In June, Duke Coon, former council member and mayor pro-tem, defeated council member Todd Yancey to become the newly elected Conroe mayor.

In a nutshell

Coon first served as a Conroe city council member from 2002-06, and then again from 2014-22. He is a member of the Conroe Noon Lions Club, director of Montgomery County Veterans Memorial Commission and other organizations throughout the city.

Raised in Conroe, Coon is also a U.S. Navy veteran and the CEO of oil and gas company, Hadco International. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Why did you decide to run for mayor? Why now?

It's about service. My father served as an officer. My mother was a nurse. It was instilled as an early age to serve. The military was about service to our country, and it was just so important for me to continue to serve. I had been on council previously. I've been a mayor pro tem here in the city of Conroe. I have been term-limited for two years, so I've been away.

The feeling of serving and helping our community is important. The city is in an enormous amount of debt. Our water infrastructure is failing. We've got some serious issues we need to address.This is just about serving our people—those who are marginalized. That's very important to me—those on the margins who need our help and our services. I'm going to be a mayor that's accessible to our people.

How do you think your experience as a city council member prepares you to be mayor?

I've served for five mayors in this city, and I've learned something from each one of them. When you look at me, you look at a man that was educated by some excellent mayors on one, how to run a city; and two, how to treat our citizens. So I'm a product of my environment. I'm a product of this community, and I'm proud to represent Conroe.

What are your top priorities and goals as mayor?

About a month ago, we found out from our engineering department that we need four new water wells that's going to cost $50 million. We don't have the pressure on our northern quadrants to continue to develop. They've got big subdivisions up to our north that don't have the proper pressure. My first priority is to fix our water infrastructure. Everybody deserves good clean water and water that has good pressure behind it. So that's the very first thing we're working on.

Along with that is the budget. We are $750 million in debt. I won't cast blame on why these things haven't been looked at prior to me. It's my responsibility now. We've got failing water infrastructure. There should have been a progressive comprehensive plan. It should have been enacted years ago related to this water issue, right? But there wasn't. But there will be now. We're going to immediately try to fix this water situation, but we'll have a progressive, comprehensive plan moving forward so we don't have this situation again.

What are your big priorities for next fiscal year’s budget?

That budget will include an audit. We'll audit all our departments. That'll be a forensic-type audit. That budget will allow for a grant writer to be hired by the city of Conroe. I think it's so important that we go out for those federal, state and local grants that are out there available to municipalities. We don't do that now. We've got to bring as much grant revenue to this city as possible. It's going to help our parks, infrastructure and it's going to help our people.

What will your approach be toward the Hyatt Regency Conroe and paying down the bond debt associated with that project?

I voted against the funding for that hotel when I was on City Council. It passed on a 3-2 vote to fund it. Conroe should not be in the hotel business, but we are. We're going to have to find creative ways to work with Hyatt to try to fix some of the debt that's burdening our city due to the construction of the hotel. There's no question about it, we're going to have to take a proactive look at how to move forward with this.

We're paying operational costs for the hotel, and it's difficult to budget when you don't know what your operations and maintenance costs are. We're going to have to work closely with our teams—maybe some external teams—to try to find out what the best step forward is. We've got the hotel that is underperforming. I don't think that's a secret to anyone, but let's hope it opens up revenue, and we'll put our best foot forward to try to assist with that.

How do you plan to approach new development and growth amid infrastructure needs?

So our first goal is to try to get as much infrastructure in the ground as we can. But where we can't get infrastructure in the ground that we paid for, we certainly need to go to the developers and say, ‘partner with us’. If they’re interested in developing here, then they’re going to need to partner with some of the infrastructure—water and sewer infrastructure—at their cost. So it'll be more of a partnership between developers. There are a lot of reliable developers out there. It's about sharing some of the cost, possibly with development, especially if we don't have the infrastructure.