Greg Hughes is a busy man.
An engineer by trade, Hughes is well-known by 109 residents near TCU for his commitment to the community and his capacity to understand complex people and policies.
At Lockheed Martin, Hughes oversees the engineers who write instruction manuals for new aircraft. He has worked on the F-35 and F-16 fighters, the V-22 Osprey, the Model 430 helicopter and the B1-B bomber.
The manuals range from 40 to 200 pages in length and explain to those who assemble and maintain the aircraft how to install, inspect and/or operate different systems.
He served on the executive committee of The T that expanded Trinity Railway Express service into Fort Worth and has debated the best of them at city council meetings on responsible development.
He presided over the University Alliance of Neighborhoods that fought TCU’s proposed on-campus gas well and won. He led an opposition group to the Highway 121 project that won some battles but lost the war. He is a long-distance cyclist, a Habitat for Humanity volunteer, a husband, a father, a grandfather and a race car driver.
Hughes said he wouldn’t call himself an activist because he doesn’t go around looking for a fight, but there are issues that come up from time to time that he said he feels compelled to contribute to.
“When you have some knowledge about something and you can use that to help others I think it’s incumbent upon people to bring that to the community,” he said.
Charlie Murphy worked with Hughes at the Fort Worth Coalition for a Reformed Drilling Ordinance as the group pushed City Hall to take a closer look at policies on natural gas production inside the city.
“I found him to be very dedicated, focused and fair-minded,” Murphy said. “It seems to me that he has a desire to serve the community — not just in words, but in action.”
It is Hughes’ analytical nature and experience with nuclear power that led him to have serious reservations about the planning and oversight of drilling operations in the city.
“My concerns about the way the industry is choosing to rush in and develop the gas come from my background as an engineer,” he said. “What we do is look at every aspect of a problem, every possibility.”
Many of the industries in which Hughes has worked focused intensely on safety from the ground up. He has seen this in nuclear power, rail cars, semi trucks and aircraft, but he said he has not seen it in urban drilling.
“There isn’t enough going into safety and research and they just keep going,” he said. “People don’t seem to realize how many wells there are going to be and how much pipeline they will require when they are done.”
Close to Home
His research into the practice of urban drilling and his TCU connection made him a natural choice to lead the alliance of neighborhood associations around the university who rose up in opposition to the well site that was planned for the parking lot near the stadium last year.
Hughes said Chesapeake withdrew its application under public pressure, but as time went on he became increasingly more frustrated with the city.
“When they allowed a gas well to be drilled in Greenwood Cemetery and the traffic from that well routed out through a restricted park road, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he said. “A cemetery and a park—and they’re not sacred?” he said. “I just don’t think I share values with people who make decisions like that.”
His interest in another city issue was also piqued in the 109. Driving home on University Drive, Hughes was handed a postcard at a stoplight. The questions about destination and origin made him curious and when he arrived home he began investigating.
“It’s kind of sad that I was reading preliminary reports for road projects in my spare time, but it was interesting,” he said. “And the most interesting thing was that it didn’t look like it was worth building.”
Hughes wrote an opinion column about the Highway 121 project in The Star-Telegram and was contacted by a group that had successfully sued TxDOT for what he called wasteful spending on another project. Their encouragement planted a seed that grew into the Fort Worth Alliance for Responsible Development.
As leader of that organization, Hughes participated in a debate against pro-highway lobbyists led by Congresswoman Kay Granger.
“It was tough competition but it was fun, and if you are going to debate you may as well do it with the best,” he said.
In the end, the group was not able to get the project scrapped as they had hoped, but they were able to get rid of some of the sections around downtown Fort Worth and other parts built as a parkway with some aesthetic appeal and thoughtful design elements.
“It’s a shame though really because it is going to leave the Fort Worth Mixmaster completely overloaded with traffic,” he said. “It’s an unnecessary project and the cost has grown to $1.8 billion, 75 percent of which is taxpayer funded.”
