many population categories.

It also brings a $160,000 check, which has been earmarked for beautification of entryways to the City of Lions in conjunction with the Texas Department of Transportation. Keep Henderson Beautiful also earned the award, with a similar cash prize, in 2014.

“Keep Henderson Beautiful has been an all-volunteer organization from the start,” board President Leon Harris said. “There’s no paid staff, and we just do what we need to do.”

Also Tuesday, Watson Street resident Chris Wheeler asked, during the public comment period, when her street is due for renovation.

“I’ve lived there for 42 years, and it’s been about 41 1/2 years since anything was done to it,” she said. “Our potholes have potholes.”

The council cannot act on public comments, but Public Service Operations Director Davis Brown invited Wheeler to visit his office.

“You’ll be happy with the answers,” he said.