Hastings, fellow mayors enjoy coffee, talk about city's challenges at Coffee with the Mayors event

By George Slaughter, News Editor
Posted 2/27/22

When William “Dusty” Thiele becomes Katy’s mayor in May, he will be joining a fraternity of men who have held Katy’s top municipal job. Many of his predecessors gathered for a relaxed, informal “Coffee with the Mayors” event on Feb. 24 at the Johnny Nelson Katy Heritage Museum, 6002 George Bush Dr.

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Hastings, fellow mayors enjoy coffee, talk about city's challenges at Coffee with the Mayors event

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When William “Dusty” Thiele becomes Katy’s mayor in May, he will be joining a fraternity of men who have held Katy’s top municipal job. Many of his predecessors gathered for a relaxed, informal “Coffee with the Mayors” event on Feb. 24 at the Johnny Nelson Katy Heritage Museum, 6002 George Bush Dr.

There, they enjoyed visiting with people and shared their views, both about their time in office and Katy’s challenges going forward.

Mayor Bill Hastings, who retires in May, remembered his 2019 swearing-in as exciting.

“The night I was sworn in, it was kind of the culmination of my career, to have reached a milestone I never thought I would reach,” Hastings said. “I was hoping to make 50 years of public service. But it will end up at 47. I’m three years short, but I’m happy.”

Hastings said being mayor is “not a hard job if you don’t make it one.” He said city staff makes things easier to manage.

“If he keeps in touch with his employees, he’ll see that it runs well with or without him,” Hastings said. “He served as an interim council member on two occasions. He was on city boards for probably 10 years. He’s familiar with City Hall and how things operate. We’ve got a great staff, a wonderful staff. We’re fortunate in that aspect.”

Hastings was police chief before he became mayor. He said city employees are the ones to focus on. He said the city cannot have disgruntled employees and expect them to represent the city, or the mayor, well.

“It’s not what you do, it’s what the employees do, even with the police department,” Hastings said. “That was an easy job for me because we had so many great employees. You treat them with respect, you love every one of them, and they will work their butts off for you and make you look good.”

Hastings’s predecessor, Chuck Brawner, served from 2017-19. Today he works in his family business. Brawner remembered his mayoralty as starting off really well, but Hurricane Harvey, which came along in 2017, altered the plans. The city had to use some of its emergency funds for drainage repair and equipment. Brawner said it was money well spent.

“I really commend our staff,” Brawner said. “With all the debris, we had companies that came in and started cleaning up immediately.”

Brawner said dealing with the city’s growth will be a big challenge going forward.

“As you can see along the freeway, there’s more development,” Brawner said. “That is going to be a challenge to make sure the right kinds of buildings and products are being built in the city.”

The growth brings with it public safety challenges as well. Brawner said Katy competes with other Houston-area communities to hire and retain the best first responders. That competition will become more intense as the city continues to grow.

Fabol Hughes served from 2013-17. He remains active in the insurance business today. Like his mayoral colleagues, he remembered his swearing in as a very exciting time.

“I barely won by less than 1%,” Hughes said. “Just a handful of votes, and it would’ve gone the other way.”

On Hughes’s watch, the city focused on commercial development and annexing. It also built the current City Hall at 901 Avenue C. Hughes said the growth in the tax base meant the city shouldn’t have to raise taxes again.

“They were coming, whether we did anything or not,” Hughes said. “We did our best to accommodate them. If you look out west of here where you have Academy, Costco and Amazon—all those things raise money for the city. There’s so much money coming in. I’m just glad to be just a small part of what was going on.”

Hughes said Katy’s future is going to look really bright. He has already met with Thiele about what might be expected.

“He just needs to be very assertive,” Hughes said. “Very assertive. Tell them how he wants it done. Don’t let the city run him, but he needs to run the city. I’ve had that conversation with him. Have his plan and work his plan. I think he’ll do well.”

Don Elder Jr. served from 2007-13.

“It was great, because I had been in a lot of different positions,” Elder said. “School board, city council, all those areas. People said, why do you want to be mayor? I said, to give back to my community. It’s not a place where you build an ambition to run for higher office.”

Elder, who today serves as a director of METRO, said traffic is going to be a problem in the city.

“It already is,” Elder said. “Drainage is another big problem. There’s so much homebuilding in concrete going down. I’ve been in the concrete business for 30 years. The developers have to be honest with the people that are buying their houses, because if they are not, you’re going to have flooding and that’s going to be a big mess.”

Doyle Callender, mayor from 2001-07, does consulting work today. He remembered his first swearing in as very exciting. It was even more so, he said, because his parents could attend. Callender’s father has since died but his mother is 99 today

“It was a very enjoyable day,” Callender said.

Callender said the city’s biggest challenge is to maintain the history of Katy while pursuing good growth and development.

“It is a balancing act,” Callender said. “You have to really think things out, and do what’s best for our community. It’s about establishing partnerships. You want to have great relationships with the three counties. It’s just a powerful partnership.”

Hank Schmidt, who served as mayor from 1995-2001, was not at the coffee but attended the previous one last October. He remains active in the community and with the funeral business.

Schmidt’s predecessor, Skip Conner, is active with the Katy Development Authority and in his own insurance business. Conner served as mayor from 1991-95. He said his swearing in was a very exciting time for him.

“It’s something I dreamed of for quite a while,” Conner said.

“Right now, is just to have good, controlled growth.” Conner said, adding that the city’s growth will bring more revenues, which in turn enables the city to provide more services to its citizens.

“Keeping it going with the staff the city has, it’s easier today. There’s more to manage today.”

City of Katy, Katy mayor, Skip Conner, Hank Schmidt, Doyle Callender, Don Elder Jr., Fabol Hughes, Chuck Brawner, Bill Hastings, Dusty Thiele

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