• 73°

Branick’s re-election godsend to this county


Jeff Branick’s close call in last week’s General Election voting was a close call for Jefferson County itself, which would have been badly served to lose its committed, focused and able countywide leader.

Branick, who swapped parties from Democrat to Republican in 2017, won by a mere sliver over former U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson, a Democrat, who once again proved himself to be an effective campaigner and vote getter. He always has been.

But Branick, as county judge, is in the middle of complex matters related to Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey, including a continuing quest for maximum federal aid. It would have been a giant step backward to change county leadership at this crucial point.

In an interview with our reporter, Chris Moore, Branick said he had some steep hills to climb in gaining re-election, among them bitter partisan politics, perceptions that the county is in decline, and some lack of understanding and appreciation for projects such as coastal protection that have been and are moving forward.

In truth, Branick has spent lots of time on important coastal protection projects like those at McFadden Beach, which are beyond the ready view of many Jefferson County residents. But those projects matter, not only to protect the beauty of our coastline but also to prevent costly and pernicious erosion.

“I don’t know that the vast majority of people understand how important that area is to reducing storm surge from hurricanes and how much it protects our coastlines. There are probably a lot of people that don’t realize how important that 139,000-acre marsh is to fish, crab, shrimp and waterfowl,” he said. But Branick understands.

“Most people appreciate it from a recreational standpoint. It is a gem of an area that receives visitors from all over the world. I don’t think enough people in our county take advantage of the opportunities that are there.”

Indeed they don’t. But the beauty of Jefferson County’s coastline is much of what makes this county spectacular, even when that coastline is remote, readily accessible to only a few people.

Improving Jefferson County takes more than a smile and glib comments. Improving this county’s position as a place to work and live takes attention to the most minute details of governance in order to improve countywide drainage, deepen the Sabine Neches Waterway, bolster hurricane protection. Branick has wrestled with those details to the point where this county is making headway and seeing progress. Changing leadership now might have been a disaster — “manmade,” not natural — for that progress. Jefferson County is securing the necessary funds to advance our infrastructure and position us for the future.

For the sake of party politics, Jefferson County might have kicked that away.