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Rich Macke: Hope in Groves was short lived

Last Monday, Groves mayoral candidate Suzanne Williamson withdrew her name from the runoff election against incumbent Brad Bailey. A relative newcomer to politics, she forced a runoff by leading the charge for change, change that many Groves residents feel is long overdue.

Concerned citizens have questioned the “good ol’ boy” mentality that has had a stranglehold over the community for years.

Recently, questions about private meetings involving a majority of City Council members, plotting the removal and replacement of council members, and the abuse of power by elected officials have opened the door to a Groves community that is normally very tight lipped.

This is some of what Williamson wanted to change. By becoming that person who appeared to be a change agent, she created a hope among some citizens who felt the same. They supported her; they had been waiting for her.

In an announcement posted across social media, Williamson said this week she had pondered the results of the Nov. 6 election, which saw her trail by only 101 votes. In the end, she decided to throw in the towel.

“I know that people voted their ideals and their conscience. And the majority (60 percent) that did NOT vote in the city election also sent me a loud message that change is not near on the horizon,” she stated.

Maybe her lack of political experience was on display, but those that follow voter turnout know that if you see 40 percent turnout for any election other than the presidential election, it’s a good turnout in Jefferson County.

Countywide, the Nov. 6th election turnout of 50 percent was much larger than those that only have local elections on the ballot. Is that sad? Yes, it is. But truth be told, local-only elections usually see a 4-10 percent voter turnout.

To become a conduit for change in Jefferson County, one must understand that it is not a short-term fix. It takes a lot of time. Simply wanting people to change doesn’t mean they will. Many have to be led to that change in order to be able to understand it. That’s why there are leaders and followers throughout every community.

I met with Suzanne and we visited more than once. I think she is a good person, with a strong heart. I believe she wanted the change she spoke of during her campaign. That’s why we endorsed her for mayor.

However, I feel now she underestimated, or was not ready for, the fight she was working to take on, because it was big. The “Good Ol’ Boys” club is not an easy one to take down.

Since her withdrawal, Groves citizens have taken to social media, sharing their support of or frustrations with the former candidate.

There were rumors that she has been receiving threats such as “You’re playing with the big boys now.” In turn, those rumors said, the threats led her to purchase a gun. Although that is concerning, it is not unexpected for those that understand politics in Jefferson County.

When you become an agent for change, you automatically put yourself in the crosshairs of “hate.” I have been threatened multiple times myself. That’s why I carry my 9mm on my hip every day.

But I have yet to have anyone see if they are a quicker draw than me. That’s because threats are just that — threats to scare you and push you into submission. You are a threat to them. Unfortunately, in Groves, if the rumors are true, it worked.

Others have stated that she won’t be able to get anything done because she is just one vote on the council. If you don’t understand politics, that leads you to believe that a majority vote is the only way to get something done or not done. Councilwoman Karen Theis might have been a potential second vote to side with Williamson.

Depending on who replaces former Councilman Cross Coburn in Ward 1, any vote can easily go 3-2 either way. If it looks like there is a bloc being created against you, call the media; get them involved. Open the door to the issues Groves’ citizens are facing.

But don’t look for reasons to not finish what you started. Look for reasons and supporters to help you finish what you started. That’s would be leadership.

The real concern here is for the citizens of Groves that know there is a need for change. They found a leader that gave them hope things might start to change. Unfortunately, that hope was short lived.

Maybe it’s a good thing Suzanne Williamson withdrew. If you’re not in it for the long haul, and not willing to fight for those that jumped on your bandwagon, then you probably should have not run for office at all. Because all you did was give registered voters another reason to not vote in future elections.

Rich Macke is publisher of The Port Arthur News.