Tag Archives: Nancy Tanner

Hoping for an outright GOP primary victory

I want to restate my desire for state Sen. Kel Seliger to win the upcoming Republican Party primary outright in his bid to return to the Legislature representing Senate District 31.

He’s got two GOP foes in this primary. Four years ago, he had just one, who has returned for a second go-round against the former Amarillo mayor.

However, here is what I do not know at this moment: It is whether Seliger has consulted with another Republican officeholder who four years ago won her party primary without a runoff while facing four opponents.

Potter County Judge Nancy Tanner (right, in photo) faced the daunting task of winning the GOP primary for the seat she now occupies. Of the four foes she faced, one of them also was a recent Amarillo mayor, Debra McCartt, who made quite a name for herself setting governing policy for a city of nearly 200,000 residents.

When the votes were counted in 2014, Tanner won in a relative breeze. Tanner was able to parlay her experience as a longtime administrative assistant to former County Judge Arthur Ware into an easy primary victory; with no Democrat on the ballot four years, the primary was tantamount to election.

Indeed, I called her “Judge Tanner” years before she actually became the county judge.

My strong hope is that Seliger or his campaign team has consulted with Tanner about what she did to fend off those four challengers. I know that Seliger is working with a young political consultant who has been assigned to work exclusively with the senator in his re-election effort.

What I don’t know is if he has sought out a local politician with plenty of knowledge of how to win a crowded primary race outright.

Humans tinker with ballots, not machines

vote1

Potter County Judge Nancy Tanner has put the kibosh on a social media rumor about ballot integrity.

“There is nothing wrong with any of the machines we use for voting,” Tanner said in a statement. “They do not flip your vote. They do not flip parties. Humans do that.”

At issue is a complaint filed by a voter in Randall County who said that after voting for a straight Republican ticket her ballot showed a vote for the Hillary Clinton-Tim Kaine Democratic ticket for president and vice president.

Tanner said it didn’t happen, apparently consulting with her colleagues in Randall County.

The maddening aspect of this episode is that it comes in the wake of repeated allegations by GOP presidential nominee Donald J. Trump about “rigged elections” at the precinct polling level. Quite naturally — and this is of zero surprise — Trump hasn’t provided a single snippet of evidence to back up his specious contention.

That hasn’t stopped — in my mind, at least — the Internet trolls from promoting such nonsense in the GOP-friendly Texas Panhandle.

I’m glad to hear Judge Tanner weighing in with her assertion that her county’s election system is working as promised.

Indeed, about the only way to suspect actual voter fraud would be if the Clinton-Kaine ticket actually won in Randall County.

http://amarillo.com/news/local-news/2016-10-25/potter-county-judge-nothing-wrong-voting-machines

 

Construction crane: sign of downtown progress

amarillo downtown

There used to be a time when I ventured into downtown Amarillo daily.

I worked there full time. I would see the same sights as I drove toward my place of employment. When you see the same things each day you don’t always notice changes while they’re occurring.

These days I get downtown far less frequently. It’s usually once per week to attend a Rotary Club meeting at the Chase Tower.

Those downtown sojourns, though, are producing a visual treat for me. I’m noticing the changes more readily. I cannot say I notice them week over week, but I do sense some serious changes — for the better — in our downtown district.

The most obvious change has been the sight of that construction crane over a major project going up on Buchanan Street. It’s the new Xcel Energy office complex. They’ve laid the foundation and have begun framing the multi-story structure. Xcel will move into the building in 2017.

OK, there’s more.

As I drive down Polk Street, I get the sense of more activity on what used to be the city’s “main drag.” It’s nothing I can define point by point. It’s just a feeling in my gut.

The last time I saw Potter County Judge Nancy Tanner, I told her how proud I am of the courthouse complex renovation. She’s clearly proud of it, too. And she should be.

The Commerce Building at Eighth and Tyler is going to be transformed into an urban branch campus for West Texas A&M University.

My anticipation is growing as well as I await the start of actual construction of the Embassy Suites hotel, where they’ve “broken ground.”

