Written by Daniel McJunkin
Fulshear Mayor Tommy Kuykendall can be described as many things. To his family, he is a husband and a father. To his employees, he is their leader. To the citizens of Fulshear, he is a respected Mayor, neighbor, and friend.
Tommy Kuykendall has been the Mayor of Fulshear, Texas since 2010. When he took office over four years ago, he had a city staff of five. Today, he leads a staff of almost thirty dedicated employees. Now in his third term as Mayor, Tommy Kuykendall has hit his stride and he knows how to get things done in his rapidly growing home town.
Tommy is proud to say that he has always lived in Fort Bend County. He was born in Richmond, Texas. He grew up near Pleak, Texas, in an area that has since been annexed by the City of Rosenberg. He attended schools in the Lamar Consolidated School District. He attended Wharton County Junior College and received his degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Houston. Tommy has a number of family members living in Fort Bend County, some of which are active in farming, agriculture and ranching.
Tommy met the most important person in his life, Rhonda, while in High School. Four years after they met, Tommy and Rhonda were married. Tommy’s first job was working for the Texas Department of Transportation in Rosenberg. He worked as a road construction inspector. After ten years of marriage, Tommy and Rhonda started their family. In 2000, the Kuykendall Family moved to Fulshear from Pecan Grove.
Tommy is quick to point out the sacrifices that Rhonda made so that he could pursue his degree in Civil Engineering. He says “She worked and pulled extra weight while I was attending college at night. My classes took a lot of time away from my family, and studying took the rest. She would help me mow the yard and try to take care of what she could, so I could focus on my education. It was a team effort.”
Being involved in their children’s education has been an important aspect of family life for the Kuykendall’s. Per Tommy, “With the kids, we’ve been through three different types of schooling. We did home schooling, which took a tremendous amount of work and dedication on Rhonda’s part. We did private schooling. The private school was in the Sugar land area, which took a lot of commuting and parental involvement. Now, both of our kids are in Foster High School, so they’re finally close to home. Alyssa, a senior, and Ty, a sophomore, now have their driver’s licenses, so that makes it easier, but I really have to thank my wife, Rhonda, for her tireless efforts. I could never thank her enough for what she has done for our family.”
In April of 2009, Tommy went into business with Mr. Ben Galvan from Victoria. They created a partnership and Tommy opened the Houston office of CivilCorp, LLC, which is a Professional Civil Engineering and Surveying firm, doing business throughout the State of Texas. Tommy is proud to say that his local office firm now has over 20 employees. CivilCorp continues to grow and the company recently opened a new office in Round Rock, Texas.
As a Professional Civil Engineering and Surveying firm, CivilCorp is focused primarily on roadway and highway infrastructure projects. Tommy describes his partnership and his business by saying “We’ve had some great opportunities, and we are fortunate to have some dedicated and talented people working for us. We count our blessings every day for the success of our business.”
Tommy got his start in Fulshear government in 2003, when he joined the Fulshear Planning Commission, which he ultimately chaired. His service there introduced him to others that had the same community spirit. Tommy’s experience on the Planning Commission gave him the background, as well as the confidence that he needed, to consider a run for Mayor in 2010. He was successful in his election and is currently in his third term as Mayor.
I had the opportunity to meet with Mayor Kuykendall to discuss his thoughts on a number of issues that may be relevant to our readers. Here are portions of what he said on subjects related to his life, his career, and his service as Mayor of the City of Fulshear.
Mayor Kuykendall’s Life in Fort Bend County
“It’s a little bit unusual these days, but I’ve always lived in Fort Bend County. I’m proud of that because it gives me a great perspective.” Tommy continued “I think it gives me a better understanding of how things have developed in our area.”
Managing at City Hall
“With all the things that Fulshear is responsible for, our employees are everything. They are the face of the City and they are its character. We are extremely fortunate to have some talented people working in key positions, from our city administrator to every level of employment that we have here at the city. We have set very high requirements for employment at the city and we’ve set high expectations.”
Tommy’s Management Style
“I do give our staff the benefit of the doubt and I trust people to get their jobs done and let them be the leaders of their departments. It’s worked great for us.” He continued, “I think that we have a cohesive and team-oriented unit.”
