By Gene Terry, TAC Executive Director
It has been nearly a quarter of a century since I accidentally stumbled into the county government world. I never planned for it and never sought it. It found me. Several years after I took office as county judge in Marion County, I ran into a law school classmate in Dallas. It had been years since our last visit, so lunch gave us a chance to catch up and fill in the gaps. He had made partner in a good firm and was living “the Dream.” The conversation turned to my somewhat eccentric career path and I told him what I was doing. The obvious question followed, “How in the world did you end up there?”
I replied, without thinking, “I’ve never been around people I enjoy more than my friends in county government.” And I meant it. I don’t remember elaborating more, as the conversation drifted into families and mutual friends. Since then, I’ve thought about it a lot, and it was the best answer I could have given.
Our country has descended into a dark place where hostility permeates our daily lives. Television news has become a shouting match reality show. It seems, at times, like freedom of expression and a novelty of ideas is no longer welcome on some college campuses. Invited guests are frequently met with hostile, and sometime violent student response. Everyone believes they have the right to say anything anytime, and they do, but incivility has replaced reasoned discourse, anger has replaced thought, and insulting invective has replaced decency.
Not in our world. I’ve never been around people I enjoy more than my friends in county government. I saw it in action during the last legislative session. Incivility was met time after time by true passion for service expressed respectfully in the halls of state. You took the high road. You acquitted yourselves well. You refused to wallow in the mire. You made us all proud to play a small part in serving you.
Speaker Joe Straus has announced that he will not seek another term. He will be sorely missed as the voice of reason and civility in the Legislature. He was frequently the only adult in the room. He was always courteous and polite. He was always committed and passionate. His kind come around rarely. He is a true statesman.
You, too, are statesmen. You’re what is still right in our beleaguered system of government.
Austin and Washington have lost sight of why people are chosen by voters to make decisions upon their behalf. They are so far removed from the day-to-day world of constituents. They seem convinced that they know better than we, what we want and need. Sadly, they do not. You do. You see the people you represent daily and they tell you what they want and need. In those circumstances, you cannot afford arrogance or rudeness. You are too close to get away with it. That proximity compels an honesty that is lost in larger capitals around the nation.
Thank you for allowing those of us who serve you at TAC to be a part of your world. It is an honor and a great place to be. How can we help you? What do you want and need?