Meet four local movers and shakers who help make New Braunfels special
“I could make a living out of lovin’ you,” croons a country singer on KNBT Radio New Braunfels. In this Central Texas town there are four women who are doing just that — making a living out of loving New Braunfels. You see, it takes a village to create a community as vibrant and committed to its future as this place is — along with a healthy respect for the town’s heritage and traditions. These four local leading ladies are New Braunfels business owners, public servants, honky-tonk queens, Wurstfest organizers and cowgirls who contribute hard work and enthusiasm toward making it the kind of place so many want to live. We asked each of them what she likes best about New Braunfels and how she’s made a career out of loving it.
Gale O’Hara Pospisil
Mayor of City of New Braunfels
Years in this career: Six years as District 3 Council member and now two and a half years as mayor.
How did you get started? I was asked by several citizens to run for City Council from District 3, which is generally the northwest part of New Braunfels. I originally ran for office in 2000. Although I lost that election, I ran again in 2003 and beat the incumbent to take office. I served two three-year terms as District 3 Council rep, was off Council for two years because of term limits, and was elected mayor in May 2011. Serving on City Council has been one of the most rewarding and educational experiences of my life. On the whole, I have enjoyed serving, as it has provided me with the opportunity to really get to know the city and its citizens. The frustrations of serving in public office have, in my opinion, been well outweighed by the pleasures of serving the citizens of New Braunfels.
What’s your favorite thing to do on the weekend? Well, it’s always fun to go to the Downtown Farmers Market on Saturday morning, to explore historic Gruene or to visit Landa Park with my granddaughters. And if there happens to be a play at the Circle Arts Theatre or the Brauntex Performing Arts Theatre, that’s a great option.
What’s your favorite citywide event? My husband and I enjoy all the downtown events like Wassailfest in December and Wine and Sangerfest in May, but our favorite citywide event has to be Wurstfest. We both love to dance, so we especially enjoy all the music at Wurstfest. It’s also a great place to visit with friends as we stroll through the grounds sampling the wide variety of food and beverages available.
What’s the best thing about living here? New Braunfels is a wonderful place to live because we work to keep that small-town feeling, that part of being a community, even though we have grown to over 60,000. Also, we have a historic yet vibrant downtown and two beautiful rivers, not to mention lots of great restaurants.
How did you come to live here? When my husband and I were married in 1983, he was already living here, so I moved here from San Antonio.
What do you think people don’t know about New Braunfels that they should? People should know that New Braunfels is one of the “volunteeringest” towns I’ve ever seen. It’s the volunteers that make New Braunfels truly great.
Tell us about yourself. Although I’m not a native Texan, I’ve been in Texas since 1959, so I feel like a Texan, and I drop my “gs” and say “y’all.” I graduated from Texas State University in 1993 with a degree in finance and worked as a sales rep for Honeywell for 11 years before moving to New Braunfels in 1983 when my husband, Vladimir, and I were married. We were partners in business as well, operating a real estate appraisal business together for 21 years before retiring in 2005. We have a blended family with his four and my two, all of whom are grown and gone from home. And we’ve been blessed with seven grandchildren, ages 22 to 10. We love to travel, which is a good thing since our family is scattered all over the country. When I’m not busy being mayor, I enjoy gardening, reading mysteries, cooking, doing jigsaw puzzles and traveling. Cruising and extended driving trips top my list for travel options, although I’d never turn down a quick weekend trip. Unfortunately, I’m term-limited and won’t be able to run for mayor next May, when my term is up. I’ll surely miss serving on City Council and working with all the great folks at City Hall, but I look forward to having more time to devote to other activities.
Mary Jane Nalley
Principal, Patrick S. Molak Corp.
and Gruene Texas LLC
Do you own your own business? Yes, for 36 years now.
How did you get started, and what makes Gruene so special? It all started when a friend asked me to help him in his new business endeavor. The Gruene Historic District is special to me because it represents the entrepreneurial spirit — from its earliest beginnings with H.D. Gruene, its revitalization in the 1970s, the expansion in the ‘80s, ‘90s and the turn of this century. Gruene is an authentic part of early Texas history that brings so much pleasure to so many people, and people create many memories here. I hear stories today from 30-year-olds who say their parents began bringing them here when they were toddlers, and they continued to come throughout the years, even after they went to college. Now those same kids are coming with their children.
