JARRELL, Texas – In 1997 Jarrell, Texas was a town of a few hundred people.
It was a tight-knit community, a place where everyone knew each other. Many people in the area had families dating back to the 1800s.
The devastating tornado that year took the city by surprise.
“I was at my in-laws, in their house, and it took everything but their bathroom. That’s where we were,” LaDonna Peterson told KVUE in the days after the tornado. those who did, I don’t know how they did it because there are a lot of people around us who didn’t. But we did it and I don’t know why except there is a reason and we will find out one day. Because God had a plan somewhere for us.
Today, the city is growing at a rapid pace. Developments are springing up all over the city.
Jarrell ISD is preparing for a boom in the next 10 years, building a new school. The student population is expected to grow from 2,878 this school year to 10,756 by the 2031 school year, according to a school district spokesperson.
The latest US Census data indicates that the population of the town of Jarrell is 2,318. An extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) within Jarrell has an estimated population of 11,826, according to the Jarrell Mayor’s Office.
Even though it’s still a small town, the dynamic is changing.
“At times, in the quiet of the night, I sit there and think, ‘How are we going to be able to keep up with this thing?'” Mayor Larry Bush said.
He was elected to city council in 2007 before becoming mayor in 2014. One of his top priorities is growth – keeping Jarrell thriving. With companies like Tesla opening and Samsung expanding into central Texas, he expects more people to move in.
“The biggest challenge we’ve had as a small town has been identifying and bringing in the talent and skills that we need to help us grow in the future,” he said.
However, growth can only happen so quickly. Bush said Jarrell often competes with larger towns in southwestern Williamson County for infrastructure needs.
“Growth restrictions are kind of just infrastructure ones,” he said.
Top priorities are more water, more sewage and transportation, he said. Over the next 15 years, Jarrell is expected to need more than 15 million additional gallons of water per day, Bush said.
He compares Jarrell today to Round Rock in the late 1970s.
But even with the explosive growth, it’s not lost on Bush where the town is from and all the residents who have missed their family members over the years.
“There will always be a number of people who remember the tornado, remember Jarrell for the tornado. The rest of us will watch.. what we are today and what we will become. And the fact that it’s one of the best places to live in Texas,” he said.
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