2018 in Review: Departures, upgrades highlight year for Oak Ridge North, Shenandoah
It’s been a big year for the little cities around The Woodlands.
After a chaotic 2017, officials in both Oak Ridge North and Shenandoah both found reprieves in revitalized community programs and other areas.
Oak Ridge North
For Oak Ridge North, the year brought the end of two long-standing legacies with chief of police Andrew Walters and city manager Vicky Rudy both announcing their retirements.
Rudy was up first, with an announcement in May paving the way for her retirement in August after eight years in Oak Ridge North and a nearly 20-year career in city government in Montgomery County.
“It’s been quite an experience,” Rudy said at a May city council meeting. “I have been blessed by the opportunities I have had and the projects I have been part of. Knowing that (the projects I’ve worked on) will leave an impact for many years to come is a blessing.”
Rudy served as city administrator in Montgomery and left her role as the city administrator of Rollingwood — a city in the Austin metro region — in 2010 to come to Oak Ridge North. Her role as city manager meant she oversaw the day-to-day operations of the city, as well as advising the city council on long-term projects. Under her watch, the city’s wastewater system was rehabbed and her economic and financial development projects attracted businesses to the city.
“Thank you for eight wonderful years of support,” Rudy said during her final city manager report. “I couldn’t have found a better place to end my career.”
Oak Ridge North’s new city manager, Richard Derr, began his tenure on Sept. 4.
Derr, an alumni of Miami University in Ohio, previously worked in Oak Ridge North as the city’s administrator from 1989 to 1994.
“He started here and by golly, he’s going to end up here,” said Oak Ridge North Mayor Jim Kuykendall during the August council meeting when Derr’s new position was announced.
Chief of Police Andrew Walters announced his impending departure from the city in July and presented his replacement, Lt. Tom Libby, to the city council for approval.
“Tom’s loyalty, honesty and determination to do an outstanding job has always impressed me,” Walters wrote in an Aug. 7 letter to Rudy recommending Libby to succeed him. “(He) has always been a person who finds no challenge too large or too difficult to overcome.”
After three decades in the Oak Ridge North Police Department and 20 years serving as its chief, Walters is moving to the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, just south of Shawnee, Oklahoma.
“I’ve enjoyed it,” Walters said in his July retirement announcement. “But now’s it’s the time to part trails and ride off. I appreciate the friends I’ve made. I love y’all. You’ve been good to me and I’ll forever appreciate that.”
In other 2018 happenings, city officials also worked to relieve congestion on the main east-west thoroughfare, Robinson Road, contracting firm RPS Klotz to engineer the road realignment. The city began exploring options in early 2018, drawing up preliminary plans that make the proposed realigned road a diagonal thoroughfare with a traffic light at Hanna Road, the area where residents and drivers-by see the most delays.
The plan was a response to the major delays seen on the once-minor road as more and more residents to the east of it use it during rush hour to access Interstate 45. The project is expected to begin construction in October 2019.
This was the year that high-speed internet came to Shenandoah.
After three years of discussion and development, high-speed internet company Tachus began the $1.5 million installation of fiber optic cables to homes in the Shenandoah Valley section of the city in May, expanding to the Tuscany Woods, Malaga Forest, Lily, Parkgate Reserve, Dulcimer Woods, Avalon Oaks, Cantwell Forest, Reserve at Grogan’s Mill and Marion subdivisions by the end of 2018.
The decision to bring in high-speed internet services was made after years of complaints from residents about slow internet service. The contract with the city caps the monthly cost to residents at $85 for the 1-gigabit per second service.
May also brought a homecoming to Shenandoah.
Former city administrator Kathie Reyer, who only two months before had left her post as interim city administrator to take a position at Visit Bastrop Texas.
“I had a tremendous outreach from the staff,” Reyer said at the May 23 city council meeting where she was unanimously re-hired by the city council. “I missed the employees, and I think we’re doing great things together.”
The Sam Moon Group began construction on the 69-acre MetroPark Square project in late 2016, bringing 175,000 square feet of retail, entertainment, restaurant and hospitality space to Shenandoah, as well as a 600-unit multi-family housing development.
The project began its second phase in November, when city council approved a site plan that includes a 148-room Hyatt House extended stay hotel, which will feature a bar, lounge and social spaces.
Shenandoah dipped its toe in the sports world on Dec. 14 when it hosted the NCAA Division III Football Championship, better known as the Stagg Bowl, which saw the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor beat Mount Union (Ohio) 24-16 at Woodforest Bank Stadium.
Shenandoah is also hosting the 2019 Stagg Bowl.