Joel Walker

Joel walker. text lc local resident and nasa director of center operations.

How long have you lived in League City?

I have lived in League City for about 35 years. I grew up in Tennessee and I started working with NASA when I was in college at the Kennedy Space Center. I worked there for four years and then moved to the D.C. area for a couple of years then ended up in League City.

Have you watched League City grow since you first moved here?

Yes, it has grown tremendously. What I like about League City is all the new things coming in to help it grow.

What do you do at NASA?

I am the Director of Center Operations. This includes all the buildings, infrastructure, security, logistics, and environmental factors. The easiest way to describe my job is that I’m kind of like the City Manager of NASA. I’m the first one who gets the late-night calls to solve a problem or fix something that’s broken.

You’ve conceptualized some unique creative office spaces on the NASA campus, can you tell us about that process?

The bulk of the NASA main campus was built in the early 60s and has looked the same for a long time. We wanted to think outside of the box when it came to innovation and creativity, without relying on normal, dull internal offices because we believed that the right internal and external environment could change how you think. For me, the collaboration spaces were a way of taking us from “we have a normal office” or “we have a normal conference room” to something that’s completely different and can be a little shocking to you, make you a bit uncomfortable, and make you think and interact differently.

Nasa office with monitors displaying vacation destinations.
Half circle chairs and a coffee table.

Describe the creative office spaces for us.

So, we have two or three of these creative co-working spaces now. It took about six months in total to build them. For the main building, it was originally a 5,000 square-foot metal building. We hired a local Houston muralist to paint the outside walls into a colorful space mural. Inside, the walls are all different colors—greens, reds, and blues. In one room, we provided tables that work as whiteboards so people can easily write on them. There are walls with huge, mounted TV screens to use as computers. Furniture-wise, we have all different kinds of modern furniture, such as round, red bubble chairs and an orange couch that we call the French Fry because of its wavy shape. We’ve sprinkled NASA artifacts throughout the spaces to remind people that we’re still at NASA. One of the other buildings has the excess of an old engine displayed. We took an old Airstream vehicle that supported a space shuttle program and created a miniature conference room from it. There’s even a glass garage door that we close to use for conferences or that we keep open for work parties.

Outside of nasa metal building decorated with cartoon graphics of space, a shuttle, astronaut & sun

What are your thoughts on art initiatives and public art?

Art in general is a great thing for the city. It’s meant to make things unique and interesting. You can have the same thing that everybody else has, or you can have humor, color, all these things that you are able to dress up with the power of art. When League City started the Public Art Initiative, I thought that it was fantastic. It showed that the City was taking that next step to making it more vibrant and interesting.

Are you an artist?

Yeah, I dabble in art. My kids are the real artists in the family. Since I paid for their college, they’re required to teach me art techniques. I’ve found that I draw what I interpret more so than being realistic. My kids and I had some of our art featured in the October Birding Gallery over at the Civic Center. The piece I submitted was an ink and watercolor piece. I’m also part of this Facebook group called Urban Sketchers Houston that meet up at different locations to sketch together as a group. It’s incredible seeing the different depictions of the same scene when we all finish sketching.

What do you enjoy the most about League City?

I like the fact that it’s growing. There are new people all the time. It’s very diverse and something new is popping up all the time.

Where is your favorite place to spend time in League City?

I like going to any park, marina, or place that I can relax and sketch for a while.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

I watched the first space shuttle launch at Kennedy Space Center, and I watched the last mission land from Mission Control, which I thought was a nice book-it-and-done-it fun fact.

What do you hope to see in the future for League City?

I would love to see more art displays and galleries, more murals to see as you drive through town. The murals that are being painted on the traffic boxes are already an amazing addition to this. I’d also love to see a Trader Joe’s.

How would you describe League City in one word?