MAGNOLIA — A fourth-generation Montgomery County resident, Craig Doyal began working at Montgomery County Precinct 2 when he was just 24. After running and losing to Malcolm Purvis, he was hired as Purvis’ administrative assistant, giving him what he calls a “tremendous opportunity” to learn the duties of the position. Doyal was appointed as commissioner in 2001 after Purvis passed away, elected in 2002 and re-elected in 2006. One of his main roles is road commissioner. Doyal said his proudest accomplishments are the completion of FM 1488 and construction of Fish Creek Thoroughfare. Fish Creek is a major roadway that now serves as a regional artery providing a north-south alternative to I-45 and an evacuation route in the event of a natural disaster.
Doyal, whose office is in Magnolia, enjoys the comfortable, small town atmosphere of the city and its natural beauty. That quality of life is why he says more and more people are deciding to move to the area. To help contribute to its further growth, Doyal is a member of the board of directors of the recently-formed Greater Magnolia Economic Development Partnership. Doyal’s hope is that the group spurs positive growth in the city— growth that will bring jobs and quality development to provide the type of economic stimulus needed for the city to thrive.
This year, Doyal will serve as chair of the Houston-Galveston Area Council, the regional organization representing 13 counties, which looks at issues such as transportation, air quality, public safety and economic development. This will be the first time in 30 years that a commissioner from Montgomery County will serve as chair, giving Doyal the opportunity to further represent the needs of his precinct.
What are the biggest challenges currently facing the county?
The biggest challenge is mobility and has been for some time. Congestion has been a focus for quite a while. We’re working with the Texas Department of Transportation in terms of the Pass Through Financing program, which started two years ago. The county purchases the right of ways and constructs the roads, and the state will reimburse us based on traffic counts 14 months after completion.
Explain how the county budget works.
Our budget comes from our tax base. The average home costs $185,000 and generates, at current tax rate, about $900 annually. That’s $75 a month. What can you get for $75 a month? You can’t get a cell phone for that amount; you can’t get cable and Internet. And we provide five constables, five justice of the peace officers, five county courts of law, seven district courts, a county attorney, county clerk, district attorney, district clerk, animal control, veteran services, convention center, county parks, seven libraries, the airport, sheriffs department, the jail, plus roads and bridges. And that $75 is divided by the four precincts. The property tax has not been increased in over 15 years. Tax values on homes increase but so have our costs. The cost for asphalt has more than tripled; fuel cost and utility cost have gone up, as well as the cost to house prisoners and get them through the court systems. We’ve seen increases just like everyone else. Annual ad valorem tax is less than you pay monthly for federal withholding.
How does a county impact a city versus its impact on unincorporated areas such as Magnolia’s extraterritorial jurisdictions?
The county works with the city through inter-local agreements where cities contract with the county to do work. They pay us material and labor for us to come and do work within city limits. Unincorporated areas we maintain solely. It’s a big challenge because 85 percent of our precinct is unincorporated which means there’s no large cities covering road maintenance. It leaves the county spread thin, especially when is comes to law enforcement trying to oversee 85 percent of our [population]. There’s a recognized need for more deputies, but the funding is just not available.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
It’s to see projects like FM 1488 come to fruition. If you can look back at the end of they day and see you’ve had a long lasting impact on how the county’s going to develop in a positive manner, that’s rewarding. Another is involvement with seniors and youth. I spend time at the [Magnolia] community center with just an incredible group of seniors. We participate with the youth with all fair activities, FFA groups and fundraisers for different sports. It’s the ability to give back to ensure that they have many positive opportunities for extracurricular activities, as well as educational opportunities.
What are the county’s priorities for 2011?
You’ll see an effort to pass another bond to address mobility challenges. My annual budget for asphalt is $1 million which means we can pave about 10 miles of roads per year and we have 840 miles we maintain, so you can do the math. Without bonds, many roads are going to go unattended. I think people see the need. In the past, bonds issued have not created a tax increase because of continued growth in the tax base because of new proprieties. A lot of development is driving the need for new and improved roadways.