Friday, November 4, 2011

I Am Running For Houston County Judge!

As a result of the recent resignation announcement by Houston County Judge Lonnie Hunt, I have decided to run for the office of Houston County Judge.

At this time, there are three candidates that have announced their candidacy for Houston County Judge- myself, Jesse Stephens and Frank Minton. I have a great deal of respect for both of these men, and want to go on record as saying that I am running for the office and not against either of them. I will run a clean campaign as I have each time I ran for Mayor.

I have been the Mayor of Crockett for seven terms, almost 13 years. Overall, it has been a very gratifying experience, and I have thoroughly enjoyed serving the citizens of Crockett. The City of Crockett has many great employees as well as a City Council that genuinely cares for this city. Now I want to take my same ideas, positive attitude and clear vision to the County, and continue my service to the residents in all of Houston County.

I have always believed that it is the responsibility of each of us to give back to the community in which you have been blessed to live and work. I enjoy public service and am passionate about seeing our part of East Texas grow and prosper. And I want you to know that if elected Houston County Judge, I will dedicate myself to the good of our entire county and to being a good steward to the taxpayers of Houston County.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

New Crockett Civic Center Storm Shelter Addition

Wow, that's a mouthful! Today, the City of Crockett had the dedication ceremony for the newly completed addition to the Crockett Civic Center. And for those of you that were in attendance, I don't have to tell you what a nice facility it is!

As a result of Hurricane Ike way back in 2008, the federal government designated a certain amount of funding to assist communities in doing two things: becoming better prepared for the effects of any storms in the future and repairing infrastructure that was damaged as a result of the storms.

As many of you know even though Hurricane Ike wasn't as severe, our city and county did reach out and shelter nearly 2,000 visitors from the Gulf Coast during Hurricane Rita in 2005. The Crockett Civic Center was a key facility in this effort and over the years, we have made efforts to improve the building in case we ever need it again for a storm shelter. The Civic Center has back up power generators, a shower and laundry facility as well as a commercial kitchen.

Under Hurricane Ike Round 1 Disaster Relief, the City applied for and received funding to construct a 3250 square foot addition to the Civic Center, to be used as a storm shelter in the future. If another hurricane forces folks from the Coast, we will be much better prepared to shelter those evacuees.

But in the meantime, the new addition can be used for meetings, receptions, luncheons, conferences and the like. The new addition is designed to be used as one large meeting room or divided with a partition into two smaller meeting rooms. It is a first class facility that I know will get a tremendous amount of use.

A very special thank you to Knox Furniture for helping to stage the new room with beautiful furnishings as well as donating two flat screen TVs in memory of H.B. and Dottie Knox. They are a great additions to the new foyer and will provide vital information in the case of another storm.

Thank you as well to all who attended and assisted with the ceremony. It was a real treat to have as special speakers Houston County Judge Lonnie Hunt, U. S. Congressman Kevin Brady and DETCOG Executive Director Walter Diggles. I think all will agree it was a great event and just one more reason why I love Crockett, Texas !

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

This Isn't Supposed To Happen This Close To Home!

Unfortunately, we now have the distinction of being a community, like so many others across this great state and nation, dramatically touched by wildfires. As of this morning, the 5000 plus acre Arbor Fire as it's being called, is contained but still not totally controlled. If you travelled around the loop last night, there was an eerie orange glow on the horizon east of Crockett, a reminder of the devastation and destruction that wildfires cause.

I want to say a special thank you to the firefighters, emergency responders, law enforcement and support teams involved in this huge effort. They've spent countless days and nights, in harm's way, doing their best to protect property and life. A tragic event of this magnitude boggles the mind when it comes to logistics, but methodically and without hesitation, firefighters and emergency personnel from our area as well as other cities and states, continue to battle this beast. And if I know them well enough, they won't quit until it is safely controlled.

There have been some that have lost homes, barns, equipment, farms and ranches. My heart goes out to you but I can assure you that we as a community will do our part to lend a helping hand to those of you in need. There's still work to be done, and there will be many opportunities to assist in the near future. Keep all involved in your prayers as we pray for rain and for the weather to cooperate.

Monday, August 1, 2011

One of My Favorite People

One of our first patients when we moved to Crockett and 'hung our shingle out' about 22 years ago was Mrs. Estella Brown. She was a fiery Christian lady who at the time, was the camp nurse for Frontier Camp. She talked a lot about God and the many ministries she was part of. She had a delightful smile and an infectious, can-do attitude.