I think Gruene resonates with so many people because it still is today what it was when it was founded — a location for commerce and socialization and a place where people could connect. People feel close to nature here because of Gruene’s location on the Guadalupe River, as people are naturally drawn to water. Additionally, the early Texas architecture has the effect of taking people back in time, when life was not so filled with choices and distractions.
Gruene Historic District has grown and changed since Pat Molak and I came in the mid-70s. All the buildings have been revitalized and adapted for reuse, much landscaping has been done to enhance the surroundings, and a lot of development has encroached on the boundaries of the district. On our properties in particular, much green space has been saved to help retain the original and natural space in the district.
Why is New Braunfels a good fit for your business? New Braunfels is steeped in heritage and thus the community treasures the historic setting. New Braunfels has a long history of being a visitor destination, and our businesses are attractive to that market. The location on the I-35 corridor makes it very accessible.
What’s your favorite thing to do on a New Braunfels weekend? I like to “people watch” in Gruene Historic District or go to a live show at Gruene Hall.
What’s your favorite holiday or citywide event? I love Thanksgiving because it is so quiet, and New Braunfels’ natural beauty shines through. The only thing that happens in Gruene on Thanksgiving Day is the 5K Turkey Trot. Once that is over, it is a really great day to visit Gruene because the essence that attracts people to the district is so apparent when the businesses are all closed and the street is so quiet.
What’s the best thing about living here? The area’s natural beauty, small-town feeling and proximity to two large metro areas.
What do you think people don’t know about Gruene that they should? Chip Kaufman was a student at UT in the early ‘70s and also worked for the Texas Historical Commission. He is the man responsible for saving the historic district of Gruene from being torn down and getting it placed on the National Register for Historic Places as a district in 1975. Chip worked with the owners at that time to sell off the buildings for new commercial use. Pat Molak was among the first buyers of the historic buildings when he bought Gruene Hall.
Tell us about yourself. I am from San Antonio and graduated from Texas A&I in Kingsville with a degree in finance. I came to Gruene just a couple of years after graduating to work in our business managing the Gristmill Restaurant. I live about six minutes from Gruene, and I have a home in Austin, too, where I enjoy all Austin has to offer in food, music, events and natural beauty. One of my favorite things is hearing live music in smaller venues, so I go to Gruene Hall or Austin often to hear music. I also like to take a turn now and then on the dance floor, and I might do so on a Two Tons Tuesday at Gruene Hall or at The Continental Club or The Broken Spoke, which are my favorites in Austin. I am single and have an 8-year old Blue Lacy dog, which seems fitting, as Lacy dogs are the state dog of Texas. His name is Blu. I like to fly-fish, particularly in salt water, hike in special places and enjoy adventures and travel. I also like to read. I enjoy nonfiction primarily and especially like to read about pre-eminent thinkers in their areas of specialty as solutions to world problems.
New Braunfels Convention and
Visitors Bureau director
Years in this career? 17 years in the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and over 30 in travel/tourism.
How did you get started? It all began when I was a lifeguard at the Tube Chute and a junior park ranger, but then I moved on to waiting tables at the famous Bavarian Village, and I also did a stint in the first few years of Schlitterbahn. Eventually I moved on to travel school and studied organizational management at the University of San Diego. I recently completed my Certified Destination Management Executive program with Destination Marketing Association International and Purdue University.
Why is New Braunfels a good fit for you? There is no place else I’d rather live, play, work or raise a family. When I was in fourth grade, we had a career day, and I wrote that I would be in travel or advertising. Now, what do you know? I am in both. This community gave me the opportunities to grow, make mistakes, improve and thrive.
What’s your favorite thing to do on the weekend? I like to float, swim and picnic. I grew up in the water for leisure and for sport with one of the oldest continually operating aquatic clubs in the southern United States. You might say it was inevitable that I would land a job that had to do with water and travel since I traveled all over the world with competitive swimming. My husband once talked about moving, and I said I need crystal-clear water two blocks from my house that stays at 73 degrees year round. Let me know if you find that anywhere else.