And, of course, we have this multipurpose event venue that’s now planned for construction at the site of the vacated Coca-Cola distribution complex across the street from City Hall.

I’ve long believed that any city’s future depends on the health of its downtown district. Show me a city with a dilapidated downtown and I’ll show you a city in serious decline. Believe me, I’ve seen my share as I’ve traveled through Texas over the past 31 years.

I’ve also seen cities with vibrant downtown districts that also reflect the health of their communities.

My hope for Amarillo is that the momentum I sense is increasing in its downtown district will continue and pick up speed.

That Xcel Energy construction crane is a huge start. I’m ready to see more of them.

 

Judge will marry gays, if duty calls

Potter County Judge Nancy Tanner is on record already on an issue that well could generate a good bit of controversy.

Back when she was running for the office to which she was elected, Tanner — along with her four Republican primary opponents — took part in a candidate forum sponsored by Panhandle PBS. I was privileged to be one of the journalists questioning the candidates.

One of the panelists asked all the candidates a most probing question: Given that Texas law gives county judges the authority to perform marriage ceremonies, would you — as county judge — be willing to perform a ceremony uniting a same-sex couple in matrimony?

Some of the candidates hemmed and hawed. One of them said “no,” he wouldn’t do it.

Tanner’s response? She was unequivocal. If the courts rule that gay marriage is legal in Texas, then she would follow the law. She would marry anyone with a valid marriage license. That would be her responsibility as county judge and she would perform it.

Her answer was straightforward as it could have been. It didn’t harm her at the polls, as she won the GOP primary outright and went on to be elected county judge in November 2014.

As of this morning, the issue hasn’t yet presented itself to Judge Tanner. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has said county clerks can refuse to issue marriage licenses if they have a religious objection to the Supreme Court’s ruling that legalized gay marriage.

There’s been no word that I’ve heard about whether Potter County Clerk Julie Smith is going to follow the law or ignore it, per Paxton’s decision.

Tanner’s take on the issue is clear. What’s cloudy and muddled is whether another countywide elected official, Smith, is going to follow the law.

Stay tuned. This could get dicey.

How about changing the oath of office?

IN THE NAME AND BY THE AUTHORITY OF THE STATE OF TEXAS, I, John Q. Public Servant, do solemnly swear (or affirm), that I will faithfully execute the duties of the office of county clerk of the State of Texas, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this State, so help me God.

That, right there, is the oath of office county clerks must take before they can perform their duties on behalf of the people they serve in their respective counties.

In Texas, all 254 counties are governed by state statute, which means the state sets the laws by which county residents — and their elected officials — must abide.

I found it on the Texas Secretary of State’s website. It’s kind of a generic oath that county officials must take. Granted, some county officials take longer oaths, but it must include this particular pledge.

Just as an aside, I attended the swearing in on Jan. 1 of newly elected Potter County Judge Nancy Tanner and the oath she took was tantamount to the “War and Peace” version of the mandatory oath given to county officials.

I mention this oath in light of what Republican presidential candidate — and Texas’s junior U.S. senator — Ted Cruz said about how county clerks “absolutely” should be given the right to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Texas. He said the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage amounts to a declaration of war on religious liberty.

As I look at this oath, I don’t see any reference to the faith of the person taking it. I see nothing in there that enables the elected official to not follow all “the laws of the United States and of this State.”

I read the oath as requiring that those who take it must adhere to it — to the letter.

A majority of the justices on the Supreme Court has declared that gay marriage is now legal everywhere, in each of the 50 states. That includes Texas.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, another GOP presidential candidate, said that we could save a ton of money if we just got rid of the court. I don’t know how serious he was about that suggestion.

Sen. Cruz, though, seems to be dead serious in encouraging county clerks to violate their sacred oath, which does end with “so help me God.”

Hey, let’s just change the oath and have county clerks affirm that they’ll uphold only those laws that do not trample on their religious beliefs.

 

Welcome aboard, Judge Tanner

Potter County Judge Nancy Tanner has just assumed a monstrously full plate of issues.

