EDITORIAL — Mayor can recollect those who formed him

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, July 16, 2019

When Thurman “Bill” Bartie calls Tuesday night’s Port Arthur City Council meeting to order — it will be his first, full meeting as mayor — he’ll draw upon a lifetime of experiences — many good, some challenging — that have fashioned him into the man he is now. We welcome him to his new position and, for the good of Port Arthur and its 50,000+ citizens, wish for him only success.

The new mayor has survived long years — more than a decade — in a political desert since his removal as a justice of the peace. He’s different now, he insists, and citizens should take him at his word. He has matured, he said, and we can only wish that every public leader could say the same.

He’s trained for clergy work — he’s an associate pastor at First Sixth Street Baptist Church — and possesses a more forgiving and conciliatory nature, he said. Proof will play out before the public.

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We’ve enjoyed meeting and covering Bartie through his political campaign and enjoyed meeting with him last week, as he recollected a Port Arthur of 50 and 60 years ago that, although it was in the early years of the civil rights movement, still offered what are now enduring memories of influential elders, caring neighbors, close-knit families and nurturing institutions in West Port Arthur.

Memories included his step-father and his mother, “Lady Mae,” and a loving and influential grandmother, “Momma Ada,” who made sure he knew influential, successful people who served as role models and who guided and encouraged him. They included faculty members at Abraham Lincoln High and Sunday school teachers who, he said, were members of a village that raised every child — or at least tried to exert a positive influence on them.

“God blessed me to know those folks,” he said.

When he picks up that gavel, he may remember his boyhood homes on West Fifth Street and West Seventh Street, easy walking distance to Lincoln High, where he relished the opportunity to be a “Bumblebee.”

“You wanted to be a Bumblebee from the time you were a baby,” he said. He was. He is.

When he calls for the prayer and the pledge to open Tuesday’s meeting, he might remember Port Arthur stalwarts like A.Z. McElroy, who died in the 1990s, or the Rev. C.A. Ellis, who died a decade ago, men who he said influenced him. He might remember his own church members, who encouraged him to run for mayor. Few people claim public office without the guidance and help of others. Bartie owes all of them his best effort.

Capable, veteran City Councilmembers will surround him. He should rely on them, just as he relies on his own, polished good judgment.

We look for good things. He does, too.