Local leaders express concern in wake of Deshotel retirement news

Published 12:30 am Thursday, November 18, 2021

Shock, gratitude and concern about filling enormous shoes.

That’s how many reacted to news that state Rep. Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont) would not be seeking reelection when his term expires in 2022.

After 23 years in state office, which follows nearly eight years as a Beaumont City Councilman, Deshotel is leaving the 22nd Legislative District.

Deshotel, in his 12th term in office, said he needs more time for himself and those he loves.

“I have met a most wonderful woman with whom I am engaged and love with all my heart,” a statement from Deshotel said. “By the time the next legislative session begins we will be newlyweds starting our life together. I will also have my first grandson by then. I have quite of a bit of life changing blessings to look forward to and on which to focus my energy.”

County Commissioner Michael Sinegal of Jefferson County Precinct 3 said he was happy for Deshotel, who he described as a great servant to Southeast Texas and the entire state.

“My initial thought was shock, but I understand once he said why,” Sinegal said. “I don’t begrudge him. I know it will throw everything into a tailspin with today’s politics.”

According to Sinegal, Deshotel’s best weapon was his approach as a statesman willing to compromise while always standing strong for Democratic values of diversity, inclusion and respect of others.

Sinegal said today’s politics led by radical voices from out of state has divided the people.

“(Deshotel) would compromise when he thought it was the best thing for the state of Texas,” Sinegal said. “He earned that through longevity. Plus, he had the backing of local citizens, Republicans and Democrats.”

House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) said for a generation, Joe Deshotel has worked to improve the lives of those in southeast Texas.

“I’ve appreciated working with Joe on issues important to our community, including TWIA, flood mitigation and the success of our Lamar campuses,” Phelan said. “Kim and I wish Rep. Deshotel much success in the future, including the opportunity to dote on his new grandchild for years to come.”

Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Pat Avery said Deshotel was respected by politicians on both sides of the aisle.

According to Avery, Deshotel was successful with major legislation signed into law this year by Governor Abbott, noting House Bill 2730 was a win for landowners, industry, municipalities and railroads.

It related to the acquisition of property by an entity with eminent domain authority and the regulation of easement or right-of-way agents.

Avery said local residents could always count on Deshotel to help keep Texas Windstorm Insurance rates in check.

“Joe had a tremendous session this year,” she said. “I could always get Joe on the phone when I needed him. He will be sorely missed by this Chamber president and by this entire community.”

Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie was sad after learning of Deshotel’s reelection decision.

Bartie made clear he was happy Deshotel could focus on other things in his life, adding his misgivings were only about losing Deshotel’s effectiveness and voice in local, state and national matters.

“We certainly appreciate his almost 30 years of public service,” Bartie said. “His seniority in the Texas Legislature and his networking ability around the country with other legislators from different states were a benefit. We will be minus that in Port Arthur, in particular.”

Bartie has worked with Deshotel since the early 1990s, adding the former Beaumont City Councilman and current 23-year member of the state legislature has been a tremendous representative for Port Arthur and beyond.

Deshotel and Bartie recently shared a table at a Democratic Party gala.

“I appreciate what he has done and I really wish he would continue,” Bartie conceded, before adding he would do all he could to support the next 22nd Legislative District representative.

State Rep. Joe Deshotel (Emree Weaver/The Texas Tribune)

The following is the statement released by Joe Deshotel’s office:

My Dear Friends,

I want to thank all the thousands of people that have supported me through the past 23 years and gave me the distinct honor of representing them in the Texas House Representatives. I hope that I have made things better for my community and state.

I remember when Al Price announced that he was retiring after recently winning the primary election leading to a 12th term. I asked myself how someone could give up such an honor and opportunity as serving in the Texas Legislature. I have a clearer perspective now.

So, after over half my life in some sort of public service, I need some time to myself and with those I love. I have met a most wonderful woman with whom I am engaged and love with all my heart. By the time the next legislative session begins we will be newlyweds starting our life together. I wilt also have my first grandson by then. I have quite of a bit of life changing blessings to look forward to and on which to focus my energy.

Jefferson County is blessed with many talented young leaders, so there is no shortage of qualified persons to represent District 22. It is time to get out of the way and allow the younger generation with their energy and fire to have this honor and responsibility. I want to publicly thank Christian Manuel, Melissa Quevedo and Jackie Savoy, for without their tireless service and loyalty, I would not have had the successes I enjoyed.

Be assured I did not make this decision without much thought and prayer, for it has been the experience of a lifetime. I will never forget when I returned home from being chosen by the precinct chairs of District 22, to be placed unopposed on the November 1998 ballot 23 years ago. I sat alone and cried, trying to comprehend the awesome honor and responsibility that was just bestowed upon me. As I did then, tears are shed as I return it back to the people that entrusted it to me.

I clearly recall a press conference held by my friend Sylvester Turner, announcing he would not seek reelection after 26 years in office. He said, “the best time to leave is when you are still at the top of your game, you still want to stay and the people you serve still want you to stay. That’s the best time to wave goodbye!”

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart!

Respectfully,

Joseph D. Deshotel

22nd Legislative District