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Here comes Conroe

Not so little anymore.

This isn’t the first time Conroe, population 82,286, has recorded notable growth.

In 2015, it was one of the 13 fastest-growing cities by percentage, ranking sixth below other Texas cities like San Marcos, Georgetown and Frisco. The next year, according to Census numbers released Thursday, Conroe zoomed to the top spot and became the headline on news stories across the country.

Forty miles north of downtown Houston, Conroe is the county seat of one of the fastest growing counties in Texas. Montgomery County netted more than 19,700 residents between July 2015 and July 2016, as Houston-area suburbs continued to expand.

In fact, Texas had four of the five fastest-growing large cities in the U.S., each near a major city. Following Conroe were the Dallas suburbs of Frisco and McKinney, which grew by 6.2 percent and 5.9 percent, respectively. Georgetown, an Austin suburb, was the fifth-fastest growing city with a population increase of 5.5 percent.

Officials in the Texas cities and the state’s demographer attribute the growth to various factors, including the state’s robust jobs market and the cities’ diversified economies, lower costs of living and skilled workforces that earn higher wages.

“A lot of times when people think of Texas, they think about cowboys and roping cows. But really we have … cutting edge manufacturing, technology and finance, and certainly all of the oil extraction activity as well,” Texas State Demographer Lloyd Potter said.

For Conroe Mayor Toby Powell, a self-described “ol’ boy” who has lived in the city all his 76 years, the growth is no surprise.

In fact, Powell said, Conroe officials already had been planning for increased demand for city services and infrastructure. A new police station has just opened, and a new fire station is under construction. The city also has purchased 75 acres of land to build a second sewer plant.

Traffic congestion already can be seen just a few minutes away from its town square lined by old-fashioned street lamps and dotted with benches extolling the city’s history. Along Highway 105, which runs east-west through Conroe, shopping centers are home to chain stores and restaurants like Target, Home Depot, Panera Bread and Chipotle Mexican Grill, and queues of cars back up at lights and turn lanes.

Maybe I shouldn’t have joked about Conroe trying to annex The Woodlands back in the day. The former-small-town-turned-booming-suburb narrative isn’t new, and like so many other places – Katy, Pearland, Spring, etc etc etc – two facts remain: The original small town and the booming suburb that supplants it are two very different places, and the secret ingredient in all of them is an abundance of cheap, undeveloped land on which to build. That was Houston’s secret once upon a time, too. I don’t have any large point to make here, but I will note that just as the politics in places like Katy and Pearland have started to change as their populations have increased and diversified, so too will this happen in Conroe. It would be nice to have a bit of Democratic infrastructure in place for when that happens.

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One Comment

  1. Marc Meyer says:

    Well, you can come up and visit us any weekday between 10:00AM and 4:00PM at our office on North Frazier (1712 N. Frazier, STE 117) and you will find a dedicated, though small, group of Democrats who have actually been able to keep an office open for the last 4 years in the same location. And if you pay attention on social media, there is a growing presence of progressive and Democratic affiliated groups in Montgomery County.

    No doubt we have been wandering in the wilderness for too long, but there has been a dedicated core of Democrats that have kept the flame alive for the past 25 years. Wendy Melton, Marcie Rhodes, Michael Smith, Adrienne Cadik, Bruce Barnes, Les Rosenblatt, Sue Reese, James Barron and many others have all worked hard to keep the Democratic Party alive in Montgomery County. Now that task falls to me and a growing group of grassroots activists and precinct chairs to move it to the next level.

    A few facts which might help:
    – We currently have 60 precinct chairs for our 90 precincts. That is 2/3rds of the available precincts covered, which compares favorably with many larger and bluer counties;
    – Hillary Clinton garnered 45,835 votes in the county, which is more votes than any Democrat has ever received in Montgomery County, even when Democrats controlled the County back in the 80’s (yes, population is much higher and the Republicans did clobber us, but it is something to think about);
    – HRC’s 22.3% is topped only by BHO’s 23.2% of the vote in 2008 in county-wide races in the past 20 years among Democrats;
    – Our candidate for Pct 1 Constable, Thomas Mack, outpolled Hillary Clinton in every single voting precinct, sometimes by 4-5%;
    – Linda Good, a long-time Lone Star College Trustee was challenged by another sitting trustee for a new district seat on the Lone Star College Board. The race, while ostensibly non-partisan, was not that way in real life as Linda’s Tea Party backed opponent tried to brand Linda with a partisan Democrat label. In the end, and despite running in what should be a deep red district (pct 1 and 4 of Montgomery County), Linda trounced her opponent 68.4%-31.6%;

    My two top officers, County Party Secretary Griffin Winkworth and Deputy Chair Courtney Frost-Tadlock, are both under the age of 30 and represent the new blood that is pouring into the Montgomery Democratic Party. We know that we have a steep hill to climb and that likely we are in for as long fight. Our demographics are currently not as favorable as Pearland or Fort Bend County – only 5% Black, 21% Hispanic and 70% White in Montgomery County, but that is slowly changing as you note.

    Despite the long odds, we are seeing a Renaissance in interest in Democratic politics in Montgomery County. We pulled almost 300 people for a Beto O’Rourke meet and greet on a Sunday morning in April. We should have a significant number of candidates on the ballot next year – I haven’t landed a candidate for the biggest challenge (to run in CD-08 to run against Kevin Brady) yet, but I believe we will fielding candidates in all of the local state house races AND we will be competing in at least some of the top County races as well. We don’t have the need to announce as early because our primary isn’t likely to have a contested race, but we likely will have a couple of announcements, soon (after July 1st).

    So, if you look closely, there are green shoots in Montgomery County for the Democratic Party. I hope to make them permanently visible in 2018!

    Marc M. Meyer, Chair
    Montgomery County Democratic Party