EDITORIAL — Day 1: We hope for Thurman “Bill” Bartie’s success

Published 12:12 am Friday, July 5, 2019

The more than 200 people who packed into and beyond the Port Arthur City Council chambers Wednesday — they were there to see Thurman “Bill” Bartie sworn in as our mayor — gave a glorious representation of what freely elected governments are all about.

It was a joyous event for Bartie supporters: family, friends, campaign workers, church members, fraternity brothers, neighbors and more. It marked a dramatic comeback for a man who has wandered through the political desert for 15 years.

But it was a happy event for the rest of Port Arthur’s people, too, those whom Bartie pledged to serve: those who voted for him, those who voted against him and those who voted not at all.

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Here’s how big the crowd was: The back wall of the room was put aside so additional seating could be set in place. The crowd was at least a little raucous — cheers resonated throughout City Hall’s fifth floor when the mayor-elect made his first appearance, and marched down the center aisle to welcome his enthusiasts — but supporters had every right to cheer loudly. Bartie and his backers worked hard for this win. We congratulate them.

Although we endorsed his opponent, it was hard for us not to enjoy and like Bartie as a man; he was a gracious winner and an affable mayoral contender. For his and for the city’s good fortunes, we congratulate him and wish him only success.

Part of his success will rest in his relationship with the sitting City Council, whose members seemed to support not his candidacy but that of Derrick Freeman. But all seem to be willing to give the new mayor an opportunity to succeed.

It’s important to note, as Mayor Pro Tem Harold Doucet has, that under the city’s government the mayor presides over City Council meetings but does not steer the city on a daily basis. That job belongs to the professionals: the city manager and department heads, who take their policy leads from the elected leadership.

He is, though, the “face” or most public representative of the government. That carries with it great advantages in representing the city on a grand scale but also great disadvantages — such as when blame abounds in times of natural disaster.

Mayors typically get not enough credit or too much blame. It comes with the job.

Bartie is new to municipal government but has broad, academic understanding of how government works. Alas, he has full knowledge of what happens when things go awry, too — hence his last, unhappy experience as an elected official.

The mayor has the full advantage experienced fellow councilmembers and capable city staff. Much of the work of hurricane recovery is in place or underway.

We hope for only good things.