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The League City Nick Long grew up in seems like the epitome of the American dream. Back then, the 30,000-strong Texas community exemplified the small-town experience and was a great place to raise a family.
In that respect, nothing has changed.
“It’s a great place to raise kids,” says Long, who became Mayor of League City in 2022. “If you’re looking for a place that has a fantastic school district and is among the safest you’ll find anywhere in Texas, or the United States for that matter, League City is it.”
And Long should know. Raised in League City and a graduate of Clear Creek High School, the Mayor left town to work and study in Austin, the Texas capital. After getting married, he and his wife returned to League City to start a family.
“It was a natural decision to move back here,” he reveals. “My wife’s also from here, our children’s grandparents are close by, and there’s still that small-town charm, even though the population has expanded fourfold since I was a kid.”
League City has around 120,000 residents and is expanding in every way. With the port city of Galveston to the south and the much larger Houston up north, League City may not seem as though it has much room to grow, but Long says he saw the city’s potential as soon as he returned.
“It’s been interesting to see how much has changed, but in a lot of ways, so much has stayed the same,” he says. “We’re becoming a much larger city and growing into our own, and it’s been great to have some influence over that growth and help prepare for the next wave of growth that’s right around the corner.”
“When we moved back, I got involved in different civic organizations,” Long recalls. “Originally, I started on the city finance committee, lending my professional expertise as far as employee benefits and insurance went.”
An employee benefit consultant by trade, Long’s own benefits consulting firm had grown to become one of the largest Historically Underutilized Business certified enterprises in the Lone Star State.
“I’d started my own firm, grown it, sold it several years ago and then worked at the firm I’d sold mine to,” he explains.
Despite his role as Mayor, Long is still involved in benefit consultancy.
“In January 2023, I joined Alliant, a national employee-owned firm, and I run the public-sector division for the employee benefits side of the house there,” he says.
Once he became a part of League City’s administrative sector, however, Long soon saw a path to bring about greater good.
“I went from the finance committee to being sucked into the rest of it,” he says. “I ended up running for council and spent eight years there.”
In 2014, when Long first joined the city council, traffic and infrastructure were the biggest topics on the table, particularly as they pertained to community safety.
“We’d deal with traffic, we’d deal with making sure police and fire response times were adequate, and that they had the resources they needed to continue doing a great job protecting the community,” he says.
At that time, a shortage of potable water was also a persistent issue.
“There was a need for more water and the constant question was, ‘How are we going to secure enough water rights?’” he recalls. “Fortunately, council staff did a great job finding water and putting together the money and the infrastructure to provide enough water all the way to build-out. It was something we were very concerned about in 2014 that we don’t even talk about now.”
Located on the fringe of the Gulf of Mexico and within reach of the destructive Atlantic hurricane seasons, League City is prone to flooding.
“Every time we turn cow pastures or rice paddies into homes, it puts more concrete on the ground, and we have to really be cognizant about what we’re doing to the overall drainage,” he says. “Therefore, we increased our funding to support more drainage and transportation projects, and we revised our development standards to decrease the future chances of flooding.
“Then, of course, we had Hurricane Harvey in 2017, and that really underscored the drainage issue. It’s really become top of mind in everything we do.”
One crucial aspect of being an ideal place to live is a low tax rate, a siren call for anyone looking to give their family the best possible quality of life. As such, Long has made relief for taxpayers a focal point of both his time on the council and as Mayor.
“I’d say it’s the thing I’m most proud of,” he confirms. “Every year since 2014 we’ve decreased the tax rate below the effective rate. That’s a true tax decrease, even taking into account appraisals. And we’ve maxed the homestead exemption so all up, we’ve reduced the rate by almost 50 percent since I’ve been here.”
This hasn’t come at the expense of the growing city’s needs, though. League City has managed to fund its infrastructure projects, despite the cuts.
“Every year, we’ve set a new record on the amount of infrastructure projects we funded,” Long points out. “We’ve definitely lived within our means and, at the same time, we’re able to invest back into the city. I think we’ve done a good job blending fiscal conservatism with proper investment in infrastructure, the employee base and tools to help service the community.”
In 2022, the opportunity to run for Mayor presented itself to Long, who didn’t hesitate. Front and center of his campaign were his advocacy for lower taxes, his family and faith, and his strong community roots. In November, Long landed the top job.
“The biggest reason people move here is because it’s an easy, convenient place to live. And when I look at it, my job is to make League City that easy, convenient place to live,” he reflects.
“That means we aren’t burdening people with financial pressures and taxes that are too high. It means we’re making sure it’s incredibly safe and people don’t have to worry about jogging at night, or their kids playing outside.”
The city’s geography provides it with several opportunities in terms of recreation and employment.
“We’re pinned against Clear Lake and the bay, so water is in play from a recreational standpoint,” Long explains.
The natural beauty of Clear Creek, the last unchanneled major bayou of the Harris County area, is another plus, and provides Long with an infrastructure challenge.
“I live around the water and I’m constantly out on the boat; it’s something people here do all the time. But we need to develop some of our park resources that are seldom used. It’s a great resource, and we can improve it,” he states.
