Tom Fitzpatrick is a man with a vision.
By the time the self-proclaimed “Army brat” was elected Mayor of Hudson Oaks in May of 2022 and following his 21-year tenure as a city council member, Fitzpatrick had helped oversee the addition and development of numerous restaurants, stores, and other businesses.
Some of the companies that have set up shop in Hudson Oaks within the last year include Cheddar's, Chicken Express, Dutch Bros Coffee, Chipotle, and Discount Tire, just to name a few.
But how has this pint-sized (2.5 square miles) community tucked in between the cities of Weatherford and Willow Park established such a strong economic presence?
Fitzpatrick attributes it to three underlying factors — effective planning, a cohesive city council and city staff, and the fact that Hudson Oaks does not have an ad valorem (property) tax.
"Most of our growth, at least the kind we get credit for, is economic," Fitzpatrick said. "Now our population has grown, kind of like the rest of Parker county. We had a meeting with the Texas Demographic Center and learned that Parker county is the fifth fastest growing county in the state, and we are the ninth fastest in the country.”
Hudson Oaks' population has grown from a little more than 1,000 residents to right at 2,600 in the past 25 years.
“The largest we will ever grow is to maybe 7,000, which would get us to home rule,” Fitzpatrick said. “We just don't have the land size to become a big city. But there are several things that are unique to Hudson Oaks that are driving the economic development. We're one of just a few cities that does not have an ad valorem tax and that's huge. That's not only great for homeowners, but it's great for businesses too. That's just another tax that they don't have to pay.”
When Fitzpatrick, 64, and his wife moved to Parker County in 1990, the population of Hudson Oaks was a little more than 700 people.
While it has nearly quadrupled in size since that time, Hudson Oaks is still far smaller in both population and area than Weatherford and Willow Park.
But Fitzpatrick does not see that as a disadvantage.
"We do a lot of creative things for a city our size," Fitzpatrick said. "For instance, H-E-B came in here, and we did a public improvement district to allow them and Chick-fil-A, really that whole area, to open up. Cities like ours don't do public improvement districts. Cities like Fort Worth did a public improvement district for the Stockyards.
“So what that allows us to do is fund the infrastructure for what a company like H-E-B requires, and then we get payments afterward that allow the city to recover."
One of the most important things city leadership does in Hudson Oaks is to listen to residents and carefully plan for every type of development.
"Last year, we just finished a comprehensive plan and we've probably done four in the time I've been on city council or as mayor," Fitzpatrick said. "Most cities our size haven't done one. Part of these comprehensive plans is that we get community input. So we listen to our citizens and what they're looking for. That helps us to be a city that everybody wants to live in."
Fitzpatrick added that he and the city council get really good feedback from prospective businesses that decide to move to Hudson Oaks.
"One of the things that we hear from businesses that they like is that we have a very stable city government," Fitzpatrick said. "When businesses are going to make big investments, they want to see stability in a government. They want to know that when they come to a city council and get approval to build, that the city council is not going to do something else that may hurt their investment."
That stability is evident in the community's governmental history.
Hudson Oaks became a city in 1978, and Fitzpatrick is only its sixth mayor.
"We don't have a lot of turnover in our city council or mayor," Fitzpatrick said. "We have a really good city staff and we have historically had very good city managers. We have a great police chief. So we have good stability."
And that council and staff genuinely care about the issues affecting the citizens of Hudson Oaks.
A few years back, for example, after recognizing a community need, the city spent $1.4 million to install fiber internet for its residents.
"So what did that allow us to do?" Fitpatrick said. "Well, we got Nextlink to move their headquarters here to Hudson Oaks to run that fiber internet. By having that internet, we've also got Superior Livestock to move to Hudson Oaks from the Stockyards. Their lease kept going up and they do all of their livestock sales over the internet."
Fitzpatrick said the new internet especially came in handy during the bad days of the pandemic.
"Because of COVID, I've been telecommuting for the past three years," Fitzpatrick said. "Without high speed internet, me and some other folks would have had some real challenges with our jobs."
Fitzpatrick, who has worked for a major aerospace company in the Metroplex for the past 38 years, said there is a lot more on the horizon for Hudson Oaks as well.
“A lot of things right now are conceptual, so we don't want to jinx them,” Fitzpatrick said. “But we are finishing up our second apartment complex right next to the H-E-B. Last night, (April 27) we approved a re-plat that will be essentially seven commercial lots in front of those apartments.”
Three of those lots are right along the access road and will likely become restaurants.
The Jerry Durant Auto Group also had a grand opening event for the new Shottenkirk Toyota within the last few months in Hudson Oaks.
“The primary goal will remain that we should never have an ad valorem tax,” Fitzpatrick said. “That's why the city was set up in 1978 by a small group of folks. They did not want Weatherford to annex this location and then have Weatherford city taxes. Our focus is to manage our budget effectively, plan well so that we control what's coming in, and that all comes back to having a good city council and city staff. We are attracting the kind of businesses that we want. Hopefully, the citizens are happy with that.”
Fitzpatrick said the city will have another big restaurant moving in next to Cheddar's, potentially by the end of this year, though he is not at liberty to say which at this point, and said what means the most to him is that Hudson Oaks residents enjoy their city.
"When I was running for mayor last year, I talked to about 600 people, and I asked everyone of them the same question, ‘How do you like living in Hudson Oaks?’” Fitzpatrick said. "To a person, everyone said they loved living here. Imagine a community where everyone you ask said they are happy to be there. It was incredible.”
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