After nine decades, most people would be relaxing at home enjoying the benefits of retirement, but then Jim Carter is unlike most 90-year olds.
Not only is he still working as a paid consultant to local commercial and governmental clients, he also actively continues to serve on two Denton County agencies and a state agency with no plans to slow down.
“It’s not time yet,” he said.
It was in honor of his long service and mentorship that more than 100 friends and colleagues celebrated his birthday April 30 at Trophy Club Country Club in the town where it all began.
Among those attending were County Judge Andy Eads, former County Judge Mary Horn, current Commissioners Bobbie Mitchell and Dianne Edmondson, former State Representative Jim Horn, former Copper Canyon Mayor Sue Tejml, former Double Oak Mayor Mike Donnelly, former Trophy Club Mayors Nick Sanders and Scott Smith, former Westlake Mayor Scott Bradley, current Trophy Club Mayor Pro-Tem Greg Lamont, and the entire Denton County Emergency Services District #1 Board of Directors. They were there to honor a man who has worked with all of them in various roles.
“It was a very nice event,” Carter said. “Looking around it was great to have that many people attend. I had so much fun I think I’ll do it again in 10 years! For the most part I don’t feel 90. God has been good to me.”
Carter was an athlete growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, and played competitive basketball until age 50 and baseball and softball until he was elected as Denton County Commissioner Precinct #4 in 1998. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Finance from the University of Georgia and studied further at Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Tennessee, University of Michigan, Texas Women’s University and the American Management Association.
“I also learned a lot at the University of Hard Knocks where our colors were black and blue,” he quipped.
He has worked as a business executive for large corporations including General Motors as the company’s youngest finance department head of the Chevrolet Division; Frito-Lay as zone vice president; and president of the Mercantile Corporation. He is a business/governmental consultant and mediator at James P. Carter & Associates and performs these services for the engineering firm Halff Associates, Inc.
Besides Atlanta, his career required relocations to Chicago; New York; Omaha, Nebraska; and Nashville. Carter moved to Dallas headquarters three times for Frito-Lay with his last move back to Texas in 1981 as Vice President of Business Development, Domestic and International. He joined Mercantile Corporation in Fort Worth in 1986.
When Carter moved back to Texas he became a resident of then rural Trophy Club and soon led the incorporation of the town. He worked for Mercantile until being elected county commissioner in 1998.
Carter started his public service in 1985 as Trophy Club’s first mayor. Since he had never run for office before, he consulted with members of area town councils in Southlake, Westlake and Grapevine to learn the ropes.
“I realized how much I enjoyed serving people,” he said. “However, I did not care for the politics or the election process. I managed the town like I managed my businesses. In my business career, I mentored my team to solve problems. I required my fellow workers to develop major solutions. I encouraged everyone to look at the big picture and assess their contribution of the project.”
After 14 years as mayor, he decided to run for County Commissioner when he realized his area of the county was underserved.
“There had never been anyone elected from the southwest part of the county. Denton County was going to build a 400-foot communications tower adjacent to luxury homes in Trophy Club and had not informed us,” he said. “That was the first time I became upset with the county. I followed up but couldn’t get our County Commissioner to listen to our concerns. However, I secured the County Judge’s attention. To get recognition for our area of the county, I ran for Commissioner.”
Carter played a key role in convincing residents of small-town Argyle, Bartonville, Copper Canyon, Corral City (now Draper), Northlake and later Lantana of the need for an Emergency Services District (ESD). The municipalities could not afford their own fire departments so the residents agreed to increase their tax rate by 10 cents per $100 evaluation and formed the Denton County Emergency Services District #1 in 2006. Carter has served as president for past 10 years.
“Since then, we’ve built three fire stations and need five more to cover the area over time.” he said. “We’ve lowered the ISO rating, which is very important because it indicates how well we are providing safety, it also provides a tremendous savings to residents on their insurance premiums. We went down from an 8 ISO rating to a 3. We have the greatest group of emergency service personnel.”
When it was learned that Robson Ranch had an ISO rating of 10 because of the distance to the nearest emergency facility, Carter helped negotiate an agreement with the City of Denton that made possible the construction of a new fire station in that part of the county. The new station provides residents west of I-35W with additional protection.
Carter also is a member of the Denco Area 911 District, Texas State Association of Fire Fighters, and Emergency Services Districts boards of directors. Other organizations for which he has served include the Baylor Healthcare System (trustee), University of North Texas (President’s Council), Texas Association of Counties (vice president), Texas Student Housing Corporation (chairman), and Boy Scouts of America (Longhorn Council, District (chairman).
Among his other honors is being listed in Who’s Who in the South and Southwest and Who’s Who in U.S. Executives. He also is an honorary Argyle Fire District Chief.
He has mentored many area elected officials including Tejml and the recently-retired Donnelly.
“I had so many questions for him when I was elected mayor and he was so kind in answering and answering and answering them,” Tejml said “Jim is unique. He probably knows more people in Denton County and has been mentor to more mayors and city managers, council members, etc. than anyone I know.”
Tejml has long admired Carter’s ability to recruit and hire good people and let them do their jobs. She also has followed her friend through several life’s ups and downs including the premature death of his two adult children.
Today, Carter is enjoying the success and growth of his four grandchildren and soon-to-be seventh great grandchild.