Fisk family

These days Paul Fisk and wife, Fraya enjoy spending lots of time with their grandchildren. Pictured from left are Jill, 4; Piper, 7; and Sutton,1.

Paul Fisk has spent an entire lifetime around Royse City. He is one of Royse City’s icons and has served the city as a mayor, city councilman and even as an interim city manager, all the while watching it change and grow throughout the years.

He has seen the city grow from a small, rural town that had a grocery store and movie theater to the third fastest growing city in the North Central Texas area.

“There was a movie theater and a skating rink,” Fisk said. “Those were fun things. We would come and go to the movie theater every week, and usually to the skating rink also. It was small town. There were no drugs. The biggest sin happening was me and some others slipping out to Napoleon’s on the edge of town and buying a quart of beer to drink. That’s another story altogether.

He grew up in the area, though he graduated from Quinlan High School.

His wife, Fraya graduated from Royse City, and even though the couple spent 29 career years in the Dallas area they stayed in touch with their hometown and intended on moving back.

The 64-year-old took to a career in insurance, and his profession took him away from Royse City, but never too far.

“Fraya and I moved back to Royse City in July of ‘92,” Fisk said “We had left in 1963, and moved to Garland and Dallas. Most of the time, in my business career over there we lived in Garland. I had offices in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio. I sold those offices in ‘91 and in ‘92 we decided to come home. When we moved back here it was like we hadn’t even been gone for 29 years. We moved right back into the same circle of friends.”

“It was simple times. It was plain. It was, “Leave it to Beaver’ times. But those times are gone and I’m ready to give them up, not because I want to...but because I have to.”

Fisk wasted no time in getting into the political arena in his hometown

“It was my intention to run for mayor in ‘93, but two things happened,” Fisk said. “First, my good friend Jimmy Mellody decided to run, plus I didn’t feel like I could meet the residency requirements. You’re supposed to live here for a full year inside the city limits of Royse City. So I went ahead and ran for council, because the residency requirements were only six months.”

Almost immediately Fisk began to take some somewhat unorthodox steps to deal with a city that was on the verge of exploding.

“I had asked Jim to appoint me as the chief budget officer, which he did,” Fisk said. “It was really the mayor’s job, but Jimmy didn’t want to fool with it and I had the time. Besides that, one of the things I needed to was work on Royse City’s finances.

“When Jim and I went into office, they had just fired the former city manager. The city was in the red. Water and sewer accounts were losing money. I consider myself to be an excellent money manager. Beginning in ‘93 through (the hiring of Connie Goodwin as city manager), I did the budgets. I even did them for about a year after that before I turned them over to him.

“The city was just in a hell of a shape. When I got on the council, the north and south running streets north of Main Street were undrivable. I knew that issue had to be addressed. We found a pretty inexpensive repair called a ‘chip and seal.’ It’s not a long-term repair, but it will get them to where you can drive on them for a few years.

“Royse City didn’t even have a five-year plan in effect. I wanted a five-year, a 10-year and a 20-year plan. The bridge (over Lake Ray Hubbard) was being completed, and I knew the growth was going to hit as soon as that bridge was finished.

“We needed a new City Hall. We had to get control of our fire department. We also needed to redo the downtown sidewalks,” Fisk said.

After the first time around on the council Fisk was encouraged to seek the mayor’s position.

“When Jim finished his term he said, ‘If you’ll run for mayor, I won’t run. Hell, you’re running the city anyway. So you might as well do it’. So I did. I was elected mayor in ‘95 and I served until May of 2002.

“Then I resigned to run for county commissioner in the Republican Primary. Unfortunately, my good friend David Magness had decided that it was also time for him to run as well. We faced, head-to-head, and David beat me.”

Fisk thought that his political career had probably come to an end, but then another opportunity to step forward presented itself, and he took it.

“Jimmy got elected mayor again in 2003,” Fisk said. “Some of his friends and my friends encouraged me to get back on the council because it seemed that Jimmy needed some help with some things that were happening up there. So I did.

“I ran for council and got elected again in 2004. I was sworn in May of 2004. I stayed on as a councilman through September of 2005, and resigned in order to be the interim city manager until we could find one after the retirement of Connie Goodwin.

“There was a couple of problems with that. You can be on the council and be city manager I suppose. There’s no specific wording against it. But because of the obvious conflict, I wouldn’t stay on the council and be city manager. The other thing is that any city official, mayor or councilman, cannot take a paid position with the city until a year after their term has finished.

“So I couldn’t be paid, but I felt like it would be a proper ‘Swan Song’ for my city service. Another thing was that I didn’t feel that there was anyone else with the city, either in an elected or an employed position, that could do that job. I didn’t feel like I could do that job very well myself, but I could do it better than anyone else that was available.

“So I resigned the council and on the same night was appointed interim city manager by a 3-2 council vote. There were a couple of people on the council that did not feel like that should happen. Fortunately, the majority of the council felt like that was the only thing the city could do.

“Number one, we got a break from city manager’s pay for three months. Our plan always was to get somebody in place by the first of the year, which we were successful in doing. I served for three months; October, November, and December.”

In going from council to staff, Fisk doesn’t recall the transition being too much of a burden.

“Most of the people that worked for the city were there when I had been mayor, and at times when there was no city manager,” Fisk said. “So it really wasn’t all that much of a change.

“I’m a doer. I do stuff. I do it to the point of maybe some deserved criticism sometimes in over-stepping the boundaries of my authority. I’ve always been a good money manager, and have been able to see and solve problems. And I am a reasonably good salesman as far as selling good ideas to the mayor and council.”

Fisk does admit that there were pressing issues facing the city that made his service in city management a challenge.

“We were finalizing the budget,” Fisk said. “With the things that we had planned on doing, the budget as it was wouldn’t work. I scheduled a budget revision for the October council meeting. We ended up not approving the budget until November.

“We had water billing issues. Our water rates in two years had doubled. I felt like we had to get our water rates back to a reasonable level. We had increased them to the highest in the area.

“We also had some employment issues. Toward the end of my term I had to face the possibilities that two of my friends had stolen money from the city,” said Fisk of theft allegations against two municipal court clerks.

“It was an issue where they needed to be placed on administrative leave and banned from city hall. I had to tell them there were prospects of mis-doings and put them on administrative leave until the investigation was completed.

“That was probably the toughest thing I did. I hated to do it. But my heart, mind, and soul is with the city, not with any individual - even if it is a close friend,” Fisk said.

Now Fisk and his wife spend a lot of time playing golf, visiting with friends, and playing with their three grandchildren. He’s still involved with some local projects like the new Texas Leadership Bank that is underway, but now is content to watch as others take the wheel.

“The new city manager is a professional, and that’s what this city needed,” Fisk said. “We probably were a year or two too late, but we did get it done. The strength of Royse City right now, I believe, is that we have a professional employee in the two top positions that represent the city. That’s Karen Phillipi as city manager and Larry Lott as economic development director. Those people are strong and do a wonderful job. I have total faith in the direction those two people are going to take us in the next few years.”

With a chuckle, Fisk refuses to grade his own efforts at steering Royse City’s current path.

“Hell, I don’t know,” Fisk said. “We’re not doing a great job I don’t guess, but we’re doing a better job than we would have if we hadn’t had some long range plans.”

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