Editor's note: This interview was conducted prior to stay-at-home orders resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. This story was slated to be printed in the April edition of Community Impact Newspaper but was not able to be included in print due to more pressing coronavirus coverage. Doering spoke with Community Impact Newspaper in mid-March about his new position.
Don Doering was selected to serve as city administrator for the city of Magnolia on Jan. 7 by City Council members and began work in late January. He previously served as the city manager of Edna, Texas.
Before venturing into city management, Doering said he lived in Virginia for 26 years and then took his first city manager job in Beaverton, Michigan. He then spent time in a couple of Texas cities before finally ending up in Magnolia.
In his first few months with the city, Doering is leading city staff through responding to the coronavirus. The city is under a local disaster declaration until May 12 at the vote of City Council members April 14.
How did you come to Magnolia?
Professionally, I started out as a Virginia state park ranger after having a degree in natural resource conservation. The first community management job I had was a golf course camping subdivision. I enjoyed that, but then I wanted to get more into residential management, so I started managing property owners associations in Virginia. Then I thought it would be really cool to manage a city. ... I was lucky enough to take a job in Beaverton, Michigan, but I was in Texas before and wanted to come back to Texas.
How do you plan to help local businesses?
We want to encourage local businesses, because the more people you get obviously the more services you have to provide. The neat thing about being here is that there is such a variety. ... I plan to go around and meet all the business owners and [find out] what their needs are and [ask] what are we not fulfilling. We are here to serve, and that is what we want to do.
How do you plan on getting people more involved with city government?
You can’t push a rope. You have to pull them in. You need to ask people to get involved; you need to ask people, “Why don’t you come to a council meeting? We are going to discuss that item at a council meeting. Why don’t you come share your thoughts on it?” You want to encourage people to participate, but you can’t force somebody to be interested in the city.
What do you hope to accomplish as the city administrator?
I hope to accomplish a better relationship with the county. Working together on shared projects—for example, roads. The county has an access road plan to build these new roads, and we want to participate with them. As development comes, it is going to be easier to build the roads first and then have the development come through. I would also like to see more events and activities [in Magnolia].
What are the biggest challenges facing Magnolia?
Right now it is funding for needed improvements. Once you get citizens paying utility bills, obviously you can support your infrastructure; you can support your services; but the problem is getting there. You have to run the sewer lines before you can increase your residents. ... We are growing, and we want responsible growth. Once you build it, it’s too late to change some things. A lot of people talk about “If you build it they will come.” The problem is people are coming, so you have to build it.