I was born right up the road in Weatherford and lived, from the day I left that hospital until I graduated high school, in Perrin which is about halfway between Jacksboro and Mineral Wells.
Perrin was and remains a small town and because it did not have many stores or shopping, most residents either did their shopping in Jacksboro or Mineral Wells. My family always felt a special connection to Mineral Wells.
We came here to shop, see movies, look at Christmas lights, and do our trick-or-treating on Halloween. Those experiences led me to see Mineral Wells as this big, shiny city filled with opportunities.
As a young teacher working nearby, a friend encouraged me to apply for a Spanish teaching job at Mineral Wells High School, which I did. The day I entered the brand-new Mineral Wells High School to interview for that job still resonates with me.
Walking through the main entrance into that large space with those tall ceilings, I had never seen anything like that before, and I was just awestruck. I remember wondering if I was good enough to work in such a special place.
Now reflecting on my career, I kind of pinch myself wondering how this little country boy had the amazing opportunity to go from a young boy enthralled by Christmas lights to the superintendent of schools in what I consider my hometown. But that is what Mineral Wells has always meant to me – opportunity.
Mineral Wells has a great history and an even greater promise. Located next to state parks, the Brazos River, and Possum Kingdom Lake, we have bike trails, rock climbing, and a natural beauty that sets us apart from most other places.
In the 1920’s Mineral Wells was famous nationally because of the “healing waters” in our ground. We exported crazy water crystals all over the country. The Baker Hotel became a national resort destination and celebrities, including Judy Garland, Ronald Reagan, and many others, came to our city.
We even had a welcome sign on the mountain like the famous Hollywood sign. We were basically Las Vegas before Las Vegas existed, and our economy was booming.
Unfortunately, over time, the healing water tourism receded, yet Mineral Wells continued to thrive as a significant military town. Camp Wolters was an army training camp from 1925 – 1946. During WW II, Camp Wolters was the largest infantry replacement training center in the United States and served as a German POW camp.
Later, Camp Wolters became Fort Wolters and transitioned again as the primary helicopter training center for thousands of men during the Vietnam conflict. At times there were 15,000+ soldiers stationed here and over time Mineral Wells had developed the infrastructure and businesses to support people at the base and their families.
Although the base was deactivated in 1973, we will forever recognize many of America’s most decorated soldiers, including Medal of Honor awardees, who received their training here, and we honor and remember them with monuments dedicated to their service and sacrifice.
Obviously, the base closing had harmful ripple effects on our community. Many of the businesses that existed to serve the soldiers struggled and eventually closed, and our beautiful city entered a season of struggle.
But Mineral Wells is filled with fighters, people who simply refused to accept those struggles, and they intensified their efforts to remake Mineral Wells again.
When I had the opportunity to apply and interview to be Mineral Wells ISD’s superintendent, I jumped at the opportunity. I saw a city full of determined people putting in their efforts, their hopes and dreams, and their sweat equity into bringing this town back. I wanted to be a part of that by grabbing ahold of that rope and pulling right alongside those visionary thinkers.
As a superintendent, I recognize there is a more practical, pragmatic responsibility we have as a school system, and that is to be a part of our town’s economic development. When I interviewed with our amazing Board of Trustees, they made their expectations crystal clear. My marching order from day one was to be heavily involved with Envision Mineral Wells
Envision Mineral Wells is a group of community leaders, businesswomen and men, faith leaders, and taxpayers – all citizens – who have a redevelopment vision of what our city can be and have rolled up their sleeves to make those positive things happen.
Being involved in Envision Mineral Wells, the Economic Development Board, and the Chamber of Commerce provides a chance to hear conversations about needs and opportunities where our school district and our 500+ dedicated employees can help.
There are many opportunities for us to say yes. For example, as we add more hotels to our city, the district can add more qualified workers by adding hospitality-related learning to our career and technology education programs. When community leaders saw opportunities arising at the Mineral Wells Regional Airport within the emerging Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) industry, MWISD sought a grant partnership with a consortium including Fort Worth ISD and launched a program allowing students to earn their FAS drone pilot’s license.
For sure, progress is hard, and nothing comes easy. During the seven years I have served the MWISD community as superintendent, this team has worked very hard, just consistently chipping away every day to do our part to bring this redevelopment vision to life.
It is very exciting to be here right now and see what's going on, the momentum gaining traction. We are nearing the tipping point where everybody sees Mineral Wells the way those of us who live here see it. The sky is the limit for our hometown.
Dr. John Kuhn, Superintendent of Schools
Mineral Wells Independent School District
906 S.W. 5th Avenue
Mineral Wells, Texas 76067
Phone: (940) 325-6404 ext. 5103
Fax No.: (940) 328-6378