The SJRA monitors water quality in the San Jacinto basin, provides water to municipal utility districts and other entities, and operates the Lake Conroe Dam.
As general manager, Houston was originally appointed by the SJRA board of directors in 2007, according the SJRA.
Houston outlined his decision in an email to SJRA staff provided to Community Impact by the SJRA, citing recent legislation that, under an amendment that was subsequently removed by the Texas Senate, would have required the SJRA board to appoint a new general manager.
“With the legislative session coming to a close, a lot of activity and conversation has transpired,” Houston said in the email. “In an effort to achieve what I believe will be the best outcome for SJRA, our board, our customers, the state of Texas, and the resolution of the ongoing controversy, I have decided to explore other employment options. My last day with the river authority will be June 30.”
Houston's announcement followed developments with a piece of legislation amended by Rep. Will Metcalf, R-Conroe, in May. An amendment to House Bill 1540 would have required the SJRA board to replace its general manager. The original bill was intended to bring the SJRA in line with recommendations made by the Sunset Advisory Commission for four river authorities in 2022, Community Impact previously reported.
The amendment was removed in the Senate, and as of May 23 that version of the bill was sent back to and distributed in the House.
Houston's resignation comes despite the removal of the amendment calling for replacement of the general manager.
It was not clear from the special meeting agenda that the topic of his resignation would be discussed; however, the agenda included an item for “personnel actions relating to the general manager.”
What they're saying
Several individuals spoke during the public comment section of the special meeting, including Jim Stinson, former general manager of The Woodlands Water Agency.
“Jace is respected and needed by a much larger cross section,” Stinson said.
Bob Lux, president of The Woodlands Water Agency, also spoke during the public comment portion.
“Top-quality, professional GMs are rare,” Lux said. “Once found, they should be respected and retained.”
SJRA board of directors President Ronald Anderson released a statement May 25: “At today's meeting, the SJRA board of directors received and reluctantly accepted a resignation letter from our general manager, Jace Houston. Jace has served with honor and distinction for almost 16 years and has made the SJRA one of the most respected water agencies in the state of Texas. Even through these recent circumstances involving the legislature, Jace has once again placed the best interests of our organization and customers above his own, and the board wishes him the best in his future endeavors, which we know will be marked by continued success.”
Houston said in the email to the staff he would work with them over the next month for a smooth transition.
“This was obviously a very difficult decision, but it is truly my desire to protect SJRA and the work all of you do every day,” he said in the email. “We have one of the best teams in the state, and I know we will all come through this transition as strong as ever.”