Tag Archives: Arthur Ware

Revisiting Potter County judge contest

Indulge me for a moment, maybe two, as I look back to the March 4 Republican Party primary race for Potter County judge.

I ran into a long-time acquaintance the other morning. We talked about the contest and we asked each other whether we were happy with the outcome. I was, given that Nancy Tanner won the election outright in a five-candidate field; she’ll take office in January, given that there are no Democrats on the ballot this fall.

My pal wasn’t so sure about it. We both live in Randall County, so neither of us had a vote to cast in that contest. We both know all the contestants, some better than others.

He said something curious. He didn’t think Tanner was necessarily the right pick, even though she worked for 20 years as County Judge Arthur Ware’s administrative assistant and for a couple of years assumed many of the actual duties of judge as Ware has tried to recover from a devastating stroke.

Ware fired Tanner from her job this past year for reasons he hasn’t yet explained.

I asked my friend: Why not support Tanner’s election?

It would be like asking the city secretary to take over as mayor of Amarillo, he said. I responded, “Huh?”

The city secretary is a capable individual — who succeeded another highly capable person at that City Hall post. The secretary, my pal said, is capable of doing all the administrative functions, but she isn’t necessarily a leader.

Thus, he contends, Tanner is succeeding to a post where she hasn’t demonstrated any leadership qualities.

Well, I differed with my friend — as I do on most political matters. I consider him a contrarian; he likely thinks the same of me.

I’ll just go on believing that Potter County Republicans chose wisely when they elected Tanner with a 50.5 percent majority. She’s done the job already. She knows the players. She understands county government. She’s experienced, highly qualified, understands the intricacies of probate law and mental health commitments.

The leadership part? I am confident Nancy Tanner will show her mettle.

Some thoughts on Potter County judge contest

First, I have to stipulate that I don’t have an electoral voice in Potter County, given that I live in Randall County.

But I’m going to weigh in anyway on the Potter County judge’s race, as I am acquainted with four of the five candidates and I know two of them quite well. The fifth one I met only recently.

The reality of this race is that it actually shouldn’t be a close call. Of the five individuals seeking to succeed 20-year County Judge Arthur Ware, the best qualified person for the job is Nancy Tanner, Ware’s long-time administrative assistant.

I’ve known Tanner well for more than 19 years. My former job as editorial page editor of the local newspaper enabled me to consult with her many times on the issues of the day. She’s competent. She knows the job. Indeed, she had been doing much of the judge’s job since Ware suffered a debilitating stroke in 2010.

Tanner’s learning curve would be far less steep than any of the other candidates.

Debra McCartt touts her experience as Amarillo’s first female mayor, her stint as head of a statewide municipal association and her prior experience as a city commissioner. She contends that leadership matters — and it does. As much as I like McCartt personally and admire the job she did as mayor, it needs to be said that the mayor’s main job in Amarillo’s form of government is “showing up.” McCartt did it beautifully. She showed up seemingly at every event where her attendance was required. She often appeared to be at more than one place at a time.

To be mayor, though, required little heavy lifting; that is done by the city manager and his staff of department heads and assistant managers.

The third possible dark horse in this contest is Bill Bandy, the candidate I know the least about. He once worked for former state Rep. David Swinford and professes to be close friends with Rep. Four Price, Rep. John Smithee and Sen. Kel Seliger. He seemed to jump out of the tall grass at the last minute to run for county judge. I am unaware of his previous involvement at any level of county government. He, too, is smart and articulate. It seems that his own experience falls far short of Tanner’s.

Bill Sumerford and Jeff Poindexter are the two remaining candidates. Sumerford has been little more than a political gadfly for the past decade. He’s an anti-tax hawk who for a time was leading various efforts to put key city council decisions to a popular vote. Poindexter has run several times unsuccessfully for public office — and that’s all I say about that.

This contest likely won’t be decided next Tuesday. The smart money suggests a runoff is in store for the top two candidates. I won’t predict who will finish first and second, other than to suggest it appears to be a combination that involves Tanner, McCartt and Bandy.

If I had a vote in this race, I’d cast it for Nancy Tanner.

Potter County judge race handicapping is tough

Let’s play a little game of political prognostication regarding Potter County’s five-person race for county judge.

Five Republicans have filed to fill the seat occupied by County Judge Arthur Ware, who’s decided not to seek another term. He’s still trying to recover from a devastating stroke.

I’ll stick by my contention that the two frontrunners remain Nancy Tanner, Ware’s long-time assistant, and former Amarillo Mayor Debra McCartt.

Three more candidates have filed: Bill Bandy, Bill Sumerford and Jeff Poindexter.

