With an assortment of Oak Ridge North infrastructure improvements nearing completion and new ones slated to begin, Place 1 councilman Tom Coale has tapped into his expertise to ensure these types of projects remain a priority in the community for years to come.
"I'm trying to make sure we've got our facilities and roads all in good shape and are updated because they're all of an age, some up to 30 and 40 years old," Coale said. "Also, it will help for some economic growth to take advantage of what everyone calls the 'Exxon effect.'"
Coale dabbles in all facets of City Council policymaking, but he said his expertise lies in infrastructure improvement projects because of his 40-year background in the construction and real estate industries. For about a decade, Coale has been self-employed as a certified public accountant working with clients in the rent construction business. He helps the city prepare for audits and serves on the Economic Development Corporation.
"I have great respect for Tom Coale and his judgment," Oak Ridge North Mayor Jim Kuykendall said. "We've had some big projects—the water system, the sewer system, all of that stuff and when he speaks, everybody listens. To me, as the mayor, it's like having an expert sitting there with you."
Coale's ties to Oak Ridge North date back to 1972 when he moved to a home on Paula Lane, just before construction on George Mitchell's long-term vision for The Woodlands began. Coale said the now-bustling landscape of Oak Ridge North was sparse except for a Food Basket storefront that is now occupied by Hodge's Hometown Grocery and another local hangout in Shenandoah.
In the mid-1980s, Coale tried his hand at public office and served as a councilman in Oak Ridge North for a brief term. Coale stayed active in the community through the South Montgomery County YMCA board and volunteered with his children's sports teams. By 2010, Coale became dissatisfied with the leadership on City Council and decided to run for the Place 1 seat. He was chosen to serve another two-year term in 2012 after an uncontested election.
As he has served in public office, Coale has found a way to balance family life, his job and duties as a councilman while staying true to his hardwired business mindset.
"If [a project is] a good business deal from both sides, I think the city should consider doing it," Coale said. "If it's not, I don't think we should get involved. I also believe in trying to work things out. You can get a majority of people behind it, but if I think it's wrong, I will vote the way I think is [right] no matter how anyone else votes or thinks."
Coale said he hopes to improve the city for as long as he can, but he anticipates he may step down from City Council in five to 10 years and continue his public service efforts elsewhere in the community. Coale said he welcomes new members on the council because it propels the city forward and keeps discussions lively.
"The good thing about Tom that I've always appreciated is that he wants us to stay with that hometown feeling," Kuykendall said. "Our motto, our legacy is that we want to be what a hometown should be, and Tom believes that. Tom's a good man, and I'm thankful to call him my friend."