What’s your favorite citywide event? Every year at Wurstfest and Christmas, my mom and my aunt work inside the Wursthalle selling drink tickets. This year was well past their 40th year in the same location. They dress in German costume every day of the festival, at their own expense. We have a tradition of going “whole hog” in my family, especially when not required — that makes it more fun and more personal.
What’s the best thing about living here? Many of my classmates are now leaders in the community and are investing their talents, time, money and efforts into making sure we maintain our Old World charm while thriving economically. That type of generational investment certainly grounds the community in a way most wouldn’t think about. Being an adult in the town that you grew up in means you are willing to stand the test of time, willing to be held accountable by your teachers, in the grocery store, at the ball field, etc. Knowing that many of your decisions and efforts will build on the critical layers of success that came before you while adding to that foundation for future generations is truly humbling.
How did you come to live here? My dad’s company moved him here in the early ‘60s. A quote I read during a recent project reminded me of how easy it can be to find your home in this community: “He who does not want to work should not undertake the trip, but who wants to work and will work, will fit in very well and make good progress.” (Nicholas and Anton Riedel, May 11, 1845). I believe that still holds true. Here we have the most non-profit organizations per capita in Texas. Even if you don’t hold a job, work applies to volunteerism, and of that, we have plenty, too.
What do you think people don’t know about New Braunfels that they should? They may not realize that at the core of the fun are the community and the culture. We all go to eat at the same places, play at the same places and have fun at the same places as a visitor. Don’t be shy; get the scoop! Oh, and by the time you leave, you will know a good bit of another foreign language — if you can say Wurstfest, Gruene, New Braunfels, Schlitterbahn, Naegelin’s and Weihnachtsmarkt, you are well on your way to knowing some German.
Tell us about yourself. I am married to Lester Young, and we have a 14-year-old daughter, Cailey. We are the crazy people with three dogs, all living in a small house just around the corner from my mother, Gene. I have been a Rotarian for over 25 years, I’m involved in United Way, I’ve taught thousands of children to swim, and I’ve certified hundreds of lifeguards in Comal County. We live a few blocks from the river, the golf course, the park and downtown. We swim, hunt, play volleyball and enjoy going to the beach or just about anywhere — we still love travel.
Executive Director, Wurstfest
Association of New Braunfels
How did you get involved in your work with Wurstfest? I worked at the New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce in 1976. At the time, the Chamber was contracted to handle all administrative work for the Wurstfest Association. The festival began as a one-day salute to a locally produced product: sausage. Organizers hoped it would draw people to the area — little did they know how big it would one day become. My introduction to the festival came on Halloween when I was maybe 8 or 9 years old. Wurstfest was taking place on the east side of the downtown plaza, and my family visited a haunted house on the west side of the plaza. We danced to the polka music that we heard coming from across the plaza while we stood in line waiting to have the daylights scared out of us. When I went to work at the Chamber, I was introduced to the operations side of the festival organization. Then in 1986, when the Wurstfest Association decided to employ its own staff, I happened to be in the right place at the right time and was invited to apply for the position I hold today. I’ve had this career for 28-plus years.
Tell us about Wurstfest. Wurstfest is a fall festival, and German immigrants settled New Braunfels in 1845, so we promote the festival as the “Texas version of Munich’s Oktoberfest.”
What’s your favorite thing to do in New Braunfels on a weekend? I enjoy going to Gruene, and I like the food, the music, the shopping and the people.
Besides Wurstfest, what’s your favorite holiday or city-wide event? Christmas: Our festival wraps up in early to mid-November, and then I am ready for some Christmas music. New Braunfels celebrates the Christmas season with some great events.
What’s the best thing about living in New Braunfels and how did you come to live here? The best things are my family, friends and the memories we’ve made here together. My parents chose to settle down in New Braunfels when my older sister was about to start school. Wasn’t I lucky?
Tell us a little about yourself. I’ve been married to a New Braunfels native for 40 years, and we have two grown sons. We live on 40-plus acres in the Texas Hill Country, where we breed commercial cattle. I enjoy the beautiful night sky in the country, a drive through the pasture to check out newborn calves, and watching the thousands of people who come to Wurstfest every year to have a good time. Knowing I’ve had a small part in providing the opportunity for them to enjoy themselves and each other at Wurstfest gives me a good reason to be happy.