After nearly eight years in Tomball, City Manager George Shackelford is going home. Upon his retirement, effective April 2, Shackelford said he and his wife, Kathy, will return to Texarkana to be closer to family, particularly their grandchildren.

“[We have] a lot of good friends here,” he said. “That’s kind of the bittersweet part.”

Shackelford joined the city of Tomball as city manager in July 2010 after a brief stint with a transportation consulting company in Dallas and nearly 30 years in city management. Before Tomball, Shackelford served as city manager of Canyon, Littlefield, Port Lavaca and Texarkana between 1982 and 2007.

“Here [in city management], you’re on the ground, and you can help that little lady down the street with a problem, and you fix that problem. That’s what motivates me,” he said.

After growing up in Texarkana, Shackelford attended college at West Texas University where he pursued a degree in criminal justice and met Kathy. The two have three daughters—living in Texarkana, Missouri and Washington, D.C., respectively—and three grandchildren, Shackelford said.

“My original intent was to teach college. Then when I was working on my master’s degree, I did an internship with the city manager’s office in Canyon, [Texas],” he said. “‘This is kind of fun,’ [I thought].”

When Shackelford came aboard, the city of Tomball had no marketing department, few festivals and fewer miles of sidewalks, city officials said. Additionally, Hwy. 249 had not yet been extended as the Tomball Tollway, Shackelford said.

Council Member Mark Stoll, who has served on City Council since 2009, said Shackelford is partially to credit for making Tomball an attractive place to live and do business.

“George brought a lot of stability to the city of Tomball during the time that we needed it,” Stoll said. “Back when George came on board, the city of Tomball had the reputation that we were hard to do business with. … I think we’ve overcome that reputation [under his leadership] with a lot of developers who do develop within Tomball today.”

Although Shackelford said he takes no credit for the city’s initiatives the past eight years, Assistant City Manager Rob Hauck said Shackelford has provided invaluable guidance to elected officials and city staff.

“It’s under his guidance and direction and leadership that we as a staff have grown,” Hauck said.

As city manager Shackelford oversees the city’s daily operations, including assembling the annual budget, managing city staff, and implementing programs and policies set in place by council members.

“He does so many things behind the scenes that nobody even knows that he’s doing,” Tomball Mayor Gretchen Fagan said.

Fagan, who was first elected in 2007, said Shackelford was selected for the role largely due to his experience and leadership abilities.

“He had so much history of being in city management before and just is so approachable,” she said. “In the interview, just talking to him, you just had such a good feeling about him.”

During his time in Tomball, Shackelford said he has been involved with the Tomball Lions Club and held board member positions with the Texas Municipal League, Texas City Management Association and the TML Intergovernmental Risk Pool. Hauck, who has served under Shackelford as both police chief and assistant city manager, said Shackelford’s name has therefore garnered statewide recognition.

Hauck said Shackelford has acted as teacher, mentor and friend—something he will miss greatly.

“After almost 40 years in city government, he is so deserving of [retirement], and he is so excited,” Hauck said. “It is more than just a guy that I got to work with. He forces the best out of me.”

As Shackelford retires, Fagan said she will miss his calming influence and, most of all, his friendship.

“Everybody that knows him thinks of George as a friend,” she said.