Republican/Tea Party Victory Rocks Wood County
The League City Resolution in support of the Second Amendment passed the Wood County Commissioners’ Court by unanimous vote Friday morning, June 7, 2013. A grateful crowd of local residents and East Texans rewarded the heroic commissioners with a standing ovation. This was not a one day event but a long slog involving the local Lake Country Republican Club (LCRC) and Tea Party organizations from nearby counties.
It started when Rains County Tea Party activist, Thresa Matthews brought the League City resolution to the attention of LCRC past president, Greg Bowen and me (also an LCRC past president). We all agreed that the language of the resolution, as League City had passed it, was carefully thought out with references to the Declaration of independence, the US Constitution, the Second, Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the US Constitution and Article I, Sec. 23a of the Texas Constitution. Using these foundational documents strengthens both the proposed resolution and the referenced source documents as well. We held a series of meetings on the issue. Occasionally Hunt County Tea Party activist, C.C. Parker, Rains County Tea Party leader, Gus Metz, and Tea Party 911 Editor, Michael Kinzie would attend, offer suggestions and monitor our progress.
Thresa suggested that before taking this document to public officials, it would be advantageous to introduce it to the public and get them behind it. We decided to hold a Citizen’s Consultation on the matter. We scheduled the consultation to immediately follow the next LCRC meeting which saved the expense of renting meeting space and ensured that a number of sympathetic citizens would be in attendance. The crowd, although smaller than we had hoped, included people from as far away as Canton and Dallas. People not from Wood County were not allowed to vote, but gladly accepted the role of observers. LCRC member, Kellie Kauitzsch, was elected to chair the meeting and LCRC’s lovely secretary, Lynn AronSpeer, was elected to keep the minutes of the meeting. Thresa Mathews presented the Resolution which I had modified to read “Wood County” everywhere it had said “League City” and “Commissioners Court” everywhere the original said “City Council.” After a brief discussion from the floor, the resolution received unanimous support from the voting attendees.
The next step was to have Greg Bowen set up a meeting with Wood County District Judge, Bryan Jeanes. We were in luck; Greg was able to set up a meeting before the Holly Lake Republican Club meeting and not only was the judge in attendance, but also County Commissioner, Roger Pace. We decided on a show of force; both Bowens and both AronSpeers attended. This accounted for two LCRC past Presidents, LCRC’s current president and three fourths of the current board. We all sat down and read the two page resolution together to which Judge Jeanes said, “That all looks good to me.” Roger Pace then offered, “I have no problem with any of this.” We asked if they would vote for such a resolution. Both answered in the affirmative. We asked if they saw any reason it should not pass the Commissioners’ Court and again both answered in the affirmative. We then asked if they would be willing to present it as an agenda item. Again, we received an affirmative answer. We gave them all our copies so each commissioner would have a personal copy.
I had less than two weeks until a scheduled total knee replacement so I was anxious to get it moving. I assumed the task of contacting the other three commissioners to get their support. I was able to contact two before my surgery and got affirmative commitments from both.
Meanwhile Rains County was hearing a slightly watered down version of the same resolution. I thought Rains would beat us to the punch, but a victory there would ensure a victory in Wood County. I knew I would have to be there to see firsthand the first passage of this resolution in East Texas. At first I assumed the motion was heard first and voted on later for dramatic effect. I was shocked to find that with the exception of the brave Commissioner Witt, the remaining commissioners and the County Judge were afraid to contradict the federal government. In effect, they indicated they felt local government was nothing more than a field office of the federal government and subject to its dictates. The resolution was tabled until it could be further watered down. They were looking for language which would mollify the crowd and yet convince the feds that Rains County was fully compliant.
Now I feared this defeat might create some cold feet on the Wood County Commissioners’ Court. I felt that I would have to write a statement in support of the resolution which would first convince Wood County Commissioners that they were citizens like us and not part of some elected elite. Next I wanted them to realize that this would be a heroic act. I also wanted them to know that the citizens of Wood County would have their back on this issue and finally, I wanted them to know they would be appreciated for taking this heroic stand on our behalf.
I was running out of time and my surgery was just days away. I wrote my supporting document and got Greg to promise to read it in my absence if the resolution came up while I was hospitalized. Post-op I was to receive therapy at home and not to venture forth except to the doctor’s office for follow up until I was released. So of course, the Friday following my release would be the day the resolution came up for a vote in Wood County.
I had produced two editorials while in a drug addled state in the hospital. So I felt if I could make good enough progress with my therapy, I would try to attend the Wood County Commissioners Court and support this important resolution.
Friday came and finally I was no longer bleeding where the drain for my surgery had been removed. But, I was in shorts, bandaged and still pretty swollen when Greg and Joanna Bowen came by and spirited me off to the Commissioners’ Court. The Wood County Commissioners’ Court works with an efficiency all governmental agencies should emulate. One by one, item after item would be brought before the court, a motion would be made, seconded and voted on. It ran like a well oiled machine. I was concerned that Judge Jeanes was not in attendance as he was out of town. Roger Pace, who chaired the meeting, explained the judge’s absence and mentioned more than once that he had pledged his support to the Resolution. Roger asked me to read the resolution to the entire court and then allowed me to make my case for its passage. A number of citizens from Wood, Rains and Hunt Counties spoke eloquently in favor of the resolution. One mentioned the failure in Rains which personally I never would have brought up. I was concerned, but then quickly, Roger called for a motion. A motion for passage as written was made, seconded and voted on. The vote was unanimous. The room burst into applause and the Commissioners received a well deserved standing ovation.
I was so proud of our local government and I also realized that had I stayed home, the vote would have been the same. But I am glad I was there to witness it, to be even a small part of this historic day. I hope the victory in Wood County will help Rains County to stand up and be counted. I hope the victory in Wood County inspires other Texas communities as well.
My sincere thanks and support for Wood County Commissioners Roger Pace, Jon Shirley, Virgil Holland, and Jerry Gaskill for their courageous stand. I would also like to thank Wood County Judge, Bryan Jeanes for making his support of this resolution well known to all the members of the Commissioners’ Court. At a time when most local government is totally cowed by an overbearing federal government, it is refreshing to see local officials speak with courage and authority. My sincere thanks and respect also go out to Wood County Sheriff, Jim Brown, also in attendance at this meeting, whose office will have the heavy lift of opposing overreaching federal authority. This resolution is fully consistent with Sheriff Brown’s statement (here) on this subject found on the Wood County website. I assured Sheriff Brown that should the need ever arise, the citizens of Wood County will stand beside him. Finally, I would like to thank the various media outlets which covered this event: Quitman’s newspaper of record, the Wood County Democrat, (yes that’s really their name), the Winnsboro News, and Rains County Today.
Citizen politics is hard work and made harder by elitist politicians, an apathetic public and divisive internal politics. With the obvious exception of “establishment Republicans,” rank and file Republicans have a long history of working to good effect with our Tea Party counterparts. Rank and file Republicans join with Tea Partiers in opposing these political elitists who are behaving in ways inconsistent with Republican Party principles. This is not the first joint venture between LCRC and Tea Party organizations nor will it be the last. For now and for me, it may be the most memorable for a time. Good political skills means working together for shared objectives. Together we can do this.