Born in Arkansas, Chris has called Denton home almost continuously since age 1. The third of four brothers, he was reared mostly by his mother. Chris attended Newton Rayzor Elementary and Strickland Junior High School and was graduated from Denton High School in 1979.
Chris’ family experienced significant economic challenges during his childhood. At one point the family lived in a station wagon at a nearby lake. To help the family with living expenses and pay for college expenses, Chris worked at the Sonic Drive-In throughout high school and college, with a short stint working at McDonald’s. His mother’s perseverance and the benevolence of community members taught Watts never to stop working for good. He credits his drive and success to these early lessons.
In 1983, Chris was graduated cum laude from then-North Texas State University with a Bachelor of Science degree, with a major in computer science and minor in business economics. He then worked for seven years as a computer programmer and analyst at Computer Language Research in Carrollton. During this time, Chris began investing in real estate.
Career changes and challenges
In 1989, Chris left computer programming to make real estate his full-time occupation. He established a real estate investment company and began building, buying and rehabilitating single- and multifamily properties. At the same time, he developed a mentoring program to help individuals learn how to build and manage real estate investment portfolios.
In 1992, Chris completed a Master of Education degree in counseling and student services at the University of North Texas.
In 1997, Chris enrolled in Texas Wesleyan University School of Law, now Texas A&M University School of Law. Chris had long wanted to attend law school, but was unable to do so upon graduation in 1983 due to economic constraints. Completing law school allowed him to achieve an important personal goal while expanding his skill set.
Negotiation teams coach
During his second year of law school, Chris was chosen for the school’s American Bar Association (ABA) student negotiation team; his team qualified for the ABA national competition. After graduation in 2000, Chris continued to coach negotiation teams as a volunteer.
Eleven years later, Chris was invited to become an adjunct professor at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law. Under his guidance, during the last 10 years, student negotiating teams advanced to the national competition seven times and won two national championships, in 2011 and 2013.
Representing children for CASA
In 1998, Chris began serving as a volunteer for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Denton County. In this capacity, he advocated for children from broken homes and made recommendations to the court about custody and other crucial matters. He soon was appointed to the CASA Board of Directors, where he served for seven years, including one term as president.
In 2000, at the age of 40, Chris completed his law degree, passed the bar exam, and was licensed by the State of Texas. Chris hung out his own shingle, specializing in real estate law, including consumer law and property tax issues, while continuing to manage his real estate portfolio. Today, however, he manages his portfolio almost exclusively.
City Council member
Believing he could provide the leadership needed to resolve the property maintenance issue that surfaced in 2006, Chris filed to run for the Denton City Council District 4 seat in 2007 and was re-elected in 2009 and 2011.
In 2014, Chris ran for mayor and was elected with 61% of the vote. He ran without opposition in 2016 and was elected with 71% of the vote in 2018.
While a district Council member, Chris chaired two Council committees, the Committee on Property Maintenance and the Audit Finance Committee. In addition, he served on the Council Hotel Occupancy Tax Committee, Mobility Committee and Committee on the Environment. He also served as a Council representative on the Convention & Visitor’s Bureau Advisory Committee, a division of the Denton Chamber of Commerce.
Texas Municipal Power Agency
Denton, Bryan, Garland and Greenville, member cities of the Texas Municipal Power Agency (TMPA), collectively own a power production facility in Grimes County, together with electric transmission assets. In 2009, the Denton City Council appointed Chris to represent the City on the TMPA board, and he continues to serve on the board today.
Chris quickly assumed leadership roles, first as Secretary, then as Vice-President. He was elected board President in 2012 and 2013.
Denton County Transportation Authority
As mayor, Chris advocated for prudent use of sales tax dollars to improve the efficiency and convenience of public transportation. The result was new legislation that reconfigured the board to better enable the agency to respond to changing community needs. The board changed from 14 members to 5, with additional non-voting members. Chris was appointed as the City of Denton representative to the Denton County Transportation Authority board in 2019.
Public, community service and recognitions
- U.S. Conference of Mayors, Energy Committee for Public Power, vice chair
- Denton County Homeless Leadership Team, inaugural chair
- Texas Homeless Network, recipient, Outstanding Community Service Award, 2017
- Denton Community Health Clinic, Community Health Champion Award, 2016
- Denton Kiwanis Club
- Health Services of North Texas, board member
- United Way Bank On Denton, committee member
- Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Denton County, Board Member of the Year