“I believe that our community expects to receive great service from their city. When people pick up the phone and give us a call, they want us to be responsive. Our employees are very responsive. It’s definitely a team effort.” ”In my early years as Mayor, several employees had to juggle many functions simultaneously. Now we are growing into different departments like the Economic Development, Building and Permits, Finance, Municipal Court, Public Works and Police Departments. We have department heads that are able to lead and oversee each department’s roles. The employees that we have really make my job much easier. I’m so thankful for their presence working for the City.”
Communication with the Public
“There’s been a much higher demand to know how the city is conducting its day to day business. So, we strive to have a policy of honesty and straight-forwardness. You may not agree with everything, but at least we have an honest conversation about it, and explain why we think something should or should not be done. I think the residents do appreciate that. They can email me or the city administrator and we’ll respond. If a citizen has an issue or a problem, they may be the first person on the committee to help investigate and solve it. We’re here to represent the citizens, and they respect that.”
“We’ve employed a lot of communication tools, such as Blackboard Connect. We’re currently undergoing another upgrade with a revision to our website to handle all the new portable devices. We’re trying to respond to the needs of the community and the technology that we have available, because we want to be accessible. Because we are here to serve, our city administrator and police chief have monthly forums where residents can come and ask any question. Service is our number one goal.”
“I’m a civil engineer, and sometimes I get accused of being the boring one in the room, so, I’m all for hearing great ideas. Our vibrant community organizations have been borne out of listening to these creative ideas, and if it’s a good one, we want it here.”
“You always hear that Fulshear could become the largest city in Fort Bend County. Sometimes I pinch myself and think I’m not totally sure I believe that yet. We do have a tremendous amount of land mass. Our city limits are over 11 square miles, our ETJ is 40 square miles, which has given us a vision for long-term growth.”
Changing to a Home Rule City
“Today, we’re approaching a population of 6000. When I moved here in 2000, our population was probably about 700. The majority of our growth has just been in the last two or three years. We’re adding a thousand to twelve-hundred people every year. That puts us past the threshold to start looking to different forms of government.” “We are currently a general law city. Since we’re over 5000 in population, we have the ability to change our government structure and adopt our own home-rule charter, which allows us to set our own future course. We can decide how many council members we will have, whether to annex any other properties, what the terms of offices will be, whether there are term limits, and many other things. All of these will be discussed in that process.”
“As a city we’ve come of age, and now we have the chance to set our own course. I think our citizens would like to see us head in that direction.”
“When I moved here in 2000 there wasn’t a single master planned community within Fulshear’s jurisdiction. It was a few years after that, in 2005 and 2006 time frame, I had worked on the planning commission and I was able to see some of the inceptions of master planned communities such as Firethorne in our ETJ to the north, Cross Creek Ranch, and Fulbrook on Fulshear Creek.”
“I think that the master planned communities have put a lot of thinking into all aspects of their developments. Being a small city, it would have been very hard for us to provide a water plant, a sewer plant, all the parks, all the recreation needs, all the drainage and flood protection. The master planned community wraps that up into a package to take care of those needs.”
“There are trade-offs that you make with developers. They bring a benefit to the city, and then the city in turn tries to help them, so they have a successful development. The people that are moving out here really have identified with Fulshear. They have a great sense of wanting to preserve the small town character and small town charm.”
“Developers and the city must have a unique partnership. The city can encourage the vision and try to guide that vision, but it takes a willing partner to make it happen. I think that the people that are moving out here want to see that vision continued to preserve our small town character. That’s part of our comprehensive plan we completed in 2014.”
Legacy as Mayor
“If we can garner a trust in city government, then everything else will take care of itself. Along with the trust, considering the tremendous amount of growth that we have, we must see that the growth occurs in a guided way, according to an overall vision, an overall plan, and that it’s sustainable.”
“A sense of community is the most important part of the legacy that I would like to leave. We are a community that is going from a very small general law town to a home rule charter, all the while trying to maintain our unique identity. I am confident that with the help of our leadership, and the continued involvement of our citizens, we will always be Fulshear.”
“We want our kids, growing up here, to have an identity of Fulshear as home. Fifty years from now they can bring their children back and say, ‘this is where I grew up and this is our great downtown area,’ or town center or City Hall area, ‘this is where I had my ups and downs and it helped build my character and personality. It helped shape who I am today’. Ultimately, we want our kids to say, ‘My home is Fulshear, TX.’.”