She took her oath of office today — an oath that seemed to have no end, to be candid — after telling the crowd crammed into the Santa Fe Building auditorium that she plans to get right to work as head of the county’s commissioners court.

* The Santa Fe Building is one-third empty, Tanner said, and she plans to put more county employees into the 85-year-old structure. Where is she going to get them? From the Courts Building across the street from the old County Courthouse. The Courts Building needs major work to make it less of a hazard and Tanner said she has plans to deal with the lousy structure that former County Judge Arthur Ware has referred to as “The Grain Elevator.”

* Morale is low in several county departments, Tanner said, and she plans to improve it.

* Taxes are “too high,” according to the new county judge, who said the best cure for that is to bring “more business” into Potter County. No specifics came today on how she plans to do that.

Tanner’s swearing-in ceremony was festive and friendly. Tanner is a dedicated Republican officeholder, but I was glad to see a smattering of known Democrats among those who attended the event. They’re all friends of the new judge. Indeed, retired Court at Law Judge Dick Dambold — who administered the lengthy oath to Tanner — held office as a Democrat. So it was good to see Tanner spread the love across partisan lines in Potter County.

The judge took note of how she was able to be elected to the office by defeating four other Republican candidates outright, avoiding a runoff — a result that surprised a lot of political observers, including yours truly.

Still, I am delighted for the county as well as for the new judge. Her former boss, Ware, fired Tanner in 2013 from her job as administrative assistant to the county judge for reasons he’s never explained publicly. Tanner’s dismissal was part of an awkward and embarrassing set of events that included Ware’s endorsement of one of Tanner’s opponents in the upcoming primary.

Happily, though, Ware and Tanner have made peace and they’re back to being friends.

It’s a new day, though, in Potter County. Tanner took note that she becomes the county’s first female county judge.

She took the oath, applause rang forth from the crowd in attendance, the curtain parted on the stage of the top-floor auditorium — and it revealed a sign: “History Begins Today.”

Congratulations, Judge Tanner.

Now, get to work.

A perk awaits semi-retired journalist

Now that I’m no longer a full-time journalist, I plan to accept an invitation I otherwise might  have declined.

I look forward to this event.

On New Year’s Day, Potter County Judge-elect Nancy Tanner is going to take office as the presiding officer of the county’s Commissioners Court. I’ll stand and applaud when she takes her oath of office.

Reporter Decorum Rule No. 1 prohibits such outward displays of support from the media. Reporters, editors and opinion writers are supposed to maintain a public appearance of neutrality. I couldn’t cheer for speechmakers at the two national Republican presidential conventions I attended — New Orleans in 1988 and Houston in 1992.

I did, though, attend the Democratic convention in Charlotte in 2012, but that was about a week after I had been “reorganized” out of my job at the newspaper where I worked for nearly 18 years. I had obtained press credentials for the convention and planned to cover it, but since I was a “civilian” when I got there, I was allowed to cheer.

Back to the present. I’m still a civilian. Sure, I might have attended the swearing-in as a journalist, but I’d have to put on my best professional face and demeanor.

Nancy Tanner was elected county judge this year in a clear statement of good sense and reason from Potter County’s voters. I am quite glad she won and I’ve stated so already on this blog and to whomever I’ve spoken about it since her victory.

Tanner sent me an invitation to attend the swearing-in at the Santa Fe Building in downtown Amarillo. Barring a catastrophic illness or some other unforeseen emergency, I plan to be there. I am likely to give the new judge a hug and will wish her well as she embarks on this new phase of her public service career.

Yes, indeed. Semi-retirement does have its perks.

 

New judge, old judge bury the hatchet

Potter County Judge-elect Nancy Tanner has just posted some pictures on Facebook showing her yukking it up with the man she’s succeeding, Arthur Ware.

Why is that worth this brief comment?

Tanner served as Ware’s administrative assistant for two decades. Then in 2013 she announced publicly that she was thinking of running for county judge. Ware had been disabled seriously by a stroke in 2010 and it was unclear whether he would seek another term.

