Vivian and Leo Wood have seen Georgetown through decades of change—and they’re not done yet
On a cold March day in 1969, a couple arrived in Georgetown with their three little boys. Leo Wood had just been hired as the new city manager and hoped that the little city of Georgetown held more promise than even smaller Rosebud, where he had been city manager for five years. But he wasn’t sure. Georgetown had fewer than 5,500 people, only three or four restaurants, about the same number of doctors, three (new) subdivisions, and limited shopping. The city was struggling financially and structurally. Newcomers and available housing were scarce; the young family initially rented an old Main Street house from the city for thirty-five dollars a month.
Waiting for Leo’s return from his first city council meeting, Vivian, too, doubted they’d made the right move. Council meetings in Rosebud had never taken so long. What could be the problem? When Leo finally arrived at midnight, he explained: “I just found out they’re broke.”
Casting doubts aside and arming themselves with a “can-do” attitude, the Woods quickly settled into their new home, committed to hard work and Georgetown’s potential.
No one could have anticipated then how much Leo and Vivian would influence the community over the coming years. Vivian’s eyes twinkle as she calls Leo “the politician” and herself “the public servant.” In those roles they worked closely for years with the city, the county, Georgetown Independent School District, financial institutions, and local mainstays like Southwestern University and Texas Crushed Stone—as well as “many, many good people committed to staying here”—to help make Georgetown the thriving city it is today.
Leo remembers that urban renewal was a guiding concept for cities in the 1970s, but in Georgetown, renewal was more than a concept; it was very much hands-on. Volunteer firemen and Southwestern fraternity guys helped Leo clear brush and building debris around town, street by street. He and other city leaders scrambled to fund municipal projects, including early efforts to spruce up downtown and San Gabriel Park. He used stones from two church renovations to design the park’s flower garden, secured a Neighborhood Facilities Grant to install air conditioning in the Community Center, and oversaw construction of Georgetown’s first swimming pool available to all citizens. During a casual park inspection years ago, Leo, an inveterate “good Samaritan,” saw an older lady stranded in the park with a flat tire. After changing the tire, he discovered that her husband directed Texas Parks and Wildlife grant programs. She closed their brief encounter by saying, “If you ever need a grant for your park, let me know.” Later, he did just that, as park amenities were expanded.
While Leo worked as city manager, Vivian plugged into the town’s heartbeat on the Square. In the early seventies, she served as secretary of the fifty-member Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber office at 810 Main Street also housed the Georgetown Credit Bureau and Western Union, so Vivian’s job included diverse duties like checking credit status on request and conducting property searches. Vivian recalls that Southwestern’s president at the time, Durwood Fleming, communicated extensively by telegram, “something really different from today’s electronic world.” Hardly a day passed without his secretary calling to dictate a message.
She also enjoyed a few years in retail at Gold’s Department Store until she became office manager at Heritage Printing, dealing directly with a cross-section of Georgetown citizenry at each business. She gained marketing expertise at both companies as they sought customers beyond Georgetown. This skill, along with Vivian’s friendly personality and her previous Chamber work, prompted the Chamber search committee to approach her about interviewing for executive director. Leo encouraged her as well, and Vivian held the position over ten years. The Woods were sensitive to the unique alignment in their public duties, but both “made sure [the] personal relationship did not affect the business relationship.”
During those first fifteen years in Georgetown, the Woods were part of significant steps forward: the southern boundary set between Round Rock and Georgetown, a dam on the North San Gabriel River, runway expansion at the airport following tornado damage, the new Westinghouse facility, plans for a future road loop, new schools, explosive growth in subdivisions, and, of course, revitalization of downtown through the Main Street Project. They saw it all. The town expanded, and efforts continued to promote “Georgetown as a great place to live and visit.”
“I can remember in the early eighties not being sure Georgetown was going to make it,” Vivian says. “The economy had just flattened out, local merchants were really hurting. But everybody just stepped up. Additions came in, lifted this part up, strengthened that part. . . . The good fortune [we had] far outweighs the bad.”
Leo will never forget a particular example of generosity that occurred when Georgetown built the Olympic-sized pool on Lakeway. After securing grants and matching city funds, the city still lacked $45,000. Leo approached a local businessman, who wrote a check for the full amount, saying, “Here, Leo, go get your pool. And this is anonymous. Don’t be talking about it.” Not all of the city’s anticipated projects came to fruition, but when Leo resigned in 1985, he left the city coffers with over five million dollars in reserve funds.
From the mid-eighties through most of the nineties, Leo worked in management for the City of Austin water and wastewater utilities. Vivian left the Georgetown Chamber to become manager of special projects in nine counties for the Texas Association of Private Industry Councils. Both, however, found time for service through numerous boards and civic organizations.
In 1992 Leo successfully ran for mayor, serving until 1997. He describes the recruitment of Sun City during his mayoral service as “the icing on the cake.” In 1994 Vivian was approached by then District Judge John Carter to seek the position of Williamson County Treasurer. Again, Leo was supportive, along with other local leaders and friends. For eighteen years, she’s been an effective steward, overseeing the county’s financial obligations. Vivian’s duties became more challenging during the past five years, as Wilco growth soared to second place nationally.
Feeling blessed that all three sons live in Williamson County, Vivian is retiring this year to spend more time with the grandchildren, but Georgetown can still count on her friendly presence and dedicated effort. Leo says, “I’m not stopping. . . . I’m committed to Union State Bank, to my consulting firm, to this town.” Their spyglass view of Georgetown, like their stories, has depth and breadth and color, and they smile at each other as Vivian modestly admits, “There are things we haven’t told.”