Of the three, let’s look at Bandy as the serious third choice behind Tanner and McCartt. Bandy has been involved at many levels of government and civic organizations … or so I understand. Sumerford and Poindexter have run unsuccessfully for other offices. Poindexter is a nice fellow. Sumerford is nice enough, too. Neither of them should be serious factors.

Back to the top three.

Tanner, McCartt and Bandy all figure to gain the lion’s share of votes. In a five-person race, therefore, it becomes difficult — as I see it — for one candidate to emerge with an outright majority in the GOP primary next March. That means a runoff would take place with the top two candidates.

If I were a betting man — and I’m not — I’d suggest that in a runoff, the second-place finisher is in the catbird seat. The individual who finishes first has his or her supporters on whom to count. The person who finishes second has his or her supporters, plus the whole rest of the votes cast for candidates other than the person who finished first.

I’ve seen this scenario play out before in Randall County, where the No. 2 candidate scarfs up enough of the anti-first-place vote-getter’s supporters to win a runoff.

Will this occur next March in the critical race to see who becomes the next Potter County judge?

I cannot predict it will, but it could emerge quickly as a distinct possibility.

Stay tuned for a most entertaining campaign.

Field of five emerges for Potter judge race

As is quite often the case, my attempt at political prognostication proved pointless.

I had posited a notion that two candidates for Potter County judge would vie against each other the seat being vacated by long-time incumbent Arthur Ware. Silly me. I didn’t anticipate a field of five Republicans running for the office next year.

I’ll stick with my view that two leading candidates will continue to be Nancy Tanner, Ware’s long-time administrative assistant, and former Amarillo Mayor Debra McCartt. The rest of ’em?

I know two of the other guys: Jeff Poindexter and Bill Sumerford. Poindexter has run unsuccessfully several times for Amarillo City Commission posts. He’s an earnest and nice guy. Sumerford is the “gadfly” I mentioned in an earlier post. He’s a kind of tax-cutting tea party activist and has led petition drives to put measures on the ballot, believing that voters should have to decide everything.

Neither of these guys is a serious contender for the judge’s office.

I don’t know Bill Bandy, the fifth person in the race. He’s done a lot of things in his life, served on some boards and once worked as an “assistant” to former state Rep. David Swinford, R-Dumas. I am intrigued by the “assistant” label attached to him in media coverage. I’d like to know to what level he assisted Swinford, whether it was on serious policy matters or whether he moved furniture around in Swinford’s office.

Well, all that said, the contest remains — in my view — a two-woman campaign between Tanner and McCartt, although the three other candidates could produce a runoff if the winner of the GOP primary doesn’t reach the 50-percent-plus-one-vote majority needed to be nominated outright.

I’m thinking now that Bill Bandy could be the darkhorse.

This could be fun.

Courthouse intrigue mounts

Potter County commissioners went into closed session this week to discuss a complaint about County Judge Arthur Ware. They came back out and said there would be no action taken.

End of story, yes? No.


Ware’s tale is getting very strange. He suffered a stroke in 2010 and has been unable to communicate verbally effectively ever since. He hasn’t handled mental health cases. The county has been paying for outside assistance to aid in the performance of the judge’s other duties, such as probate hearings.

The judge’s longtime administrative assistant, Nancy Tanner, announced her desire to run for county judge and then got fired summarily by Ware, who subsequently announced he wouldn’t seek re-election and endorsed former Amarillo Mayor Debra McCartt, who plans to run for the office. Tanner will decide soon whether to run.

What’s missing here? By my lights, its any kind of explanation as to the complaint that was filed against Ware.

State law allows the commissioners to scurry behind closed doors to talk about matters such as these in private. However, it does not require them to do so. The open meetings exemption relating to personnel matters usually pertains to paid staff. If some non-elected individual on the payroll faces disciplinary action, commissioners certainly can claim the personnel exemption and meet in private.

An elected official is a different case. Arthur Ware is the county’s presiding elected official. He chairs the Commissioners Court. I’m not suggesting that his colleagues spill all the beans, but there needs to be some notion made public as to the nature of the complaint.

It likely won’t occur.

Meanwhile, the intrigue over what looks like a fascinating county election in 2014 keeps building.

This is going to be one wild ride.

Potter County judge race could get testy

Potter County Judge Arthur Ware has announced — in a statement delivered by his wife — that he won’t run for re-election in 2014. He is to be commended for realizing the obvious, that his 2010 stroke has rendered him incapable of campaigning for his office, let alone performing the duties that go along with it.

