Tag Archives: Potter County government

Make more room for Tri-State Fair? Sure!

A fellow Amarillo resident has come up with a perfectly solid reason for tearing down the rathole also known as Potter County Memorial Stadium.

His name is Larry Hamilton, who wrote in a letter to the editor of the Amarillo Globe-News: Our Tri-State Fair in Amarillo is a really nice-sized fair. However, with our ever growing size and population, why not tear the old stadium down and increase the size of our fair, midway, eateries – anything that will eventually need more room.

Why not, indeed?

I am not a fair kind of guy. I’ve been to the Tri-State Fair a few times over many years. While it doesn’t appeal to me, I understand the appeal it has for others.

The old ballpark — which sits next to the fairgrounds — is no longer a suitable venue for anything. Potter County isn’t going to spend any money to rehabilitate it.

Larry Hamilton has offered a suitable and plausible reason for tearing it down. Let the Tri-State Fair board expand its annual event, giving it more space for those who like these events to enjoy.

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.

Tanner vs. McCartt for Potter County judge

I’m going to make some assumptions about the upcoming race for Potter County judge in 2014.

One is that the two most serious Republican candidates already have declared their intention to seek the seat now held by County Judge Arthur Ware. The other is that no serious contender is going to enter the contest. A third assumption is that there won’t be a serious Democrat running for the seat, given that the Potter County Democratic Party is virtually comatose.

So, we’re left with two women with vastly different capabilities: former county court administrator and Ware’s one-time right-hand woman, Nancy Tanner, and former Amarillo Mayor Debra McCartt.

Ware, who’s not running for re-election, has endorsed McCartt — which shouldn’t be a surprise given that he fired Tanner from her county job earlier this summer for reasons he hasn’t yet explained.

So the question becomes: How will these women present their political credentials and what will they say is their strongest suit?

Tanner has a long list of actual accomplishment on her dossier. She’s run the court system; she has been at Ware’s side during the two decades Ware has been county judge; and she’s done much of Ware’s actual job since the judge suffered a devastating stroke in 2010. She knows the county well. She is well acquainted with county department heads and elected officials.

McCartt’s history is quite different. She served as mayor for three terms after serving a couple of terms on the Amarillo City Commission. McCartt is an immensely popular personality in Amarillo. She loves the city and served admirably as Amarillo’s chief spokeswoman during her mayoral tenure. However, the city’s political structure doesn’t give the mayor much actual power; the administrative duties are done by the city manager. Furthermore, the mayor and the four commissioners all represent the same constituency, since they all are elected at-large. But I’ll go back to my thought about McCartt’s personal popularity. It’s huge and I believe it will matter a great deal when the two candidates square off in public forums to debate the issues.

Potter County voters already have demonstrated a tendency to go with popularity over professionalism, as they did in 2000 when county Republicans nominated Mike Shumate to be sheriff over Art Tupin. Shumate had a checkered career with Amarillo Police Department, but developed a cult following when he ran the APD Crime Stoppers program; Tupin, meanwhile, served as chief Potter County deputy sheriff under Jimmy Don Boydston and was eminently more qualified for the job than Shumate. That didn’t matter to county Republicans. Shumate then breezed to victory in the general election that year over a Democratic candidate no one has seen or heard from since the votes were counted.

I am thinking the same dynamic may play out in the Tanner-McCartt race.

Tanner’s learning curve would be much less severe than McCartt’s, given that Tanner has done much of the job already and McCartt has little actual hands-on experience with managing the complexities of government.

Let’s all stay dialed in on this contest. It’s going to be a fascinating campaign that likely might reveal lots of things about Potter County’s voting public.

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.