Ware then summarily fired Tanner, and threw his support to former Amarillo Mayor Debra McCartt, who had announced her candidacy.

Ware never has explained his reasons for firing Tanner, who then went on to win the Republican Party primary outright. With zero Democrats on the ballot, her nomination was tantamount to election.

They threw a retirement party for Ware. Lo and behold, the judge-elect was there to give Ware a rousing sendoff.

What’s the moral of the story? I suppose it can be that longtime friendships have a way of outlasting temporary political snits.

New county judge's plate will be heaping

Nancy Tanner isn’t shying away from the huge tasks awaiting her when she becomes Potter County’s next judge.

It’s not exactly a done deal just yet, although it’s virtually so. Tanner won the Republican Party primary in March. No Democrat is on the ballot. Still, she has to go through the motions of an election in November. It’s safe to assume she’ll be elected in the fall, then she gets set to take the gavel from her former mentor and friend, Arthur Ware, who fired Tanner from her job as his administrative assistant in 2013 for reasons no one yet really knows — officially.

Job One for the new judge?

It appears that the Courts Building needs replacing. Not repair. Or refurbishing. It needs to be knocked down.

No one in county government — at least those with whom I’ve spoken — likes working in the structure that Ware calls without a hint of affection the “Grain Elevator.”

It was completed in 1985, which means that it has fallen apart in less than 30 years. Compare that with the Santa Fe Building, which houses several county offices. That Santa Fe was built in 1930 and as a friend who works for the county told me this morning, he toured the then-vacant structure right after the county bought it in 1995 — before the county lifted a finger to fix it up — and said “We could move right now!”

I should add that the county paid a grand total of $400,000 for the 11-story office building.

How’s the county going to pay for a new Courts Building? Tanner told the Rotary Club of Amarillo this past week she believes certificates of obligation are an option. The county has a relatively light debt load, she said.

Now the big question: How much would a new building cost? My spies at the county tell me they’ve heard estimates that hover around the $150 million mark. Would the county issue that COs to cover the entire cost? Tanner didn’t say.

The building is a piece of crap. Everyone seems to agree on that fundamental point.

It needs to go. Finding a suitable strategy to replace will keep the new county judge up late at night.

Welcome back to public service, Judge Tanner.

 

 

Tradition has its place in transition

I’m a bit of a sucker for political tradition.

Take, for instance, what happens when we change presidents of the United States. There’s a long-standing tradition of the outgoing president instructing his staff to work with the staff of the incoming president. The two leaders exchange ideas, the outgoing guy gives the new guy tips on what to expect, how he might respond to certain events.

The tradition concludes with the outgoing president leaving a note in the Oval Office desk for the new president to read. It’s often a personal note of congratulations and expressions of good luck … that kind of thing.

Does that tradition exist at county courthouses?

One of my sources in the Potter County Courthouse tells me he believes not. I asked him recently about whether he detected any close working relationship between the outgoing and incoming county judges. He shook his head “No.”

Nancy Tanner is going to become the next Potter County judge in January. She’s replacing a man for whom she worked for two decades. County Judge Arthur Ware fired Tanner in 2013 for reasons he hasn’t yet specified publicly. Tanner then went on to win this spring’s Republican primary for county judge, defeating four other candidates. No Democrat is on the ballot, so her nomination was tantamount to election.

Tanner has picked a transition team. I keep wondering, though, if she’s working at all with Ware — her former boss and the guy who cut her loose.

Ware’s communication skills have been hampered since he suffered a debilitating stroke in 2010. I’m not entirely clear whether the current judge is able to verbalize effectively.

Tanner does the advantage of knowing much of the nuts and bolts of county government already. She was Ware’s administrative assistant and developed a solid working knowledge of how the various county departments interact with each other and with the county judge’s office.

Maybe she won’t need Ware to hold her hand — figuratively — as she prepares to assume the post of county judge.

Still, it would serve the cause of tradition if Ware offered some help to the new judge.