New Chapel Hill Mayor Riley Harris has served his city for the last 10 years.
His family has been in New Chapel Hill since his great-great grandmother settled on a 160-acre homestead there in 1851. Except for a few years living in Winona, Harris has lived in New Chapel Hill his entire life.
The city of New Chapel Hill formed in 1969, but there was a school there long before that time. It was a farming community, where people raised peanuts, cotton and tomatoes.
The city has “very little business,” brings in little income and has little growth. “I think that’s kind of the way the city likes it,” he said. “It’s been that way all of my life.”
The city’s population is nearly 700 people. It recently constructed a building it leases out to the fire department and that will soon be used as a community center, Harris said. The Smith County Sheriff’s Office and Constables Office provide New Chapel Hill with law enforcement and the city is split in Commissioner Terry Phillips’ and Cary Nix’s precincts.
A large section of the City of Tyler is part of the Chapel Hill Independent School District, Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran said. “New Chapel Hill plays a huge part in our county,” he added.
Riley said he is proud to be a lifelong resident of Smith County.
He has worked in the construction business for 38 years. He worked as a general contractor for the late Smith County Commissioner Don Pinkerton, and began his own business, Riley Harris Construction LP, 12 years ago. His business does commercial and residential building projects.
Harris was appointed as mayor when the former mayor moved out of New Chapel Hill. Since then, he has run for re-election unopposed.
He said he enjoys being involved in the process and he tries to keep everything fair.
Harris will be celebrating his 58th birthday on Thursday, December 7.
“I appreciate what you do out there in Chapel Hill,” Commissioner Phillips said.
Judge Moran said he learned a lot about New Chapel Hill from Harris’ presentation.
Through the “Connecting Communities” initiative, the 11 cities within Smith County will be periodically highlighted during Commissioners Court. Municipalities within Smith County include Tyler, Lindale, Whitehouse, Arp, Troup, Bullard, Winona, New Chapel Hill, Noonday, Overton and Hideaway. City leaders will be invited to Commissioners Court to be recognized and give presentations about their city, as well as provide information about the state of each city and future plans.
City leaders from Noonday, Arp, Bullard, Hideaway and Whitehouse have previously presented to the Commissioners Court as part of the initiative.