Port Arthur — Former Jefferson County Justice of the Peace Thurman Bartie, 64, has been out of political office for almost two decades, but he's remained in the public eye. Now this blast from the past says he's the best man to lead Port Arthur into the future.
Bartie announced Tuesday, he's running for mayor, hoping to make incumbent Derrick Freeman a one-term mayor. Freeman has yet to announce if he's seeking re-election, but several of his supporters say he will.
Bartie says many citizens have approached him encouraging him to run for mayor. Bartie says citizens of Port Arthur are frustrated with the slow pace of recovery from Tropical Storm Harvey. "We're almost a year-and-a-half after, we know a lot of folks still not in their homes, a lot of folks still not receiving any type of assistance", Bartie said.
Bartie says he has the people skills and connections to speed up recovery. Bartie is not only a former justice of the peace, he's also been a preacher, teacher and funeral home director. Bartie is currently involved in disaster case management, and is a community volunteer.
He believes his diverse background will help guide a diverse city. Bartie told us his strength is "the ability to communicate with all individuals, not with just one segment of society but every segment of society."
Bartie is not shying away from a past controversy that made headlines. The State Commission on Judicial Conduct recommended his removal as Justice of the Peace in 2002, accusing him of using profanity and not properly following the law.
Despite this, Bartie won re-electon, he would eventually resign to pursue other interests.
Now Bartie says he's learned lessons from that incident. ""I thank God for the opportunity to be able to come forward but this time, at a time I think it was a time of need for some new leadership and to actually present myself to this community to lead this community, not thinking or totally disregarding the past, but I've learned greatly for what my past has been", Bartie said.
Bartie is enthusiastic about being a candidate once again. He plans a more formal announcement on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, January 15, at city hall.
As he prepares his campaign, Bartie tell us, "I never left this community, I never stopped serving my community. I didn't tuck tail and run, I'm not going to tuck tail and run now."
The race for Port Arthur mayor is expected to attract a crowded field. The filing period runs from January 16 to February 15.
The City of Beaumont is holding city council elections on May 4th as well. Pastor Randy Feldschau from Cathedral Church, is seeking an at-large seat, and attorney Jeff Fisher will challenge incumbent Ward 2 Councilman Mike Getz.
Both Feldschau and Fisher have turned in the names of their campaign treasurers to the city clerk's office, which is the initial step to mounting a campaign.
Election day is Saturday, May 4th.