Many years ago before we had children, she invited Amanda and I out to the camp for a visit. We didn't know many people in Crockett, so one evening we did just that. Mrs. Brown gave us a tour of the camp. She brought us back to her cabin, cranked up her hot plate and cooked us a delicious pancake supper. She played songs on the piano while we sang along and we ended the evening with a prayer. It was a very special evening and one I will never forget.

Well, she recently came by for a visit, having celebrated her 100th birthday last month. She is an inspiration to me and one of my heroes. If you know her, you know she loves the Lord and is not shy about wanting others to know Him as well.

Mrs. Brown, you are one-of-a-kind and a blessing to all who meet you. Thank you for being such a wonderful Godly example to all. You are one of my favorite people and I feel blessed to know you!

Friday, July 8, 2011

BBQ Friday!

A few months back, I blogged one Friday about burgers. Well, this Friday, I want to tell you about a place to get some great BBQ- Smitty's Bar-BQ to be exact. There are lots of good BBQ eateries in East Texas, and as many different flavors as there is ways to spell 'BBQ', but in my opinion Smitty's is one of the best.

Smitty's Bar-BQ is located on South Fourth Street (or Hwy. 19 South inside the Loop, it's one and the same). The building is as well seasoned as the delicious BBQ and has tons of character.

Speaking of character, when we first moved to Crockett until a few years ago, it was be owned and managed by a delightful lady, Mrs. Iva Smith. Mrs. Smith was as consistent as her BBQ. Here is some interesting history about Smitty's Bar-BQ I learned from Patsy Barney: Mrs. Iva's husband James A."Smitty" Smith started it with her help. He was very personable, he would go around to the tables and asked how the food was and so forth. That was 1984. Jesse Stephens bought it from his mother before she died and she kept running it until her grandson Darrell took over. In spite of the few changes over the years, the food has stayed consistently good.

The sliced beef sandwich, one of my faves, is made with a mountain of sliced brisket. The meat is tender and cooked to perfection. Add your fixins (pickles, onions, peppers) and choose from hot or mild sauce. Add a side of cole slaw (my favorite) or potato salad (my wife's favorite), grab a glass of their sweet tea, and you have yourself the perfect lunch.

But that's just the tip of the BBQ iceberg. You can't go wrong with Smitty's ribs, their sausage is to die for, and the BBQ baked potato is so good, you'll want to take the rest of the day off. The only thing on the menu I haven't tried is the BBQ frito pie, and because everything else is so good, I just haven't tried it yet.

Stop in Smitty's Bar-BQ on South Fourth Street for some sure 'nuff good BBQ. It's another of the many reasons why I Love Crockett, Texas!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Bit of a Rant

We're all due one every once in a while, so here goes. I was reading another periodical and it was a bunch of folks running down Crockett. The thread was full of comments like, "This town is going down the tubes", "This place is dead", "Crockett has nothing going for it", and on and on.

Well, that was enough for me to get a little defensive. After all, many of you are like me and do all you can to make this a great place to live and work. So, I thought I would list just a few of the positive things going on right here in our community-

  • We have a brand new vocational/technical college about to open to provide higher education opportunities right here in Crockett, Texas.

  • We have a huge highway improvement project going on on Loop 304 that will enhance traffic flow and make it a little safer for all of us when it's completed (I know, it's hard to be patient while it gets completed).

  • We are about to complete a brand new 3,000 square foot addition to the Crockett Civic Center that will provide much need conference/meeting rooms and additional storm shelter if and when the time comes. And thanks to the Crockett Garden Club, the landscaping in front of the Civic Center is looking great.

  • We have made numerous improvements to the Porth Ag Arena, such as new fans that help to cool the arena, as well as electrical upgrades that will help the concession stand to work smoother. And that's not to mention the awesome statue of Myrtis Dightman that was just unveiled that will help to bring tourists to our community.

  • There have been several homes sold recently in Crockett, which is always a good sign, and in case you haven't noticed, the natural gas activity in parts of Houston County have heated up again.

  • There are several new businesses about to relocate and or open right here in Crockett.
I guess it all boils down to how you want to look at things. You can choose to take a positive stance or a negative stance. Of course, there are always negative aspects to a community, and if you are looking for a perfect city, good luck finding it. In spite of things like the Crockett State School closing, let's stay positive and keep working together.

There, that should do it, thanks for allowing me to rant.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Local Official Participates in Congressman Barton's Mock Congress

This past weekend, your Crockett Mayor and about 150 other constituents from Congressman Joe Barton’s 6th District participated in a Mock United States Congress Event in Arlington. It was only the second time Congressman Barton has held such an event and the first time for me as the Mayor to participate. I have always been deeply interested in politics and the budget process, and this gave all of us a hands-on opportunity to actually ‘be’ members of Congress and work towards passing a budget. It was fascinating.

