Doing these interviews allows me to meet some of the most interesting and accomplished people in North Texas. This week’s guest is Sue Tejml, Mayor of Copper Canyon, a town of 1350 residents bordering Highland Village, Double Oak, Lantana, Denton and just a tiny strip of Flower Mound.
During a recent visit to my home, I learned that Ms. Tejml is a retired attorney, an avid hunter and part of a gourmet cooking group. In addition, several years ago she was one of 50 American women judges and attorneys selected to spend a month in China as guests of the Peoples Republic Department of Justice. It was part of a program called the Eisenhower “People to People” exchange, allowing Americans to see the Asian giant up close and come back with a better understanding of that country on the other side of the planet. One of the differences in the culture Ms. Tejml observed was how curious the people were about her clothing. Most Chinese were wearing the traditional Mao Zedung, tunic-styled button down jackets.
Born and raised in the Lone Star State, Sue lived in Connecticut for a few years, commuting to New York while attending NYU Law School. Her husband Emil, an engineer, worked in Manhattan during that time. She was able to consolidate her classes into two days per week in order to spend time with her family. They moved back to Texas, where Sue completed her legal studies at the University of Houston Law School. She served for six years as City Attorney, Municipal Prosecutor, and Co-chairman of the Home Rule Charter Commission for Bay City, Texas. Currently a member of the Denton County Bar Association, Ms. Tejml is a former President of the Matagorda County Bar Association in the Houston area. While building successful careers, she and her husband raised three children and now have seven grandchildren.
After one year on the Copper Canyon Town Council she became Mayor in 2005 and has been reelected four times. Residents live on a minimum of one-acre lots in the four square miles of rural landscape that is one of the more scenic areas in the county. The town operates on a $700-thousand annual budget with a property tax of .30 per $100, plus .10 per $100 to cover costs of the Emergency Service District. It does not have a police department, but is covered by deputies from the Denton County Sheriff’s office. The town has neither retail businesses nor other commercial enterprises.
Copper Canyon was established 40 years ago and currently has three paid employees; a Town Administrator, Town Secretary and a Municipal Court Clerk. Undoubtedly, it operates quite efficiently with a mayor and five council members. Their meetings are held once a month and usually without controversy. Their town attorney, Terry Welch, is also Flower Mound’s attorney, and Mayor Tejml said she is so happy to have him representing the town in all legal matters. “We may not agree on everything,” she says, “but, we work through it respectfully.”
Mayor Tejml also had great praise for the town’s council members. “We have some of the most well-educated and experienced people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with,” she said. “Our town runs on volunteers, which includes me, the council and many others. Thanks to the dedicated residents who give their valuable time in service to their neighbors and constituents, we are a harmonious community,” she added. Like many talented and successful people, Sue Tejml is genuinely modest about her own accomplishments, preferring to give credit to others. In fact, she asked me why I wanted to interview her, inasmuch as she doesn’t feel as though she’s done anything special. When I referred to her as a “notable” in North Texas, she merely smiled humbly and shrugged her shoulders.
Well, I know several people who live in Copper Canyon and they tell me that “Mayor Sue,” as she’s affectionately known, is the best thing that’s ever happened to their charming little community. Moreover, they are very glad that the town doesn’t have term limits because they want to keep her in office as long as she decides to stay. How often do you hear that about a public official?
Bob Weir is a long-time Flower Mound resident and former local newspaper editor. In addition, Bob has 7 published books that include “Murder in Black and White,” “City to Die For,” “Powers that Be,” “Ruthie’s Kids,” “Deadly to Love,” “Short Stories of Life and Death” and “Out of Sight,” all of which can be found on Amazon.com and other major online bookstores.