The Katy City Council approved the appointment of Byron Hebert as city administrator at its March 24 meeting. Hebert, who served as Katy's director of finance prior to this appointment, replaces Johnny Nelson. Nelson retired as city administrator after 20 years in the office.
Since his tenure began in 1994, Nelson has seen Katy through significant growth and development and was one of key players in bringing the Katy Mills Mall into being, Mayor Hughes said in his proclamation recognizing Nelson's retirement. Before becoming city administrator, Nelson was Katy's mayor from 1983–87 and director of the Greater Katy Area Chamber of Commerce from 1988–90.
"It's a pleasure to work for this city and to work with all the city employees," Nelson said. "It's just been great. I've enjoyed every minute of it."
Hebert was chosen as Nelson's replacement after a long selection process, which involved two interviews as well as personality and aptitude tests. During the discussion following the announcement of Hebert's appointment, council members stated that while they were pleased to fill the City Administrator position from within the current city government, the selection process was quite competitive.
Although the council members expressed their enthusiasm over Hebert's appointment and their confidence in his abilities, they also said Nelson will be missed.
"He sincerely desires to make this a better community for all of us," Hughes said. "City Hall will never be the same."
Byron Hebert, Katy's new city administrator
Byron Hebert, Katy's new city administrator, started his long relationship with the city at the rice harvest festival in the early 1990s. At the time, Hebert was living in Houston with his wife. The couple was planning to start a family, but did not want to raise children in the city. They had been looking for a new home in Pearland, Sugar Land and Tomball when they attended the Katy Rice Harvest Festival. During the festival, Hebert's wife said Katy would be a great place to raise a family. They then moved to the city in 1994. Quickly making the city their home, the following football season, the Heberts followed Katy High School's football team to the championship game against Plano.
The same year, Hebert's predecessor Johnny Nelson began his tenure as city administrator. Nelson held the position for 20 years, seeing the city through a period of ongoing development. As Hebert takes the reins, Katy's momentum shows no signs of slowing down. In the coming years, the city will see a new City Hall and downtown redevelopment, further population growth from Cane Island, and possibly a convention center.
"When I look at my role as city manager, my job is to first look after the citizens and make sure that the projects we're doing are in the best interest of the people of the city," Hebert said.
He feels part of his responsibility to Katy's citizens includes maintaining the city's small town, historical atmosphere without discouraging population growth and commercial development.
"It's a balancing approach, where you've got the traditional Old Katy, or historic Katy, that you want to preserve," Hebert said. "Then we also have to understand that growth is all around us, and we've got to embrace that too."
He said he hopes that residents of the Greater Katy area, outside of the city limits, can also look at the city of Katy with a sense of hometown pride.
Originally from Lafayette, La., Hebert obtained his MBA from the University of Houston. Before working for city of Katy, Hebert worked for a medical company, then started and ran an Internet company called Web Source. The city was one of his clients. He was invited to apply for a job with the city when the previous finance director was retiring.
Because of his 14 years of experience as finance director for Katy, Hebert was already well acquainted with the city government when he became city administrator, and has been able to transition smoothly into the position. He plans to utilize his experience with finance, IT and business to streamline the way the city runs.
"I like to look at technology and say 'what innovative ways can we make this run more smoothly?'" Hebert said.
One of the first tasks before Hebert is to plan for continued growth and the mobility issues that will accompany it. The city is working on a mobility plan, though the plan is still evolving as the city tracks where development is most occurring. Growth does not always occur where it is initially expected to, Hebert said, so the city has to keep an eye on what is actually being developed and modify their plans accordingly.
"They planned for the growth to happen north [15-20 years ago], and it's actually happened south," he said.
During the next few years, the city's population could increase from 17,000 to 30,000 when new residential developments, such as Cane Island, are complete. It follows that demand for city services including water and sewage, fire, EMS and police will also increase, Hebert said. It will be part of his job to ensure that city services keep pace with population growth.
Commercial development in Katy is also on the rise. The city is discussing purchasing property on the south side of Katy Mills Mall to develop into a convention center and boardwalk. The city already owns a portion of the wetland area, but fully developing a convention center and boardwalk will require the city to purchase more of the surrounding land. A hotel and restaurants along the boardwalk are also under consideration.
"It's a fascinating time in the life of the city. You can just feel the energy and the excitement," Hebert said.
When he attended the most recent meeting of the Katy Area Economic Development Council, Hebert said, he found out that Warren Buffet came to Katy when GEICO moved into their offices at Mason Creek Office Center. This made him realize how decision-makers and influential figures outside Katy view the area.
"Not only do we have this great tradition, but we have a lot of good things going on that a lot of investors throughout the whole United States are looking at," Hebert said.