Each of us was assigned a different member of Congress, some Republicans and some Democrats. For the entire weekend, your job was to ‘play the part’ of the member of Congress, and vote as they would actually vote. We each wore large name placards that made it easy to identify who you were and what party you were affiliated with. The Democrats wore blue placards and the Republicans wore red. I was assigned to ‘play’ Oklahoma Republican Congressman Frank Lucas, Chairman of the Agriculture Committee. I had to give an opening statement to the committee just like they do in the real Congress. The Agriculture Committee met and heard real testimony from different groups representing actual agriculture issues in our state. Giving testimony at our Agriculture Committee hearing was a group from the Tarrant Area Food Bank as well as a 5th generation farmer from Hill County.

The following day, the Agriculture Committee had the task of determining just how much money to send to the Budget Committee. There was some honest debate and frank discussion but in the end, the Ag Committee passed to the Budget Committee a number of $17.2 billion in discretionary spending. President Obama’s proposed budget for agriculture was an estimated $27 billion. Keep in mind something I wasn’t aware of, the Agriculture portion is only one quarter of 1% of the entire federal budget. Other authorizing committees included Armed Services, Energy and Commerce, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Ways and Means. As well as the committee assignments, there was also the Budget Committee, Rules Committee and the important Appropriations Committee. Each committee submitted their respective budgets to the Budget Committee, who then passed it on to the Appropriations Committee for further review, eventually bringing three different budget versions to the House floor for debate.

Throughout the day, Congressman Barton and staff were there to assist in the process, but for the most part, the event was designed to mimic the actual Congressional process. Throughout the day, there were party caucuses where we met to strategize about the issues important to our party. You had to take breaks for lunch, etc. when you were finished with your committee assignments.

For those of you who are fans of WBAP radio station in Dallas, Mark Davis played the part of Speaker of the House John Boehner. He did an excellent job and kept us all in good humor through the entire process. In the end, just like as the current House sits, the Republicans had the majority and we actually passed the Budget, using the Congressman Paul Ryan Budget model.

I want to thank Congressman Barton for holding this event, and thank his staff, including Karla Carr, Congressman Barton’s District Assistant from here in Houston County. There is a good chance that due to redistricting, we will lose U.S. Congressman Joe Barton as our representative here in Houston County, and unfortunately, we will be losing one of the best. It was a great event and a great opportunity to see first hand how Washington politics works. The picture above is me wearing the red Congressman Lucas placard, Karla Carr, District Assistant to Congressman Barton from Houston County, and Congressman Joe Barton.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Let's Take Care of Our Trees

I don't have to tell you that we are in the midst of a severe period of dry weather here in our neck o' the woods (better known as a drought but that's such a dirty word I won't use it). And unfortunately, because we have seen a long term lack of moisture, along with everything else that grows outside, our trees in Crockett are suffering.

One of the things I love the most about our city is the number of beautiful old trees. Many of our trees have been here longer than some of us! Drive down any of our streets and you will see majestic oaks and tall pines. They are beautiful to look and at and provide wonderful shade for our hot summer days. But as healthy as our trees might appear, many are slowly dying due to the lack of rain.

So, although I'm no arborist, let me encourage you to water your trees. Now, I know what you're thinking-leave it up to the Mayor to tell people to water their trees because that way, the City makes more revenue from increased water sales. Actually, I pay the same water rates you pay and I'm doing my part to keep my trees alive .

So, let's not forget about our trees. Trees do better from prolonged, slow watering, such as with a soaker hose or a low set sprinkler. Our trees need moisture deep in the ground; because of evaporation, surface watering often times doesn't get the water where it needs to be. So, early morning and late evening slow watering is the best approach to giving our trees a drink.

Trees add value to your property and add value to our city. Let's not forget about our tall, leafy friends this summer. They are doing their part, let's do ours.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Crockett State School To Close

The Texas Youth Commission voted Friday, June 3, 2011 to close three of its State School facilities. As the meeting wore on, we all became painfully aware of what was about to happen. The Executive Director, Cherie Townsend, gave a detailed summary of each facility, and gave seven different closure scenarios. Crockett was on six of the seven scenarios. When Board Member Joseph Brown read the motion to close Crockett, it was as if someone had just sucked all the air out of the room. A second was made, and the vote was counted. In a matter of a few seconds, all of the time, effort, prayers, reports, presentations, everything, just went down the drain. Crockett State School will be closed. The Crockett contingency-myself, County Judge Lonnie Hunt, Crockett Economic Development Director Thom Lambert, DETCOG Executive Director Walter Diggles, and City Administrator Ron Duncan, sat in shock as the grievous announcement was made.

