Community remembers legacy of Mickey Deison, former Conroe mayor and Montgomery County judge

Mickey Deison speaks at a city event. (Courtesy Larry Foerster)
Mickey Deison speaks at a city event. (Courtesy Larry Foerster)

Mickey Deison speaks at a city event. (Courtesy Larry Foerster)

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Deison poses with his former secretary, Linda Garner, after catching a catfish on her property. (Courtesy Larry Foerster)
R.A. “Mickey” Deison Jr.—former Montgomery County judge, mayor of Conroe and the namesake of the Deison Technology Park in Conroe—died Oct. 13, but his legacy will continue to live on, community leaders said.

Deison died from complications related to COVID-19, according to his obituary. He served two terms as mayor of Conroe, from 1971-74. In 1977, he was appointed as county judge, a role in which he served until 1982, when he stepped away from politics to focus on his law practice.

Deisonalso was a member of or served on a variety of boards, including the Conroe Lake Conroe Chamber of Commerce, the Montgomery County Fair Association, the Houston-Galveston Area Council and the Conroe Noon Kiwanis Club.

“He did what was needed to be done, not for any self-glory,” said Larry Foerster, an attorney in Conroe. “He did it because he loved the county.”

Foerster, who was serving as the county’s assistant district attorney at the time, said he was encouraged by Deison in 1980 to run for county attorney. Foerster said Deison’s vision was to expand the role of county government, particularly the service of the county attorney’s office to provide additional legal services to the judge, commissioners and other departments.

“I got elected, ... and I got to see firsthand how he led the county during some pretty challenging times,” he said.

That era saw tremendous growth, as the county began to burgeon from its rural roots to become more of the metropolitan place it is today, Foerster said. During this time, The Woodlands was a fledgling entity, just a few years old.

“At that time, the county was quite a bit smaller,” Foerster said. “Mickey had the vision—like very few other people at the time—to see the potential of Montgomery County.”

Deison, an avid pilot, saw the Conroe-North Houston Regional Airport as underutilized, Foerster said. He asked Foerster to begin sitting in on the airport board meetings. Today, one of the air traffic control towers is named after Deison.

Deison negotiated for new development, envisioning the development of the Conroe Industrial Park and bringing advanced technological firms to the county, Foerster said.

In 2013, Conroe’s 248-acre Deison Technology Park was named after him, according to the Conroe Industrial Development Corp. CIDC signed the park’s first occupant, VGXI, a plasmid DNA manufacturer, earlier this year, and the company has announced plans for a new, expanded manufacturing facility in the park.

“I believe he hoped that the park would spur development at both the airport and throughout Conroe,” said Danielle Scheiner, executive director of the Conroe Economic Development Council. “Hopefully, his vision is now beginning to be realized.”

Scheiner said she recalls first meeting Deison when she moved to Conroe in 1999. At the time, she was working for the city’s chamber of commerce convention and visitors’ bureau, and Deison was serving on the chamber’s board of directors.

“He was always so pleasant and helpful and genuinely cared about the staff and their families,” she said. “Every Christmas, he treated all of the ladies on staff to lunch with his team. He always asked about kids and grandkids.”

When Scheiner joined the economic development council, she said, Deison provided sage advice and guidance as chairman of the CIDC with respect to real estate transactions and incentive policy.

“I also recall that he ran a tight meeting,” she said.

Penny Wilson, chief operating officer of Yes to Youth Montgomery County Youth Services, said she recalled seeing Deison volunteer for the organization multiple times, particularly around the holidays. Every Christmas, the Kiwanis Club would donate funds to their organization to help with holiday projects for underprivileged families.

“One year, we had a family who had experienced a house fire and lost just about everything. It was right before the holidays,” she said. “[Deison] took it upon himself to coordinate with the club. ... He came in to donate towels and sheets. ... They brought back a check. It was really touching.”

Wilson said she learned later on that Deison was actually the county judge who asked for the organization to be created back in the late 1970s. Prior to the organization’s creation, the county’s youth who lacked stable, reliable homes would have to spend their nights in the county jail, she said.

“I had no idea when he first started coming and donating as a volunteer how long he had been a supporter,” she said.

Foerster said that was how Deison tended to operate: without asking for recognition.

“He did so much for so many people who never realized that he was behind the scenes on a lot of the projects that were going on,” he said. “He will never got all the credit that he is due, but that’s not what he was looking for.”
By Eva Vigh
Eva Vigh joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2018 as a reporter for Spring and Klein. Prior to this position, she covered upstream oil and gas news for a drilling contractors' association.