Then came this thunderbolt: Ware has endorsed former Amarillo Mayor Debra McCartt, who plans to announce soon her intention to run for the office. You want more theatrics? We have Nancy Tanner, Ware’s one-time right-hand woman, who worked as his administrative assistant for 20 years before being fired summarily for reasons that haven’t yet been disclosed publicly. Tanner also wants to be the judge, and she contends she has the chops to do the job, given her vast knowledge of court matters, probate and much of the detail that goes with it.

Let’s backtrack about 13 years to the 2000 Republican campaign for Potter County sheriff. Longtime Sheriff Jimmy Don Boydston stepped aside. Up stepped his chief deputy, Art Tupin, Boydston’s go-to guy at the sheriff’s office. Tupin was supremely qualified for the job. He didn’t win the GOP primary that year. The winner turned out to be Amarillo Police Officer Mike Shumate, the former head of the APD Crimestopper program, who went on to trounce an unknown Democratic opponent. How did Shumate win the primary? He had developed something of a cult following because of his rather, um, colorful way of portraying bad guys and the way he would seek to drum up tips from radio listeners that would help the police department solve crimes.

In a perfect world, Shumate wouldn’t have been elected. He wasn’t nearly as qualified as Tupin for the job. As it would turn out some years later, Shumate got himself into some serious trouble and was convicted of crimes relating to the sheriff’s department relationship with vendors supplying food and other materials to the jail. He was kicked out of office and sentenced to a jail term in Armstrong County.

Now we have another case of a popular public figure, McCartt, possibly running against someone, Tanner, who on paper is far more qualified for the job both of them likely want.

Please understand: I am not equating McCartt fully with Shumate. The comparison I want to make is as an overarching public personality. McCartt served three successful terms as mayor until 2011. But as the mayor in Amarillo’s system of government, she didn’t do any heavy lifting. Her job — which she did magnificently — was to be the city’s voice and face. She remains an ardent advocate for the city and she is to be saluted for the job she did in trumpeting the city’s many virtues.

All the nuts and bolts are handled by the city manager and his staff.

I have kidded McCartt many times over the years that I think she’s really a hologram, in that she was able to be at several places at the same time.

Nancy Tanner is another kind of public figure. She isn’t nearly as well known beyond the county courthouse. She was a workhorse for the county judge. By my reckoning, Tanner possesses a superb knowledge of county government. I believe that in all the factors that ought to matter, Tanner is more qualified for the job than McCartt — just as Art Tupin was more qualified to be sheriff than Mike Shumate.

I admire both Tanner and McCartt greatly, for reasons I think I’ve made clear in this blog post.

The question now becomes: If the campaign boils down to these two individuals, who will the voters select? If history is a guide, I’d have to say the stars are lining up in McCartt’s favor.

Then again … there might be someone else who can make the most compelling case of all for succeeding Arthur Ware.

I absolutely am going to watch this campaign with keen interest.

Call it a career, Judge Ware

It’s time for me to get something off my chest.

Potter County Judge Arthur Ware needs to do one of two things: Either resign his office or declare that he will not seek re-election to the job he’s had for the past two decades. Of course, the first option precludes the second one. Either way, it’s time for the judge — who I admire greatly for all he has done for the county and the country — to end his career.

Ware cannot do his job. He suffered a devastating stroke in 2010 that left him paralyzed on one side of his body and unable to speak coherently. He manages to force a word or two out at a time, but he is unable to articulate county policy, or argue a budget point, or converse with anyone who stands before him in a probate hearing. I saw him about two years ago at a downtown Amarillo restaurant. I sought to engage him in conversation. He answered with single words. “Yes” and “no” had to suffice. It was a sad encounter.

Earlier this week, the judge was shot down by his four Commissioners Court colleagues on his request for a pay increase. Every one of the commissioners opposed the increase. At least two of them spoke quite harshly about the judge, one of them saying he should take a pay “decrease” and other saying the county would be “negligent” by approving the proposed pay raise.

And after taking the verbal battering from his colleagues, Ware had no response. Why? He couldn’t verbalize the thoughts that no doubt were running through his head.

I’m not privy to all the ins and outs of county politics and policy these days. I do know a couple of key points. One is that a number of qualified individuals are considering a run for county judge in 2014, when Ware’s term is up. Another key point is that candidates for county office must be able to articulate a policy. They must make public appearances at, say, church picnics, candidate forums, televised debates, the Tri-State Fair, grange halls, feed stores and … well, you get the idea.

I say all this with deep affection for the man. I remember meeting Ware when I arrived in Amarillo in early 1995. He wasn’t that many years removed from his active-duty deployment as a Marine called to fight during the Persian Gulf War. His office is adorned with Marine Corps banners, flags and assorted photos and other paraphernalia. Semper fi, Judge Ware.