Being so close to Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico beyond means that there are job opportunities beyond similarly sized American cities further inland.
“We don’t necessarily have a port of our own, but as we’re strategically located between four of the top 20 ports of the United States – Houston, Galveston, Freeport and Texas City – we’re the midpoint,” Long says.
“It’s a great sales pitch to the maritime industry that League City is an ideal place to locate their headquarters, executives and administrative offices.”
League City is positioned between the Gulf Freeway and State Highway 146, both of which lead south to Galveston Island. Heading north toward Houston, the Gulf Freeway becomes Interstate 45, which takes motorists through the big city.
Long admits that despite the council’s continuing efforts, traffic flow remains one of League City’s greatest challenges.
“We’re constantly looking for ways to improve traffic flow, and the biggest infrastructure project we have coming through at the moment is the Grand Parkway.”
That would be a state-funded project that will provide a third giant loop around Houston.
“It basically connects State Highway 146 and the water all the way back out to Brazoria County, and from there through Fort Bend,” he says. “That will be a great opportunity to open up a lot of different things for League City, and we’ve worked hand in hand with Galveston County and other neighboring communities to make sure it services our needs now and into the foreseeable future.”
Such is the passion of League City Council when it comes to roads that many staff have taken a proactive lead in pushing for the Grand Parkway.
“The City Manager, John Baumgartner, has been a champion of the project,” Long notes. “We see it as a catalyst not just for the growth of rooftops and subdivisions, but that it will lead to a lot of mixed-use land downtown such as restaurants, family recreation spots and commercial maritime centers.”
The city’s proximity to Houston and Galveston, both 30 minutes by road, also means that League City residents can easily tap into the entertainment assets of both the big city environment of the former and the island getaway pleasures of the latter.
“It really is a magnificent location, and being in the middle of all that is just another reason why life here is so easy and enjoyable.”
League City’s education sector is another point of pride for Long, who can also count himself as one of its most shining products.
“Traditionally, when you think of League City schools, you think of the Clear Creek Independent School District [ISD],” he says.
“That’s where I went, where my wife went and where our kids go now. It’s a fantastic district that surrounds the entirety of Clear Lake and comprises around 19 different cities.”
As League City grows, the Clear Creek ISD will be joined by the Dickinson and Santa Fe ISDs, which have been building resources and developing their own programs, according to Long.
“They’ve come a long way to be fantastic school districts in their own right,” he says.
“We then have a few different private schools that are extremely highly regarded, particularly the full-service Bay Area Christian School. It’s more religious-based and has smaller classrooms, which many find very attractive.”
Being so close to Houston’s muscular Texas Medical Center, it’s no surprise League City itself enjoys a full-service hospital in the University of Texas Medical Branch.
“That’s basically in the center of town. There’s also a full MD Anderson facility as well as plans to expand the entire UTMB Health precinct by another million square feet over the next decade.”
The very large, very modern facility boasts world-class cancer care, and took the lead during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We as a county never really went into full shutdown. We had better results than most urbanized counties as far as casualties, and we suffered far less economic damage,” Long reveals.
“Our County Judge, Mark Henry, led a highly successful vaccination program that meant anybody who wanted a vaccine could get one quickly, conveniently and safely. It was quite remarkable to see how they worked together to get it done so quickly.”
League City’s virtues are many, and Long has no hesitation when describing his favorite things about his home.
“The ability to enjoy the water in so many ways is a huge plus. There’s as much kayaking as you could possibly want,” he says. “We have a very extensive trail network throughout the entire city, which allows you to get on a bike or go for a jog.”
With two young children of his own, Long also spends a lot of time at the city’s Little League facilities.
“And if the weekend sports aren’t happening, we’re out on the boat and messing around on the lake.”
Long believes these recreational elements, combined with League City’s strong education and health care, make it a perfect place to bring up a family.
“Over the next 25 years, we’re going to take League City from a city of 120,000 to around 250,000,” he predicts. “The Grand Parkway will bring much of that about, and we want to make sure we get everything we need out of that project because you really only have one chance to get it right.”
With so much growth on the way, Long’s priority is making sure it’s properly planned out.
“We have to make sure we’re managing the growth, not the growth managing us,” he cautions.
To be able to leave such an impression upon your hometown is a rare gift, and one Long takes very seriously.
“The thing to take away is that we’ve maintained League City’s small-town values and feel while maintaining high-quality amenities and subdivisions,” he says. “We’re not going to ever try to become a smokestack city with a big industrial area. We’ll probably never become a massive tourist destination. They’re not our core competency.”
After 10 years of tremendous growth, Long has come to know exactly what those core competencies are.
“We are built and designed to have wonderful subdivisions, high-quality education and health care, a small business-friendly economy and a fantastic built-in recreational culture,” he says proudly. “We’re very well positioned for a variety of further economic growth, and we’ll harness it when it comes.”
For the immediate future, however, League City’s Mayor has its best interests in mind and heart.
“My goal moving forward is to perpetuate what we do well, which is to make League City a great place to live.”