Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Leavitt helped shape Highland Village

Highland Village City Manager Michael Leavitt (pictured at Doubletree Ranch Park) plans to retire in October after 20 years of overseeing the city. (Photo by Helen’s Photography)

Longtime Highland Village City Manager Michael Leavitt will retire later this year after 20 years with the city and 34 years in municipal government.

Leavitt, 61, was working as the manager of capital improvement projects for the city of Denton more than 20 years ago when he realized he wanted to do more personable work.

“I wasn’t helping residents,” Leavitt said. “That’s what I really wanted to do … and I wanted to get back to a small city where I could really make a difference.”

He joined the city of Highland Village in March 2000 as the public works director, and was appointed city manager in 2003. Leavitt “has been instrumental in the development of Highland Village as one of the most dynamic cities in North Texas,” according to the city.

He played a major role in bringing The Shops at Highland Village and the Walmart-anchored Marketplace at Highland Village developments to the town, contributing to a growth in sales tax revenue from $437,400 in 2003 to $4.2 million in 2020.

“Everything west of Highland Village Road, I’ve been a part of building,” Leavitt said.

During Leavitt’s time as city manager, public safety improved with the transition from a volunteer fire department to a full-time, full-service department to meet the growing health and safety expectations of the community. In Leavitt’s time as city manager, Highland Village has also added a 23-mile trail system and a “very efficient and cost-effective water supply system … worth its weight in gold.” Unity Park has been upgraded and finished out and other parks in the 5.5 square-mile city have been added and improved.

Leavitt is known in the region for his ability to see all sides of a situation and calmly resolve issues of any kind, according to the city.

“Mike has always led the city with the belief that a positive difference can be made in someone’s life each and every day,” said Mayor Charlotte Wilcox. “He has lived out this principle in his own career and, by example, has created a staff dedicated to the service of Highland Village residents, businesses, and visitors. He has an infectious laugh that represents his personality. It has been my joy to work alongside Mike. He will surely be missed.”

Highland Village shares a good portion of its border with Flower Mound, and the two municipalities collaborate often.

“I’m really going to miss working with Mike. He’s an incredible guy. However, I’ve been waiting for him to retire because I felt bad annexing Whataburger while he was still there,” joked Flower Mound Town Manager Jimmy Stathatos.

Leavitt said he has had a “very rewarding” experience in his two-decades of serving and shaping Highland Village, which he called “a beautiful community.”

“It’s not just a flat prairie,” he said. “Highland Village isn’t like other towns in DFW. You drive through our neighborhoods, there’s a beauty that’s second-to-none, as far as I’m concerned.”

Leavitt and his wife, Nelly, will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in September. Nelly was a teacher in Denton ISD until about five years ago, but she has been a substitute for Lake Dallas ISD since then.

“She’s been my rock, my supporter and cheerleader,” he said of Nelly. “My wife truly is my strength.”

Michael and Nelly have two grown sons, Nathan and Nicholas, who each have families and live outside of North Texas. Michael said he and Nelly are looking forward to spending more time with them and their three grandchildren after retirement.

Michael said he’ll be able to spend more time reading and playing golf, and he and Nelly also plan to spend more time at their community farm in northeast Missouri — where Michael grew up — to travel more and spend more time in nature.

“We’ll be vagabonds,” Michael said with a laugh. “We have to make some decision of where our new base will be … My wife has said no to winters in Missouri.”

In the meantime, though, the Leavitts will continue to live in Highland Village, where they tend an extensive organic garden. Leavitt’s retirement is effective Oct. 1, 2020, so that he can stay fully engaged through the 2020-21 budget process to lay the groundwork for the next city manager.

“I would like to thank the Council, staff and our community for the trust placed in me to manage the operations of this city for the last twenty years,” Leavitt said. “Leading our dedicated staff, team and family has been and continues to be an honor.”

Mark Smith
Mark Smith is the Digital Editor of The Cross Timbers Gazette.

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