Reflections| upon municipal government: Some acorns to remember

by Larry Sinclair

I had the privilege of working as assistant city attorney for the City of Beaumont from 1964 to 1966; as city attorney of the City of Orange from 1967-1969; as city attorney of the City of Odessa from 1969-1978; as assistant city attorney for the City of Rusk from 1979 for several years (my senior law partner, Paul Cox, was actually Rusk’s city attorney then, but Paul had me do the City’s legal work after I joined him and Charlie Holcomb in 1979); as city attorney of the City of Jacksonville from about 1986-2005/2006; and city attorney of the City of Rusk from 2007 through October, 2016.

That tallies up to about 45 years in the practice of municipal law. Not having ever really gotten “the hang of it” after 45 years of practicing, I just gave up at the end of October, 2016 and retired.

At the risk of losing some of the friends I may still have left after all those years working for those various municipalities, I would like to reflect upon some things I have learned during those many years.

After all (as they say), “Even a blind hog will find an acorn sooner or later.” So, I’d like to try to share some “acorns” that I found along the way in municipal government, which may be worth remembering at this time in the life of our community. I don’t know how many articles on this subject I may be able to write before the tar and feathers start to arrive.

I’ll do my best to avoid pointing fingers at, or taking sides between, anybody involved in current local municipal issues. I would like to believe that I have friends which are directly involved in, or have strong feelings about, both sides of some current local issues. I hope to retain those friendships, because at my age and mental condition, I can’t afford to lose any friends. I may try to inject a little humor into some of these articles. I realize that this is risky, but it’s my usual approach. I’ve found that people seldom laugh at you and “cuss you out” at the same time.

My feeble attempts at humor originated way back in my early childhood, probably based upon a sense of insecurity. Even with a full head of hair back then, I seemed to feel that people might like me better if I could make them laugh. I must have succeeded, because through the years many people have laughed out loud when they saw me for very the first time. (You’re suppose to be chuckling now, or at least smiling.)

My first acorn of reflection is that some really good people work for cities. I have had the privilege of working with some wonderful municipal employees through those 45+/- years. Admittedly, some of them were real characters. By that I mean that there have been a great variety of personalities involved, just as there are, I suppose, in every profession/vocation. Not all municipal employees excel in public relations, but they are usually very good in their specific responsibilities.

One fellow named Ed who worked as a draftsman in the engineering department in Odessa was rather challenged insofar as his social and communication skills were concerned. But we became close friends. We learned that we both enjoyed playing tennis, a sport at which he did excel.

So, we often played tennis together on weekends. Ed and I became good friends and confidants, between whom we could share some of our job frustrations and other challenges of life. Ed was an excellent draftsman and a valuable asset to the City of Odessa, and, in turn, to the citizens of Odessa, very few of whom ever met him, much less got to know and appreciate him.

I always felt just a little bit stigmatized when I worked for municipal governments, especially at the cities where I was a full-time city employee.

I always feared that some of the city taxpayers who paid my salary might resent having to do so. I dreaded the prospect of seeing my salary published in the local newspaper at budget-adoption times. And although I never had a city vehicle as part of my compensation package, I always tried to get back to my office by 1:00 p.m., lest someone see me and think I was taking more than an hour for lunch.

So, here’s my point: There are, and always have been, some really fine people who work for cities in general and for the City of Rusk in particular.

By and large my experience has been that most city employees are good folks. And they probably do not receive the recognition and appreciation they deserve.

They are trying to do a good job with their respective responsibilities for the particular department in which they work. They deserve to be appreciated.