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Inaugural mayor celebrates town’s milestone

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If you fell into a deep sleep in 1961 and awoke today, you’d find (now former) Flower Mound Mayor Bob Rheudasil to be every bit as enthusiastic an ambassador of our town as he was when you began your nap.  A half-century has not dulled his animation, but instead added a coat of polish to the luster of his vision of and for our locale.  “I couldn’t imagine anything greater,” Rheudasil extols.

When Bob Rheudasil was elected Flower Mound’s first mayor, 50 years ago this month, a mere 51 votes wasn’t the narrow margin by which he was elected, it was the total number of votes he received.  But, as the town had only a few hundred residents at the time, it was a pretty fair percentage.   Only Ray Spinks was close, with 43.

Rheudasil, who eschews the title of mayor, now, and prefers to be called just Bob, remembers well the scramble for the town’s right to exist independently.  In the early 1960’s, a land grab was underway, with the cities of Irving and Denton, in particular, trying to swallow up any nearby, unincorporated areas.  At that time, cities of 5,000 or more citizens fell under the “Home Rule” charter powers, enabling them to annex smaller towns, which fell under the “General Law” status, offering little protection. 

Sounding like something out of a feudal society expansion battlefront, Irving had interests in taking over numerous towns, up the west side of Lake Dallas and around to the Plano area, unimaginable as it now may seem.  Thus, towns such as Argyle, Bartonville, Corinth, Shady Shores, and yes, Flower Mound, were fighting for survival.  The city of Denton was no less a threat than Irving, as it had already gotten the courts to overturn Argyle’s incorporated status, and annexed Mayhill.  Even after Flower Mound’s incorporation and mayoral election, it had to win two more court battles over almost another two year period to cement its self rule.

In fact, it wasn’t just a pride or identity issue to the citizens, but the plausible supposition that these larger towns were really just intending to impose property taxes on annexed lands, without offering any services in return.  It sounds much like our nation’s original taxation without representation situation.  This was possible, too, until the Texas State Legislature passed a law, signed by Governor John Connally, in 1963, which also capped a city’s geographical growth by 10% per year.

Mayor Rheudasil was originally wooed here from the Paris, Texas area by Edward Marcus, part of the Marcus family known for the Neiman Marcus department stores, in the mid 1950s, and was running the Black Mark Ranch at the time of his election.  “Mr. Marcus had foresight,” Rheudasil reflects.  “Way back in 1957, he told me ‘Don’t let the bulldozers hurt the big trees.’”

Flower Mound received some $18 million in federally guaranteed loans earmarked for the construction and development of “New Town”, under the federal Housing and Urban Development’s Title IV and Title VII programs, in 1968 and 1970, respectively.   The project ended in foreclosure in 1976, after Rheudasil had left the mayoral post, but Flower Mound New Town is widely accepted as having spurred the growth and development of the town from a few hundred citizens then to around 70,000 today. 

What’s the city’s first leader most proud of?  “I’m very proud of my involvement in the planning and zoning of the town after its incorporation. We certainly didn’t want to harm the interests of property owners whose families had been here for years and years.  When the town was first incorporated, the only paved, safe roads were 1171 and 407.  Heading west on FM 1171, once you passed Kirkpatrick, the road was full of dangerous twists and turns.

“The road construction was the main thing.  I was so thrilled when we got the right-of-way and the county money.  Look at FM 3040 now, going all the way from I-35 to 2499.”
 
“I particularly enjoyed working with (Arlington) Mayor Tom Vandergriff on the Mid City Freeway, now known as FM 2499.  This was before DFW Airport even existed.  To see that now in completion, almost all the way to Denton is amazing.”  Rheudasil talks about the ongoing widening of FM 1171, from FM 2499 to Hwy. 377, with all of the excitement of a boy transfixed on a construction site…or of a current mayor.

While Rheudasil is not easily dragged into criticism of others, he says that if there were one thing he’d like to have seen done differently, it would involve Raymond Nasher’s influence in town planning.  While Nasher was one of the original planners included with the federal money for the town, Rheudasil feels that some of his subsequent strategies were counterproductive.

“Mr. Nasher hired planners from all over the world.  I had to take them around.  We wasted a lot of time and money.  The first area – around Timber Creek – was all right,  but when he said he wanted to change the name of the town, I told him that he wouldn’t live long enough to do that,” Rheudasil firmly states, without attempting to hide his emotional loyalty to Flower Mound.

What is Rheudasil’s view on the gas drills going up?

“People who have lived and paid taxes for generations should be able to profit from their mineral rights, as long as the work is controlled.”

What if those drills go up on land adjacent to property that’s owned by people with equally long term land holdings, potentially damaging their property values?

“If you own the mineral rights, you should have the right to use them,” Rheudasil reasserts.

If you were speaking with someone who was considering moving his or her company to the general area, how would you pitch Flower Mound?

“It’s the land of milk and honey,” he offers proudly.  “Everything is close:  Dallas, Denton’s colleges, recreation, DFW Airport, the Cowboys, the Rangers…what could be better?”

As for his own place in the community now, Bob laughs, “There’s nothing more useless than an ex-mayor.”  When he was approached about naming the park and lake for him, he expounded with equal humility, “I can’t think of a worse name.  You can’t spell it or pronounce it!”

Getting back to Ed Marcus’ advice about not letting bulldozers cut down the big trees, plenty of trees have been cut down for construction, especially evident in the Lakeside area.  Any thoughts about too much growth?

“All I can tell you is that I welcome the next person to come to town with open arms…and then the next person with open arms.  As for my vision for Flower Mound:  I couldn’t imagine anything greater!”

Special thanks to Mark Glover who provided me with many sources to view historical  information about Flower Mound.  Join in the celebration of Flower Mound’s 50th Birthday by visiting www.flower-mound.com for times and locations of upcoming events.

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