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Webster Way Online Newsletter

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May 05

Five Reasons to Get Involved

Posted on May 5, 2017 at 10:13 AM by Katie Stamy

“The spirit and strength of the Webster community lie in the hands of the citizens who volunteer,” said Webster Mayor Donna Rogers. 

Here are five reasons why YOU should get involved and join a Webster board or commission this year. 

1. Learn more about Webster: You will have a unique opportunity to learn about every aspect of city government, from parks and recreation to planning and zoning.

2. The work is rewarding: During two, three or five-year terms, you will make important decisions for the future of the City and see first hand how the decisions impact the community.

3. Meet new people: During board meetings that are typically held once per month on weeknights, you will meet others who share similar cares and concerns.

4. Gain leadership experience: By participating in a Webster board or commission, you hold the important role of being the voice for others in your community.

5. Be the change: By volunteering your time, experience, and knowledge, you will make Webster a better place to live, work, and play.

Members must be registered voters in the City and attendance of the regularly scheduled meetings is imperative. Visit cityofwebster.com to review the various summaries of responsibilities while looking for a board or two that pique your interest. Nomination applications are available on the website, or you may contact City Secretary Crystal Roan at 281.316.4101.

Webster’s value and character are strengthened with every act of volunteerism. Make a difference and volunteer!

May 05

We Are Webster: Tom and Merry Wilks

Posted on May 5, 2017 at 9:39 AM by Katie Stamy

Tom Wilks is known in Webster for his involvement in the City, his fascinating career at NASA, and his impressive knowledge of everything snakes. His reverence for snakes has given him opportunities with police departments, animal control officers, and it was a key element in how he met his wife, Merry.

It all started for Tom after he graduated high school in San Antonio. He began working for the San Antonio Zoo in the reptile department and created a Snake Sense class that he taught to students visiting the zoo.

The class lived on with Tom long after he left the zoo, and it is now a certified class under the State Health Department. He has taught the class to Webster area Animal Control Officers, and police departments have requested him to snake proof K-9s. Clear View High School students and girl and boy scout troops have had the chance to hang out with the snakes as well.

During a trip to teach the Dickinson Garden Club Snake Sense, he met Merry and the rest is history.

Merry lived in New Mexico as a child, where her father was a geologist who would bring snakes in from the desert that would become the family pets. The couple’s mutual interest in snakes, photography, writing, and the outdoors brought them together in 2010.

Merry moved to Houston when she was in third grade and lived there until she moved to Webster. She is a Research Technician in the Molecular Virology and Microbiology Department at Baylor College of Medicine. The department’s role is to investigate emerging infectious diseases like Zika and Norwalk to develop treatment strategies and vaccines and possible antibiotic resistance. She has worked there for 17 years, and when she isn’t at work, she enjoys crafting and making art of any kind. 

Although Merry moved to Webster only seven years ago, the City has been home to Tom since 1969. In 1964, he moved to Houston with his first wife Peggy and son Glenn, to begin his career at Johnson Space Center (JSC) in the Crew and Thermal Systems Division.

 “We tested and evaluated Apollo astronaut life support systems,” he explained.

“The crews would wear the space suits and PLSS backpacks in vacuum chambers and the centrifuge. The astronauts trained in the same vacuum chambers and centrifuge prior to their missions.”

Five years into his space career, the family decided to move closer to JSC and Webster was their first choice. 

His son, Glenn, graduated from Clear Creek in 1980 and attended the University of Texas and then later worked as a software development engineer in Austin. He sadly passed away in 2001 of a brain aneurysm. 

Peggy became the Finance Director for the City of Webster in 1975 and retired in 1998. She passed away in 2006 after a long bout with breast cancer. Peggy and Tom were married for 45 years.

Tom began making an impact in the City by 1970 and has since been involved in several different boards and commissions while continuing his career at JSC.

He has served on the Recycling Study Committee, Police Training Advisory Board, Webster Centennial Celebration Committee, and the Webster Historical Committee. He has held a position on the Animal Control Board since its inception in 1993 and was the first president of the Webster Citizen Police Academy Alumni Association. Merry joined Tom on the Animal Control Board in 2015.

Tom also designed the first logo for the City of Webster that was adopted by Mayor and Council in 1980. 

For the past thirty years, Tom has answered calls from Webster Animal Contol regarding injured or orphaned birds and animals and calls about snakes. He has responded to over 400 calls in Webster and other Bay Area communities. 

