Humble Mayor Merle Aaron, Sr. will not seek a fourth term.
In a Jan. 15 press announcement, the mayor said, “Serving the citizens of Humble for all these years has been one of the greatest honors of my life. I feel we as a city have accomplished quite a bit in that time despite several major challenges here recently.”
Mayor Pro Tem Norman Funderburk has resigned his Place 3 Council seat and applied for the mayor position, according to Humble City Secretary Jenny Page.
The next city election is set for May 1. Positions up for election are mayor, currently held by Aaron; Place 1 currently held by Andy Curry; and Place 2, currently held by Charles Cunningham.
There are six places on the Humble City Council, each serving two-year terms with no term limits. The current council includes Aaron; Funderburk; Curry and Cunningham, who are both seeking reelection; and Paula Settle and David Pierce, who are not up for reelection.
Settle is the council’s most recently elected member. She prevailed in the city’s runoff election Dec. 13 by receiving one vote more than her opponent, Arliss Bentley. The final, verified tally was Settle with 301 votes and Bentley at 300 votes.
With the resignation of Funderburk, the Humble City Council will discuss how to move forward with his Place 3 position at their Feb. 28 council meeting, according to Page.
In an interview, Aaron told The Tribune it was time for him to retire.
“I’ll be 83 in June, it’s time,” the mayor told The Tribune. “I still feel good. I want to spend the time I have left doing the things that Linda and I want to do.”
Aaron and First Lady Linda Aaron grew up near the Texas-Mexico border and graduated from Edinburg High School, but they have a long connection to Humble and Lake Houston. They moved from the Lower Valley to Humble in the early 1960s when Aaron took a position supervising the crews building what is now Bush Intercontinental Airport.
The construction company he worked for planned to promote Aaron and move him back east but, by this time, the Aaron family had deep roots in Humble. In 1978, the mayor started his own company, Aaron Mechanical, semi-retiring in 2005 to run for Humble City Council. In 2015, Aaron was elected Humble city mayor.
As he retires his gavel, Aaron said that his proudest accomplishment was the financial security of the city.
“As you know, we live by our sales tax. The council and I see the growth around us and were concerned,” the mayor said. “We are one of 14 cities in the METRO taxing district and, in the years we’ve been in METRO, our sales tax ‘contribution’ has been more than $200 million, more than any other city except for Houston.”
The transit authority collects a sales tax from each of the 14 cities in its taxing district. Beginning in 1999, legislation finally allowed Humble to receive back a portion of that sales tax which, by law, must go to transportation and mobility projects.
“I was worried about that agreement,” the mayor said. “I wanted it extended to 2040, and we accomplished that. We’ll be getting back a good deal of our tax money.”
In addition to the METRO agreement, the city also had a small increase in property tax which would mostly affect businesses since residents over age 65 in Humble do not pay property taxes. The city, under Aaron, has attracted urban development projects such as warehousing, manufacturing, distribution and other industrial businesses.
The mayor is particularly proud of the council’s downtown improvement project which offers up to $10,000 in reimbursement.
“We’ve had so much success with this program, more than 40 homes and businesses have taken advantage of it,” he said.
“With this financial security, our police and fire departments are fully staffed,” the mayor said. “We’re providing financial incentives in the city for businesses and residences, and the new Charles Bender Performing Arts Center is a major step in helping us create quality growth in our community. We’re not a country town anymore; progress has caught up with us.”
As for the new city council, Aaron wants Humble to continue its partnership with the school district, the Lake Houston Partnership, the medical complex that has developed around Humble, Deerbrook Mall, and the many businesses that have thrived around the city.
“We need to be a major player on the north side of Harris County,” he said.
Humble will continue to be “home base” for the Aarons, where they raised two girls and a boy and built a major residential and commercial HVAC company. From Humble they will travel, sleep late, visit friends the mayor has often been too busy to see, and find a place or two to volunteer.
“The city is in good hands with the council we have in place,” the mayor said. “We have accomplished quite a bit despite facing several major challenges – Hurricane Harvey and the pandemic. I know that the future for Humble is bright and it is time for the next generation of leaders to guide it. We have an excellent candidate for mayor in Norman Funderburk, but I will support whoever becomes mayor.”
And then, Aaron ended his Tribune interview as he always concludes when he speaks of his city, “Everything is good in Humble.”