CITY OF KATY (Covering Katy News)— Ward B Council Member Jimmy Mendez has had a flood of memories as he prepares to leave office Tuesday under term limits.
Mendez and his family were twice flooded out of their home, first in the Tax Day Flood of 2016 and then with Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Mendez said that when the people working on his house were doing the repair work after the hurricane, they accidentally hit a pipe but didn’t know it.
“Water was pouring out of my door,” Mendez said. “All the sheetrock… everything was floating.”
Mendez recalled that there was also flooding at the hotel where he and his family were staying following Harvey. But in the midst of the tragedy and the stress it caused, there were blessings.
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“I think the hardest part of all that I lost, I saw my daughter (Natasha Mendez) grow from a little girl to a woman,” Mendez said. “People and churches came out of the woodwork to help me. I had a lot of blessings in that.”
Keeping a sense of perspective is important. So is keeping a sense of humor. Mendez held a number of jobs before his first election in 2013 to the city council. Among his other jobs, he attempted to become a standup comedian, ultimately getting to play at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas with Rodney Dangerfield.
“He was always on,” Mendez said. “He had a litany of one-liners.”
Mendez said that his comic training went a long way in preparing him for the city council.
Lessons Learned at City Hall
Mendez campaigned on the issues of fixing the city’s infrastructure and drainage. After the flooding he and his family endured, Mendez said it was a lot easier to get his drainage projects reviewed and funded.
Still, like everyone who gets elected to city office, Mendez went through a learning curve.
“You hear a lot of things when you’re campaigning, but when you get into office you learn that things don’t run like you heard it,” Mendez said. “Everybody’s an expert at your job but you.”
Mendez said his City Hall experience helped him understand federal politics better.
“I can see how things have gotten bad as they have, just seeing how it works on a city level,” Mendez said. “Here we all have the same upbringing. We have the same city, same political persuasion, and we still fought tooth and nail on things.”
Mendez said he learned a lot about people.
“A lot of people who aggravate me the most are those with partial information, or they bought into a rumor,” Mendez said, adding he was like that once. He said that being on the council, allowed him to see what went on behind the scenes.
“You have to take everybody’s view into consideration, and sometimes you vote against what you want versus what the community needs,” Mendez said.
Mendez said that working with different government agencies was also challenging.
“It’s not a simple yes or no, and I’m a simple yes or no guy,” Mendez said. “If I’m frustrated, it’s more frustrating for others. There are so many levels of bureaucracy. So many different people who don’t want to work with you or are comfortable where they are, it becomes an issue. That’s the politics part of politics.”
Looking at Katy, Moving Forward
Mendez said the city’s biggest challenge going forward is its mindset.
“You have old Katy people and new Katy people,” Mendez said. “There’s a new generation of people that were not raised with the same values we were raised with. You could drive down the street and people would wave at you. We don’t have that anymore. We have become more of a patchwork, and we need to become more of a community as we used to be.”
Mendez said he’s known both Mayor Chuck Brawner and Mayor-Elect Bill Hastings since joining the city council. He described Brawner as having more political savvy, but also said they had been opponents on major issues. One example of this was whether the city should permit alcohol sales at the movie theatre at Katy Mills Mall. (Mendez said he opposed it, viewing the theatre as a “teeny-bopper environment,” but said Brawner viewed it as a good business decision.)
Whatever their disagreements, Mendez said, he and Brawner remained friends.
“Nothing was personal,” Mendez said. “We’d disagree, and then we’d go have breakfast at Snappy’s.”
Mendez described Hastings as intelligent and “more good-old-boyish, what you see is what you get, kind of like me. I think you’ll get that with Bill.”
Mendez said he didn’t see any big change with Hastings taking office Tuesday.
“I don’t see him not being able to pick up where Brawner left off,” Mendez said.
Steve Pierson was Mendez’s predecessor as Ward B council member and later served as council member-at-large. Pierson sought the Ward B seat again in this election but lost to bank executive Jenifer Jordan Stockdick, who was making her first run for office. Mendez served alongside Pierson and said he’s known Stockdick since the sixth grade.
Asked what advice he’d give Stockdick, Mendez said she should remember that she works for the people, not the city.
“Run as the council member you’ve always wanted to see up there,” Mendez said. “Be who you are, regardless of what everybody says. Vote your convictions and you’ll be fine.”
For his own post-council plans, Mendez said he plans to get back into the real estate business.
“I never intended to do this (politics) as a career,” Mendez said. “A future candidacy would be a decision many years down the road, or it would have to be bad for me to jump in. I don’t have the desire to do it. A lot of political life goes against the grain with me.”