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EDITORIAL — Bartie’s 2nd chance: We hope for success

Numbers told the story early.

Mayor-elect Thurman “Bill” Bartie took 54 percent of the early and absentee votes in the Port Arthur mayoral runoff race, a strong lead that held up after Saturday’s votes at the polls were counted.

The final vote count of 1,883 for Bartie, 1,592 for incumbent Derrick Ford Freeman showed the challenger did the work necessary to win office. Both men ran vigorous campaigns, seeking support wherever it potentially showed itself.

Bartie, who spent the last minutes of his campaign at the Port Arthur Public Library, busiest of the city’s seven polling sites, said he’d exhausted every opportunity and avenue to engage with voters and ask for support: churches, civic organizations, funerals, weddings. Wherever one or more were gathered, Bartie was there. If he leads the city as effectively and vigorously as he waged his campaign, he may enjoy success.

For that successful effort, Bartie deserves congratulations. The incumbent gracefully offered that over the weekend, and Bartie offered thanks to Freeman for his eight years of service on the Port Arthur City Council, including the last three as mayor.

The new mayor offered Freeman “blessings on his future.”

For Bartie, Saturday’s vote offered him some vindication after a long stretch in the political desert. He was removed from office as District 8 justice of the peace in 2004 for abusive language and behavior toward people who appeared before him in that office. He says he’s changed and we hope that’s true. As a mayoral candidate, he was approachable and likeable.

A part-time preacher, he “praised God for being given an opportunity to be a leader in this community again” after Saturday’s vote totals were announced. Not everyone gets a second chance.

“I don’t take it lightly. For whatever reason, He chose me,” Bartie said.

He pledged to “roll up his sleeves” and work with the present City Council members.

Bartie enters office at a time when the city appears to be making a turnaround. Under Freeman and the City Council, Port Arthur spent $17 million in repairing streets this year.

The city also made headway in reviving a moribund downtown, encouraging construction of new residential housing and signing agreements with Motiva Enterprises that will enable that energy giant to reclaim two and maybe more landmark buildings downtown for housing office workers.

During his campaign, Bartie seemed less enthusiastic than city leaders did about that transformational work and promised a new beginning for the city’s future. Enough of the 12 percent of the voters who cast ballots favored Bartie’s vision, or otherwise did not embrace Freeman’s leadership.

Either way, for Port Arthur’s good, we hope the new mayor shows wisdom in exercising his second chance to lead and in working with other, proven city leaders.