WAXAHACHIE — The desire for Robert Brown to serve the public started at a young age.
Brown recalls watching his father, Roy, serve as a member of Irving City Council and later as the mayor.
He now joins the staff as Waxahachie's new city attorney. Brown replaces Steven Chapman, who retired after more than 51 years of service and was sworn in at the June 13 city council meeting.
“I grew up in Irving. My father was on the Irving City Council for about 10 years and was the mayor for a couple of terms,” Brown said. “When I was in high school and in college I became interested in the in’s and out’s of city government watching him serve as a council member and as a mayor.”
Brown stated that he would watch some of the meetings on television. When that interest in law grew a little bit more, he would look through the council packets to read the legal documents and opinions.
Brown attended Texas Tech Law School of Law and the interest to serve the public remained.
“When I went to law school I had a desire to practice municipal law. Where as most folks when you ask them what they want to do they say they want to do family law or criminal law or corporate law. When I told people that I wanted to do municipal law they all thought, ‘does he want to work for the district attorney’s office?’ I said, ‘it is not that. It is becoming the lawyer for cities,’” Brown explained. “Seeing my father serve and getting to interact with staff members he knew and the city attorney’s office in Irving it was just an interest of mine.”
Brown's law firm, Brown and Hofmeister, will provide representation and counsel to the city. The law firm’s website states it has several areas of practice, which include municipal law, employment law, planning and zoning, real estate, business and commercial law.
The firm has 32 cities as clients and serves 12-14 of them as full-time city attorneys. In addition to Waxahachie, Brown serves as the city attorney for the cities of Little Elm, Cockrell Hill and Runaway Bay.
Brown explained that he sees his role and the role of his firm as one an advisor and not as a policy maker.
“Our job is to advise and to give advice. To help steer the client in different directions that we feel like it is appropriate to do so. Never try to inject ourselves into the actual policy making or management arena. That is not our job,” Brown noted. “Sometimes a client likes to hear it (counsel) and sometimes a client does not like to hear it. But quite frankly they need to hear it. I have been convinced over the years that lawyers that make a habit of telling the client what they want to hear probably keep their job for a little bit of time but not a long time. Eventually, that will come back to hurt them and you have got be a straight shooter and let the chips fall where they may.”
Brown added that it is an honor to follow a person like Chapman who gave so much to the community. He hopes that he can leave a great legacy of service as Chapman did.
“My wife said ‘How do you replace someone that has been there 51 years?’ You don’t. You just try and pick up the torch and carry it as best you can. There is no way that you can ever replace someone who has committed over half a century of their legal career to one client and his family and father before that. They are an institution. They are part of the fabric of this community,” Brown said. “Steve has been very gracious and continues to express his willingness to help out if necessary.”
City Manager Paul Stevens said it is great to have Brown as a part of the team at city hall
“We knew Robert one by reputation and two we have seen him speak at seminars before. That is when we started using Robert for some different issues. Those were mainly planning and zoning issues. We were always very well pleased with the advice that we got at that time,” Stevens said. “We received eight request for qualifications all from very good firms. The council and we (city staff) supported fully that Robert and his firm would be the best one for the job.”