October 23, 2022


Josh Schroeder reflects on work as mayor, prepares for future

news photo

Georgetown Mayor Josh Schroeder in his office at Sneed, Vine & Perry, P.C. on the Square. Mr. Schroeder began his first term in the mayoral seat in November of 2020 and plans to run for the position again. Brigid Cooley photo

By BRIGID COOLEY 

Josh Schroeder has witnessed unprecedented highs and lows during his time as Georgetown’s mayor, which began in November 2020. 

Some of the most notable, he said, include attempts to manage an estimated 10.5 percent population growth within the city, the beginning stages of constructing the South Lake Water Treatment Plant — a  $175.3 million project which will double the city’s water treatment capacity — and the aftermath of 2021’s winter storm. 

And while his first term may be coming to an end in May of next year, Mr. Schroeder can’t help but hope for more.

“I’m absolutely running again,” Mr. Schroeder told the Sun. “Part of it is because … we’re in such a crucial time for the city. We’re 18 years old, about to leave for college and life is just starting. We’re going to make decisions over the next 10 years that are going to impact the next 50. I want to be a part of that because I care about this place.” 

The journey to the dias 

Mr. Schroeder is a Williamson County native, who was raised in Taylor and spent his college career at the University of Texas at Austin. He now lives in Georgetown with his family and is a shareholder at Sneed, Vine & Perry, P.C.

“Part of my day job here is related to real estate and development,” he said. “I started [getting involved with city government] because I was fighting with the city to get things done all the time. Someone with the city finally asked me if I would stop fighting with them and become part of the solution instead of just an agitator. 

“I thought I could fix this … and have it all figured out in two weeks. But then I got on there and realized it was all really hard. [City work] is very complex and the people I was griping about within the city are some of the best, hardest working, smartest people I’ve ever worked with.”

Working on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, the Zoning Board of Adjustment, the Historic and Architectural Review Commission and other city boards, Mr. Schroeder said he developed a passion for city planning and decided to run for an elected position.

In October 2019, Mr. Schroeder started campaigning for Georgetown’s mayoral seat. When the start of the coronavirus pandemic led to quarantines, bans on large gatherings and other safety measures, the May 2020 election was pushed back. This meant campaign strategies had to switch to a more grassroots approach for Mr. Schroeder. This was especially true, he said, in Sun City, where many residents had a heightened risk of contracting the coronavirus. 

“We decided we were going to do very small gatherings, so we did 50 nights in a row in Sun City. It was an hour, hour and a half small meet and greets with eight people, maybe 10 people. As the summer went on, it got closer to November and they got a little bit better, but I mean, 20 or 30 people was the most we had at any one event.”  

Mr. Schroeder won the election, which took place in November of 2020, with over 19,000 votes. 

Accomplishments and big challenges 

Since assuming his mayoral duties, Mr. Schroeder has been involved with passing city ordinances and pursuing projects for the city. Mr.Schroeder said he is particularly proud of new transportation impact fees with the city, which Georgetown City Council passed in the spring of 2021. 

“It’s a concept that’s been around for a while and basically it means that, for every residential lot or commercial building, [developers] have to pay into a bucket for transportation projects in that area of town where that project is happening,” Mr. Schroder said. 

“Several cities in Central Texas have adopted those after the past five or 10 years and in every single city that’s passed that, it’s been like open warfare between the development community and the city. One of the things our staff and the council did was decide we were going to do this in a way where everybody in the community is on board.” 

Before passing the impact fees, city staff members sought feedback from area developers and groups, including the Texas Home Builders Association. This made the process longer, but resulted in an impact fee structure that works for both the city and incoming developments, Mr. Schroeder said. 

Mr. Schroeder has also served through city council turnover, with new faces joining the dias. This past May, former council members Tommy Gonzalez and Steve Fought were replaced by District 4 Council Member Ron Garland and District 7 Council Member Ben Stewart. 

“Replacing that institutional knowledge that’s walking off the dias, that’s just really tough,” Mr. Schroeder said. “But when you have a good council culture, good staff and council relations, and you have good people stepping up, it makes the transition a lot smoother.” 

And while the past two years on the dias have been riddled with wins, Mr. Schroeder said growth remains the biggest challenge within the city. 

“It’s so difficult to comprehend the level of growth we’re experiencing,” he said. “Folks, understandably, are frustrated and upset by it. They want us to stop it, but we legally can’t.” 

Earlier this year, Georgetown was named the fastest growing city in the county for those with a population above 50,000, according to the U.S. Census data. This represents roughly 10.5 percent annual growth within Georgetown. 

This impacts Georgetown by bringing both new people and additional housing projects to the area as large manufacturers and developers — including Samsung and Tesla – open headquarters in nearby cities. As a result, Georgetow has scrambled to maintain services and to plan for a future with more residents than ever before, Mr. Schroeder said. 

“No question, we were wrong to budget at 5.5 percent growth, but those were very aggressive growth numbers to plan on then,” Mr. Schroeder said. “It can be frustrating to have to explain that over and over again, but that’s part of the job. 

“Our job is to address the problem, but also to communicate what we’re doing to address the problem so folks feel like they’re being heard and know what’s happening. For 99 percent of the people, once you walk them through it, they get it.” 

The job, however, is made easier thanks to the dedication of city staff members, he said. 

Looking to the future, Mr. Schroeder believes, with guidance from residents and the hard work of city staff, the city will navigate its growth while continuing to get even better.

“I think, with a good council and a good staff, we can navigate growth with the community and allow for it to happen without losing the character of the city,” he said. “There are cities with large populations that have maintained a distinctness, a culture and a community, and there are cities where that hasn’t happened. These are the years we’ve got to hold fast to both of those things simultaneously: deal with the growth and maintain Georgetown.”