The Hugheses have made it a habit to give back to the community as frequently as they can.
When Mary Kay is not busy working as a senior loan officer at a private firm in the city and serving as president of the Fort Worth Mortgage Bankers Association of Fort Worth, she is often volunteering as a Master Gardener around the city or cooking up crockpots full of food for the workers at her husband’s Habitat for Humanity build.
“I think its important to give back because of all the doors that have opened for me since I’ve been here,” she said. “Working with Historic Fort Worth, working on the gardens – all of those things are what makes this city special. It’s just in my nature to want to be a part of that.”
Greg said one of his greatest contributions to the city came during his work on the executive board of The T. During his four years there, the Trinity Railway Express was expanded by four stations, including the two in downtown Fort Worth.
“There were so many different things going on and that was an instance where my MBA really gave me the insight I needed to solve complex problems on the business end,” he said. “We were looking at everything from imminent domain and cleaning up polluted land to how to make a hole through a building.”
Rocky Deutscher, who has shared a neighborhood with the Hugheses for the last 20 years said Greg brings a lot to the civic dialogue in the city because he is knowledgeable and has the ability to get groups to work together even when they might not necessarily agree.
“I tend to be a lot more confrontational when I see something I think is wrong, but Greg takes a more conciliatory approach,” she said. “He is good with people and this community has benefitted immensely from him being a part of it.”
Just for fun
One of the hats Hughes most likes to wear is actually a helmet. As a high-performance racing instructor, he earns track time for his 250-horsepower, five-liter-engine 1989 Camaro racecar.
High-performance tracks involve maneuvering around obstacles at speeds of up to 130 mph, Hughes said.
“It sounds more dangerous than it is.” he said. “I’ve never wrecked. I’ve spun out a few times and slid off the track, but never wrecked into another car.”
Mary Kay said as long as she has known him, her husband has been drawn to adrenaline, and she does worry sometimes that he could have a serious accident.
“Before it was black diamond skiing, which are the most dangerous and advanced slopes,” she said. “He would fall off the side of the mountain, hurt himself and then be right back out there the next day.”
She said she supports her husband’s interests but she is not entirely wild about the racing.
“I’ve seen the car catch on fire, twice,” she said. “But it’s really important to him and we have made a lot of good friends who race, so it’s something you just have to respect, from the safety aspect down to the monetary investment.”
When off the track, Hughes is often on the trails. An avid bicyclist for more than 20 years, Hughes spends a lot of time on the Trinity Trails and it is not uncommon for him to ride 40 to 50 miles at a time. He has cycled a Hotter ‘n Hell 100 out of Wichita Falls. The event is so named because the 100-mile endurance run takes place in August when the Texas heat is most extreme.
Four times Hughes has cycled the MS-150, a two-day 150-mile trek to raise money for multiple sclerosis.
“After the first time I did one of those 150s I realized I should have trained a little harder,” he said. “I was in absolute agony afterward.”
More frequently these days he does a 20 to 30 mile ride in about 90 minutes and hits the gym three times each week to stay in shape.
The couple has a passion for international travel and recent years have brought them from Croatia to Canada, Hungary and England.
“Greg is a lot more into exotic travel than I am,” Mary Kay said. “But I never turn down a trip.”
She is looking forward to their next vacation, a trip to visit close friends who are living in Turkey.
Hughes said he doesn’t really have a grand master plan for the future, but he tries to stay ready for the next big thing and he plans to stay active in city development.
“It reminds me of Abraham Lincoln. He used to read the encyclopedia every day so when the opportunity came to use that information he’d be ready,” he said. “So that’s what I do. I keep up with what’s going on in the city and why. I keep reading and learning so when an opportunity arises for me to make a difference, I’ll be prepared for that.”
He said he looks forward to more travel and living an active lifestyle both physically and mentally.
“I look forward to continuing to grow and experience new things,” he said. “You never know what is going to come around and what opportunities are waiting to be explored.”