Shenandoah’s new mayor, John Escoto, was elected May 7. Escoto took the seat of Ritch Wheeler, who previously served for six years and chose not to seek re-election.

Escoto was elected to the Shenandoah City Council in 2021 and brings experience from a background in law enforcement and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

What are your priorities as mayor?

I think the major construction efforts that were planned during the previous administration by former Mayor [Ritch] Wheeler, which includes the extension from David Memorial [Drive] to Hwy. 242, ... [I want to] make sure that is followed through and completed, hopefully within my tenure as mayor. Secondary to that is the intersection of I-45 and Research Forest [Drive].

Those two projects are paramount right now. That is what I would like to get going as quickly as we can do it. ... We have to rely on the budgeting process, [and] a portion of it includes [Montgomery] County and the city of Conroe.

What benefits do you think these will bring?

Mobility is a big issue, especially for us because we straddle I-45. Sometimes traffic becomes a bottleneck at those intersections, and in our community, especially at Research Forest specifically [and] the feeder road going north toward Hwy. 242. I think it would benefit not only Shenandoah, but the whole area. People who live west of Shenandoah, ... they exit I-45 and take that left turn to go west on Research Forest, and traffic congestion is very big there, both north and south. I think it benefits the whole region.

What made you want to run for mayor?

I have been living in Shenandoah for more than 11 years now. I did not grow up in Shenandoah; I actually grew up in New York City but spent most of my adult life in the South. Once I retired from my last job, which was with the Department of Homeland Security, ... my wife and I decided to move down here where my wife’s relatives were in The Woodlands. I got involved because I love the city, and my entire life has been in public service. After I retired, I felt the need to continue that. I could not become a law enforcement officer again; I had already retired, and age had snuck up on me, so I decided to serve in different ways. I ran for City Council back in 2013, but I was defeated, and I decided to give it another shot [in 2021], ... then the mayor position became open, and I ran for it.

What inspired you to go into public service?

I am an immigrant; I was born in Honduras, and my family moved to the United States in 1960. We settled in New York City, specifically the Bronx. My family left Honduras because we were looking for an opportunity.

... We were a single-parent family, and my mother was a very strong woman with strong convictions and very patriotic. She never let us forget we owed something to this country for opening its doors for us and giving us the opportunity. I always remembered that. She encouraged me specifically because I was the youngest to find a way to pay it back.

I joined the Army when I was 17, and that started my devotion to serve and knowing that you have to give back. I remained with that mindset—I served, got out of the Army; I became a letter carrier with the post office. ... I decided to go back into the Army and become a military police officer ... and eventually becoming a federal agent, always keeping in mind that my goal was to serve my community, my state and my country.

What else would like residents to know about you?

I am a man of my word, and I have very strong convictions about doing the right thing. I will always do the right thing when it comes to the city of Shenandoah. Any decision or consideration of a project or issue that involves Shenandoah ... is going to be considered on how it will benefit the city so as to not put [it] in a position where we are incurring avoidable commitments or debts. When I make a pledge, I keep it.