Chris Reed was a chief of police, a city manager, a school district trustee, a coach, a referee and a mixed martial artist.
But that extensive list of job titles Reed, 50, has held over the years doesn’t begin to explain what he has meant to county residents and those who called him a friend.
“Whenever I found out, I just said that that can’t be,” said Aimee Cristiano, a longtime family friend. “He was a real-life superhero. He loved with his whole heart.”
Reed died after a passing vessel Friday caused a wake that hit his boat near the Texas City dike, knocking him overboard, officials said. Investigators Monday still weren’t sure of the exact series of events that led to his death, said John “D.J.” Florence, chief investigator for the medical examiner’s office.
But over the course of more than 40 hours, volunteers and law enforcement officers with more than 20 different organizations searched more than 650 nautical miles of water to find Reed, officials said.
“I think it says something that the mayor of Clear Lake Shores was one of the ones out on a rescue boat assisting in the search,” Kemah Mayor Terri Gale said.
“There were people from every organization — Baytown, Harris County, Pasadena, all the folks in the region. This guy was an unbelievably good connector of people.
“He knew people everywhere and was never a stranger. And the breadth of people he knew was reflected in the number of organizations that helped in the search.”
Reed has been the chief of police in Kemah since October 2016, when he was brought on in an interim basis until receiving the full-time position in January 2018.
“No matter what, Chris was always in a good mood and had a way of filling up the room with enthusiasm and positive energy,” Kemah City Manager Wendy Ellis said. “He brought that to every aspect of the team dynamic.”
He also was elected to the Clear Creek Independent School District Board of Trustees in 2017.
“I was really proud when Chris stepped up and got himself on the Clear Creek board,” League City Mayor Pat Hallisey said. “He supported the last bond issue and had influence all around the lake. He was not a perfect public official, but he was a good one.
“He loved kids, and I think at the end of the day, that’s what people ought to remember — the fact that he did the best he could everywhere he went and that when he left, he left most places in better shape than when he got there.”
Before arriving in Kemah, Reed served as League City’s assistant police chief before accepting a promotion to city administrator. He subsequently served as Nassau Bay’s city manager until 2016, when he launched a consulting firm.
He began with the League City Police Department in 1991, working his way up to assistant chief before moving on to Nassau Bay, but not before being shot while on duty in 1993. He was subsequently awarded the Law Enforcement Purple Heart.
“I’m always amazed by people who recover from events like that,” Hallisey said. “But if you ever asked Chris about it, he’d just say he was doing his job.”
When not at work, Reed was active in the mixed martial arts scene as both a referee and a competitor, which is where Patricia Shyan met him, she said.
“He kept in touch and always encouraged me to pursue my career goals of being an administrator in schools,” Shyan said. “I always kept in touch with him about the status of my certification. He was just so encouraging to push me and even gave me hope that maybe one day I could be an administrator in Clear Creek.”
Many of those that spoke out about Reed emphasized his help and willingness to encourage them.
“He was extremely generous with his time and knowledge,” said Emily Krone, a League City attorney and friend of Reed’s. “He would spend as much time with me as I wanted or needed so that I could pick his brain. He was happy to impart tales of his experience on anyone, no matter how big or small they were.”
Reed’s laugh was infectious, Gale said.
“When you saw Chris, you always got a big smile, good ideas and a good laugh,” Gale said. “I enjoyed every encounter, even those on more serious topics. He’s done a tremendous job not only leading the police department, but helping everyone understand how to think on a broader level and how to achieve a higher level of vision. I’ll also tell you he was just a great friend to our city administrator, public works director, really the whole staff. He was a friend to all.”
Reed and his wife, Jana, have been married for more than 28 years and are parents of two daughters and a son.
“People identify with certain breeds of dog, I’ve always identified with boxers because they are derpy, huge, goofy little clowns that are also great with kids, good nannies, protective and great with families,” Cristiano said. “And I think it’s worth noting that Chris always had boxers.”
When a fellow fighter sustained a brain injury, Reed was one of the people who led fundraising efforts to help him out, Cristiano said.
“He was a real life superhero,” she said. “I know he was superhero to his kids.”