He scored a huge coup in 1995 when the county purchased the Santa Fe Building for 400 grand. He took a colleague and me on a tour of the then-vacant building and talked effusively of the grand plans he had to turn it into a county office complex. After a few hiccups along the way, the county got it done.

He fought for the county’s inclusion in a tax increment reinvestment zone to help fund downtown Amarillo’s redevelopment, acknowledging forcefully that the county courthouse indeed, sits in the middle of the downtown district.

But all that is in the past. The here and now has produced a sad spectacle.

Arthur Ware cannot possibly campaign for an office the functions of which he no longer is able to perform. Tell the public, judge, what you plan to do. My best advice is to quit now and spare yourself further humiliation at the hands of your colleagues.

County judge gets his comeuppance

Am I the only person in Amarillo who wonders whether Potter County Judge Arthur Ware’s behavior of late has angered his colleagues on the Commissioners Court?

The judge asked his colleagues this week for a pay raise during the next budget year, but the commission — all four members — told him in effect “no dice.” Commissioner H.R. Kelly told Ware he needed a decrease in pay rather than a $2,700 annual increase. Why? Well, Ware isn’t doing his job.

To be fair, Ware’s inability to do his job isn’t his fault. He suffered a grievous stroke in 2010 that has left him significantly impaired. He cannot speak effectively. Ware’s paralysis along his right side remains a tremendous handicap as well. He has had to spend lengthy periods of time “off the clock” undergoing intensive rehabilitation. The result of all this has been that many of his duties have been farmed out to other county officials.

I am among those with great respect for the service Ware has given to the county, and indeed to the nation by virtue of his service during the Persian Gulf War as a Marine.

I’m scratching my head, though, over his request for a raise when he hasn’t done the job to which he’s been elected.

That’s not the end of this drama. He recently fired longtime and loyal administrative assistant Nancy Tanner. He still hasn’t explained why he fired the person upon whom he has depended for 20 years. State employment law doesn’t require Ware to explain, given that Texas is an “at will” state that allows employers to fire anyone for any reason, or for no reason. That’s no reason for him to stonewall the public.

Commissioner Alphonso Vaughn said the county would be “negligent” if it gave Ware a pay raise, given that he has been unable to do much of the work required of him.

The county judge, who once enjoyed the unqualified support of many officials and staffers at the courthouse, is facing a serious decision about his public service career. Does he seek re-election next year? If he does, how in this world is he going to explain how he is capable of doing a job he hasn’t done since that crippling and tragic stroke?

As for the raise, Ware’s colleagues took the only action available to them.

Dear Judge Ware: Please explain this firing

Texas is an “at will” state, meaning that employers can fire employees for any reason, or for no reason. They concoct reasons for terminating employees.

That appears to be the case involving a long-standing Potter County administrative assistant and her boss, the county judge.

The judge is Arthur Ware. The administrative assistant is Nancy Tanner. Ware suffered a serious stroke in 2010. He’s been unable to communicate effectively ever since. Technically, he’s been on the job but much of the work that entails actually talking to constituents – such as probate hearings – has been farmed out to other county officials.

Nancy Tanner has indicated a desire to succeed Ware as county judge in 2014. She has announced her intention to consider running for the office. Tanner sent a letter to friends and supporters throughout the community recently expressing that desire. In the letter, she said that because of his physical condition, Ware “probably” won’t seek re-election next year. Tanner’s letter, though, mostly extolled her own qualifications, of which there are plenty. She knows the probate process inside and out; she’s been handling court administration for more than two decades. What’s more, she’s been a loyal aide to Judge Ware and professes to this day that she maintains great respect and affection for him.

The letter went out. And then, quite suddenly about two weeks ago, Ware informed Tanner that he is firing her. Hit the road, he said in effect.

OK, so what’s going on here? Tanner believes politics played a part in her dismissal. Ware isn’t saying anything about it. Some of his Commissioners Court colleagues are asking for a clarification – which they are correct to do.

State law doesn’t require Arthur Ware to give a single reason for making a personnel-related decision. So it appears he’s going to rest on that law, go about his business and perhaps hope the tempest subsides.

I don’t think it should until Ware explains why he dismissed his trusted administrative assistant who has declared her desire to succeed him.

The county has been roiled by controversy before. This won’t be the last time. But the man at the center of this story needs to tell his constituents of his plans. Will he seek re-election or not? Was Tanner’s summary firing related to the letter she sent out? Did it have anything to do with the presumption she made about whether he would run again? A full and detailed accounting of what happened is in order.

Nancy Tanner deserved better than what she got. What is done is done. Just because the law protects an elected official from having to explain himself doesn’t make it right for him to stonewall the public.

Talk to your bosses, Judge Ware – the people you serve as county judge.