This is an essay in support of the reelection of Galveston County Judge Jim Yarbrough.
My career in journalism and public service stretches over more than four decades and I do not recall any other elected official who approaches Yarbrough in vision, dedication and effectiveness.
I have already written a comprehensive endorsement of his administration in an editorial I published on March 23, 2009. Click Here
That commentary begins with "Jim Yarbrough is my hero!", quoting Lynda Guidry, who says in five words what I hope to convey in this essay. If you have not read the previous commentary, I suggest you do so now and I will not repeat myself.
It is unusual for me to endorse a candidate in an election, especially in a partisan contest involving members of political parties.
I recall the election of John Kennedy in 1960. I was not yet working for the radio station but they let me hang around and be helpful when I could. Coming from a Democratic family, I thought Kennedy was pretty neat at the time.
However, I cast my first vote for President for Barry Goldwater in 1964. Thereafter, I almost always voted in Republican primaries and voted for the Republican candidate in most presidential elections; but I did vote for the Libertarian candidates on two occasions. When I was a young man in Houston there were few Republicans. Democratic primaries were in a schoolhouse; the Republican primary was in a nearby garage, if the precinct had enough Republicans to justify an individual polling place.
George H. W. Bush was the Harris County Republican Party Chair.
By the time I moved from Houston to Galveston in 1984, the politics in Harris County had turned 180 degrees. Republicans occupied most of the county-wide offices.
Galveston County in 1984 was exactly like Harris County before the Republican transformation. It was a completely Democratic county.
Most of the Republicans I met and covered were women, members of Galveston Republican Women.
Although the Galveston County Republican Party actively campaigned for Republicans on the state and national scene, they frequently did not offer candidates in many county races. There was not much reason to vote in the Republican primaries, especially when the good candidates were running in the Democratic race.
The process of changing had already begun when I arrived in 1984. There had been a pretty hot contest for county commissioner in northern Galveston County, leading County Judge Ray Holbrook to comment in his list of accomplishments at year's-end, "At least we did not get a Republican on the commissioners court."
That changed over the years. There has been a Republican on the commissioners court for several years now, and there are several other Republican officials who were elected county-wide.
And, as a sign of the times, Holbrook is now a Republican.
But this essay is about the man who replaced Holbrook and moved the county into the 21st Century. I once remarked to Yarbrough that I was sure he would be welcomed into the Republican Party - he is just an excellent government administrator and party affiliation should have no bearing.
In fact, the Republicans actually asked him to switch parties in the last election.
However, that is not a realistic approach.
As a reporter throughout the years I have been privileged to attend many political events held by Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Socialists, etc., and to hear the candidates talk down-and-dirty in partisan political speeches; and I can tell you, Jim Yarbrough ain't no Republican. He is a Democrat.
But there is no question, he is a damn good county judge.
Mark Henry is the Republican candidate for county judge. I don't know him well but his conservative credentials seem to be impeccable. I'm fairly certain that he would be my candidate if I did not know and admire his opponent. I hope to have another chance to consider him for public office at some time in the future.
But this year, and for as long as Jim Yarbrough wants to lead Galveston County government, he will have my support.