There were lots of reasons given for the closings, but safe to say that the State of Texas and the Texas Youth Commission ran out of two things-money and youth. Due to budget cuts, TYC was being asked to cut $116 million. Along with reductions in staff in the Central Office, the closing of the three units will save them the millions of dollars that the legislature asked them to cut. And over the course of the last ten years, the State has had a huge reduction in the number of incarcerated youth. In reality, every State School had beds to fill. Even though we had the most comunity support, even though we made many political contacts in Austin and Washington, D.C., even though we made one last pitch to the entire TYC Board, in the end, there was nothing we could do.

I feel terrible for our employees. Many will not be able to transfer to another unit to maintain their job. And unfortunately, we just don't have the jobs here in Crockett to sustain a layoff like this. I'm afraid this event will be have a lasting impact on our community and we will be a long time recovering.

But, I do know that we are a resilient community and some how, some way, we will survive. My prayers are with all the families affected by this event. In spite of this incredible setback, we will continue to press on.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Great Big Thank You Crockett!

As I said Saturday, WOW! What a great turn out! I want to personally thank everyone that took time out of their busy schedule to come out and show their support for the Crockett State School. By all estimates, there were close to 1,000 in attendance, by far the most attendees of any community that has hosted a TYC community meeting.

As you know, the State of Texas is requiring closure of three of their ten State School facilities by September 1, 2011. This was the fourth informational community meeting held by the Texas Youth Commission staff, which means there are six more to go. At this time, no one really knows which facilities will remain open and which will close. But safe to say, the citizens of Crockett and Houston County made a huge showing and that most certainly will count for something. I truly don't know what else we could have done to make the day any more special.

I want to thank Executive Director Cherie Townsend and Board Chair Scott Fisher for taking the time to consider each and every community. I could tell from my conversation with them that they don't take their task lightly. Let's continue to keep all those involved in the decision making process in our prayers as we look forward to the day when the announcement is made-"Crockett State School To Remain Open!"

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mask for Mayor!

The campaign season is on us once again in the City of Crockett. We only have one contested race this election cycle-you guessed it, the Mayor's race. I have an opponent in this election, John Jenkins. You may remember Mr. Jenkins. He signed up to run for County Judge against Lonnie Hunt, but I believe failed to get the necessary signatures on his petition to put his name on the ballot.

The Charter of the City of Crockett in Section 3.02 outlines specific qualifications that a City Council member must meet. One of the requirements in the Charter is the residency requirement. Our City charter states that a Councilmember "shall have resided in the City for at least three years preceding his election." After some research, I discovered that Mr. Jenkins actually voted in the November 2008 general election, while a resident of Porter Springs. Therefore he has not lived in the City for the three year requirement. Unfortunately, the resident requirement outlined in our City Charter was made void by State Law, which states that the resident requirement for any city, including Home Rule cities like Crockett, can only be 12 months.

Mr. Jenkins claims his residency is at 809 South 4th Street in Crockett, the former location of Husky Trailer, now the location of Husky Trading Post, his business. After some research, I discovered there is no City water hooked up to that location nor is there City trash pick up at this location.

The only other item I wish to mention about my opponent is that on no less than three occasions over the last nearly twelve years, I have had to kick him out of a City Council meeting for disruptive behavior.

I tell you all of this because I am passionate about Crockett, and to seeing our citizens successful and our community prosperous. An election costs our City approximately $5000.00. That may not seem like much money, but in this economy, we have to watch every penny. It doesn't bother me to have an election, with worthy candidates that have the best interest of our City at heart. The part that concerns me is that my opponent may, by law and otherwise, not actually be a viable candidate, and to have an election under these circumstances is both unnecessary and expensive.

I have been the Mayor of Crockett for six, two-year terms. Some may say that is too long, but in all honestly, it takes time to see change. We are on the verge of many exciting opportunities in Crockett. Some of these ventures and projects have been years in the planning and they are finally coming to fruitiion. That's not by accident. Good government is about having the right people with the right heart in the right places. I have worked tirelessly for this City, where I have lived continuously at 405 North 7th Street and worked continuously at Mask Chiropractic Clinic at 305 South 5th Street, for 22 years. Crockett is my home.

I truly love Crockett, Texas. I hope and pray you will consider this when it comes to time for you to vote on May 14.