In 2005, Tom retired as the Space Environment Activities Training Coordinator, so now in his spare time, he enjoys spending time with Merry hiking at Challenger Park, photographing nature, or attending car shows around Houston. 

The City has certainly changed since Tom first moved here, but he says that he and Merry enjoy the wonderful benefits that the City offers. 

“I could move and retire somewhere else,” said Tom. “But we love Webster.”

May 05

City Hall Connects: Fire Chief Patrick Shipp

Posted on May 5, 2017 at 9:19 AM by Katie Stamy

As the Laneville, Texas fire truck roared down the street, sirens blaring, six-year-old Patrick Shipp ran toward the very edges of the sidewalk to catch a glimpse of the excitement. There was a 50/50 chance that whenever there was an emergency, the fire truck would head down the street that Patrick lived on. So, after some time, the firefighters caught on to his habit and would pick him up on the truck to join them. 

They taught him the ins and outs of firefighting, and once he was able to see over the steering wheel, they let him drive the truck. It was then that Webster Fire Chief Patrick Shipp knew that he wanted a career helping others. 

He thought law enforcement was his calling, but after a year in school studying criminal justice, he realized that his home was at the fire department. He became a paramedic, and from 1988 until 1990, he worked in fire and EMS. 

Wanting to move forward in public service, Patrick signed up for four years in the Coast Guard and moved to Astoria, Oregon. 

“I was there for two years,” he said. “I learned the true meaning of brotherhood and taking care of each other, which is what the fire service is built on.”

In the Coast Guard, he worked on the boats, and after four years of working on the water, he signed up for three more years in the Coast Guard where he worked on the helicopters. After several years of serving, Patrick had the opportunity to be released early as long as he had a job lined up. So, from his Captain’s desk, he called up to the Laneville Fire Department and was immediately hired back on as a firefighter. 

After two months back in his hometown, the Laneville Fire Chief resigned, and Patrick became the new Chief. Under his leadership, the department grew from two stations to seven.

“We started the first Basic Life Support service for our county, so we responded every time the ambulance received calls,” Patrick explained. “Then we started Advanced Life Support, and we could do anything that you could do in the hospital.”

His next move was to the Jacksonville Fire Department, where he worked for six years. One day while dropping off a victim at the emergency room, he saw a Lufkin Firefighter named Stacy, and it was love at first sight. Only four months after their first date, the pair got married. 

During his time at Laneville Fire Department, Patrick had received his Chief Officer Certification, a prestigious credential that less than 500 others had. So when College Place, Washington was looking for a Fire Chief, they headhunted Patrick, and he soon moved with Stacy up to Washington for three years. 

When his timely contract with College Place was up, Patrick began looking for other open Fire Chief positions and interviewed at various departments before landing a job in Webster in 2008. 

When Stacy and Patrick relocated to Texas, Stacy chose to pursue a career as a nurse. She now works as the ER Lead Nurse at the Bay Area Regional Medical Center, while Patrick leads the Webster Fire Department. 

When he began at WFD, it was a volunteer fire department, but after only seven months of his leadership, the department created a day crew that would take city vehicles home at night to drive to the fire department if there was a call. Their average response time was 12 minutes.

Patrick soon added a night crew, but the firefighters were not full time. So, to create continuity, he got the support of City Manager Wayne Sabo and City Council to go to a full-time fire department, which began in October 2016. 

Patrick also oversaw the construction of the new, award-winning fire station in Webster with modernized equipment, improved department quality from an ISO-2 rating to an ISO-1. He has fostered collaboration with regional and statewide safety partners, developing plans to facilitate interoperability between public safety agencies and procedures defining communications and command in response to disasters. 

Patrick is a Chief EMS Officer and has completed the Chief Fire Officer and Executive Fire Officer program, an accomplishment that only a few in the world have achieved. 

The Fire Chief has also received his second bachelor’s degree since moving to Webster, and six months ago, he received his master’s degree. 

He currently serves as the Vice President of the Texas Fire Chiefs Association and will serve as President next session. He is the second in command of Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System and responds all over the state when there are hurricanes, fires, tornadoes, or any other disasters.

When he isn’t at the fire department, Patrick and his wife, Stacy enjoy water skiing, snow skiing, and spending time with family on the farm. He hunts and fishes, and enjoys traveling, but he still finds his job fun and enjoys coming to work.

“This is a full-time job, my phone goes off every time they go out on a call,” Patrick said. “It’s a passion, and I’m glad to come to work in the morning.

“I love my job, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone over here that doesn’t.  The best-kept secret in the fire service is that we would all do this for free.”


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