When Gerald Joubert was house-hunting more than 20 years ago, one tree-filled back yard he saw reminded him of a scene from an episode of the Bill Cosby TV show in which the comedian was barbecuing for his family.
It was just the kind of atmosphere that Joubert, who is now the mayor, was looking for.
“It felt like home to me,” he said last week. “It just felt natural to me.”
Forest Hill has come a long way from its beginnings as a farming community in the 1860s. Residents liked the open meadows and woods, but the community — also called Brambleton Station as a stop on the interurban electric street car line that ran from Cleburne to Fort Worth — gradually grew large enough to be called a village and then a city.
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Since the early 1990s when Joubert and his family bought their home, the city has seen its share of political turmoil, but that was under previous leadership.
“We were able to put aside our differences and work together,” he said. “We can’t agree on everything, but we have the citizens at heart.”
The city of about 13,000 residents along the busy Interstate 20 corridor is now in a growth spurt brought on by the rebounding economy.
During the past two years, 14 homes have been built, and a developer plans to renovate the dilapidated Oaks Ranch Mobile Home Park to create more affordable housing. A Best Western Plus hotel opened this week.
“It’s all about the location, and we have great visibility from the freeway,” said Venus Wehle, president of the Forest Hill Community Development Corp.
In September, Forest Hill, which is bounded by Anglin Street on the east and Wichita Street on the west, opened a civic and conference center that already has events booked into 2015. Forest Hill Memorial Park, which pays tribute to veterans and city public safety officers, was dedicated in late May.
Three years ago, city officials and offices moved into a new City Hall at 3219 California Parkway that is more than triple the size of the previous municipal center.
City Manager Sheyi Ipaye said Forest Hill is a “special place.” When Ipaye began his career in municipal government, he worked in Forest Hill’s Public Works Department before he took management jobs in other cities.
When he was hired as city manager three years ago, Ipaye saw the potential for growth and change.
“We have folks that really mean well in terms of development and in terms of taking responsibility for the growth,” he said.
Ipaye praised the leadership in the city for projects including the memorial park.
“The forward-thinking attitude brought me back,” Ipaye said.
He added that one of his most important goals is for the city to become a “destination” for veterans because of the memorial park and the nearby Veterans Administration clinic.
Joubert said he is enthusiastic about the future.
“We welcome new partners,” he said. “We are a giving community.”