Like a puzzle coming together, every generation in New Braunfels plays its part in what the city has become — or what it will be.
Older generations set down a foundation for future generations to build on and to protect — and ultimately — to pass on.
Setting the foundation
A house is only as strong as the foundation it has been built on — and for a city that is growing as quickly as New Braunfels, that foundation needed to be strong.
The Baby Boomers who have lived in the city for years knew that if they wanted a better New Braunfels for their children and grandchildren, they needed to make it better, said Carter Casteel, former state representative and county judge.
“One of the things that I remembered about my generation is we learned to participate,” Casteel said. “We grew up with Scouts and church and church camps.”
This was something Casteel said she and other Boomers worked hard to instill in their children.
“I think we all were raised with the idea we pay it forward,” Casteel said. “I think our generation has done that to Cheryl and Barron’s generation (Generation X), and they’ve passed it on to Morgan and Catherine (Millennials), Jason and Hudson (Generation Z).”
Casteel recalls the early discussions in New Braunfels to start a leadership program to help grow new leaders.
“So these guys got to talking and said, ‘You know, you need to start a leadership program. We’re all getting old’ — of course I was young at the time, I was probably 40 — but they said, ‘We need to promote leadership,’” Casteel said. “And so they came up with this leadership out of the chamber.”
In 1992, that discussion came to fruition, helping to grow today’s leaders of New Braunfels including Carter’s own children, Mayor Barron Casteel and Cheryl Casteel, and her grandchildren, Catherine Land and Morrigan Land.
“One of the things that’s tough on our generation is that there’s a point in your life when you say, ‘I can still volunteer, but I’ve got to step out and move aside, because I’ve been watering this garden and growing these kids and plants, and they’ve got to shine now.’ So they need to take these positions of leadership.”
A time of change
The foundation that Boomers laid was build upon by Generation X, helping pave the way to the New Braunfels of today.
For New Braunfels, Generation X was a generation that grew up with more change and more opportunity than generations before, said Mayor Barron Casteel.
“I was probably part of the first generation … that could come back to New Braunfels and didn’t have to — our options weren’t committed to a family business, or a professional enterprise,” Barron said. “The years earlier (jobs) had been limited to manufacturing, the mill … 20 years ago was the first onset of those — of industry and other professions growing in number.”
These were opportunities Boomers had planted the seeds for through the Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce and city government, Carter said.
“The chamber was always to promote a good economy, promote good schools because that meant a better economy, and all of our children and grandchildren could live here,” Carter said. “Now that doesn’t mean just throw the gates and say, ‘Come on,’ but you do plan for and develop leadership opportunities.”
Generation X wasn’t able to pave much of its own way, Barron said.
“In 2000, we had a bond election and almost every one of them failed,” Barron said. “While we were trying to be active, my peer group was trying to be active … we were not making any headway. The amenities or the investments that young families believed in — which were adding additional sports fields, creating more activities for families in this community — and it failed pretty significantly.”
A smaller Generation X population probably played a role in that, Barron said.
“The Baby Boomers were making the designs on what government should offer and how cities should be organized and what amenities we should have and we (in Generation X) were a smaller population, so we didn’t have that kind of influence on our community,” he said.
Building upon the past
Often also called the echo generation or echo boomers, Millennials are the children of Baby Boomers. As such, their numbers are vast and their influence has become the subject of news headlines.
Their effects are felt locally, too, Barron and Carter said.
“I can’t say enough about the younger generations, or just the number — have you been to a Jaycee event?” Barron said. “That right there is a sign of immense value that this community has not seen in years.”
This group is today’s young professionals, and is working to build a better New Braunfels of tomorrow, he said.
“This youthful group of new business people that are part of New Braunfels — I did not see that when I came home from school. We did not have an active younger generation (for Generation X),” Barron said.
What is exciting about many of the young people moving into the New Braunfels area is that they value the town for what it is — they don’t want to change it but to grow on it and in it, he said.
“They’re valuing the same things — trees, parks, preserving historic structures and buildings,” Barron said. “You see a lot of people move to New Braunfels because they could enjoy the lifestyle in New Braunfels, they have their children grow up and go to school in New Braunfels.”
As a Millennial, Catherine Land, niece to Barron and granddaughter of Carter, said she has grown up watching the older generations help one another and pave the way for today’s youth.
“Now more than ever, it’s so important that we continue to help each other,” Land said. “Millennials have the energy and those who have been around longer have the experience and knowledge.”
Land said if she has learned anything from growing up in New Braunfels, it’s that it takes everyone to make New Braunfels what it is.
“We can learn from them, and bring new energy to our community,” Land said. “Together we make a great team.”
The leaders of tomorrow
Generation Z is still young. The eldest of this generation will graduate college this year. The youngest are still in elementary school.
Generation Z is the generation that will inherit the changing New Braunfels, and because of this, it is vital older generations pour into them, Land said.
“My hope for future generations of New Braunfels is that they will continue what our past generations have started,” Land said. “It is so important to teach future generations about the value of public service.”
Generation Z will be tomorrow’s employees, and will take care of the older generations as they age, said Howard Lee Leake, an employee at Connections who works as a junior youth engagement specialist.
“There are a lot of young kids with tech, they’re very savvy with tech, and someday they’ll be teaching us the new tech. They’ll be taking care of us,” Leake.
New Braunfels rich history is thanks to those who came before, and will be carried on by the young people growing up in New Braunfels today, Leake said.
“They’re going to be our future leaders. These kids, they’re our future candidates,” Leake said.
There’s a lot of stigmas around every next generation of kids because they grow up differently, but they are strong, they have a will to survive, Leake said.
“You just get so much more accomplished if everyone’s pulling on the rope the same,” Carter said. “Now that doesn’t mean we always get along, that doesn’t mean we don’t have our disagreements, in terms of a community, because you do have discussions, but at the end of the day, it’s about New Braunfels.”