Deretchin Elementary School is a school for the community, promoting a safe and nurturing learning environment while developing the whole child and encouraging excellence in all we do.
Who is Joel Deretchin?
For more than 30 years, Deretchin worked at The Woodlands Development Company as director of governmental relations before his retirement in July 2010. Although his primary job was to manage the relationship between The Woodlands and both the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and state and local entities, his role extended further.
Deretchin was instrumental in the planning and development of 17 schools in The Woodlands, helped grow the area parks from two to more than 100 when he retired and helped provide services to residents from trash to public safety. He also had a hand in the formation of The Woodlands current form of governance as it evolved from community associations to a township.
Deretchin served as president of The Woodlands Community Association while also serving on The Woodlands Association and The Woodlands Commercial Owner’s Association.
“My work with the development company was a 24/7 requirement,” he said. “I attended meetings three to four nights a week and on weekends because I personally wanted to be engaged with the community. I felt that part of my job was to be a bridge between the development company and the community.”
Deretchin, 69, was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., before attending Brooklyn College. He received his master’s degree in public administration in 1968 from the University of Minnesota, where he began taking courses in urban planning.
A job for a new community in Ohio, Newfields, brought Deretchin to work for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, where he learned of a new development called The Woodlands and met with its developers. He was offered a job and moved to the fledgling community on March 1, 1977 with his 4-year-old daughter Jessica and wife, Louise. Louise gave birth to their second daughter, Robin, two weeks after moving.
“For anybody in urban planning or community development, that was a chance of a lifetime, because The Woodlands was the most broad-based, far-reaching development conceived at the time,” he said.
In watching The Woodlands grow from 1,700 people in 1977 to more than 100,000 when he retired, Deretchin said he had the privilege of working with talented individuals, including George Mitchell, who he said set the standard.
“I worked with them for 33 years, and these folks were my family,” Deretchin said. “It’s such an incredible group of people that it would be hard to replicate The Woodlands without those kinds of people who really, really cared about what they were doing.”
Although retired, Deretchin still works as a consultant for the Development Company, which he said makes up about 40 percent of his time. He vacations in New Mexico over the summer, but he said he still loves living in The Woodlands.
“I’m as excited about what The Woodlands has become as anyone,” Deretchin said. “I think being a part of the team that developed The Woodlands was a real privilege, and I enjoy living there as much as anybody could possibly enjoy living there.”