New county officials busy with transition
By Dave Rogers
For the Record
While nothing as eye-catching as last week’s pictures of Donald Trump sitting down with Barack Obama in the Oval Office has surfaced, there is another post-election transition going on right here in Orange, Texas.
Four newcomers to leadership roles at the county courthouse were officially elected last Tuesday and, like Trump, they will officially take office in January.
But there was no November surprise in vote-counting for incoming county commissioners Johnny Trahan and John Gothia, nor for constable Lane Mooney and tax assessor-collector Karen Fisher.
With no opponents in the general election, three of the four have been 99.9 percent assured their offices since winning in the Republican primary election held on Super Tuesday, March 1.
Trahan, who originally was one of five running to replace retiring Precinct 1 Commissioner David Dubose, required a May 24 run-off win to claim the place on the November ballot.
Then he had to wait five-plus months to make it official. Because, technically, a write-in candidate could have surfaced to pull an election day surprise bigger than Trump’s.
“It’s been a little different,” Trahan admits of the waiting around.
Like all the rest, he hasn’t quit his day job. Yet.
Trahan has been a customer service representative for Entergy for 35 years.
Gothia, incoming Precinct 3 commissioner, is territory sales manager for Altria, a nationwide consumer product company, and plans to retire soon from the company for whom he’s worked for more than three decades.
Mooney, a peace officer for 29 years, mostly in Orange County, will be moving from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, where he’s a deputy, to the Precinct 4 office in the Vidor sub-courthouse.
Fisher will be moving from the county’s tax office in Vidor to the county Administration Building across the parking lot from the Orange courthouse.
She was unavailable to be interviewed for this story Tuesday.
The others all said the 2016 campaign was their first time to run for elected office. And they said they’ve been busy getting ready to hit the ground running as soon as they are sworn in.
“There is a lot of preparation,” said Mooney. “There’s a lot that goes into it. I’ve been preparing since the election.”
In Mooney’s case, he said that included getting from the state a list of licenses and mandatory schools he needs to attend for his job, which he said runs the gamut from acting as bailiff in Justice of the Peace court, serving subpoenas and evictions to acting as a peace officer.
“It’s been a learning experience,” Mooney said. “I know law enforcement, but when it comes to civil … it’s going to be a big transition.”
Fortunately, the county has three experienced constables Mooney can go to with questions.
“I’ve already talked to the other constables,” he said. “They’re really good guys. They’ll be here to help me.”
While Trahan and Fisher ran to replace retiring officials (Lynda Gunstream is the retiring tax assessor-collector), Mooney and Gothia defeated incumbents for their positions.
In March, Mooney won over incumbent Weldon Peveto and Gothia knocked off Commissioner John Banken.
“I’ve not had a lot of conversations with Mr. Banken at all,” Gothia said when asked if his predecessor was showing him the ropes the way Obama appeared to be advising Trump two days after the presidential election.
But, in fairness, Dubose said he and Trahan hadn’t spent a lot of time transitioning.
“I haven’t had a lot of meetings with him,” Dubose said.
“I normally do ask the new commissioners, even the ones not in my precinct, ‘Would you like me to go around and have me introduce you to the other department heads?’
“But Johnny’s just taken iniative to do it himself. He’s been around here a lot.”
Both Gothia and Trahan have a lot of public service on their resumes and both underline economic development at the top of their to-do lists.
A former board chairman for the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce, Gothia has been at the forefront of bringing pro fishing tournaments to Orange. He appeared at commissioner’s court Tuesday with Chamber president Ida Schossow as the court approved a $90,000 expenditure of hotel/motel occupancy funds to promote June’s Bassmaster tournament.
“Over the years I’ve attended a few of these (commissioner’s court meetings) to talk about fishing tournaments,” Gothia said, “and I attended a few in the past few months involving the budget process because I wanted to hear how they went.
“But I don’t want to overstep my bounds and look like I’m looking over his (Banken’s) shoulder. I’ve been attending to things in my community. I want to see what the community’s perspective is on what they want me to work on.”
Trahan said he’s been on the same path as Gothia.
“When I can, I try to go to commissioner’s court to catch up,” he said. “I talk to people in the community and find out what their issues are.
“Hopefully, when the time comes around, I’ll be up to speed and hit the road running.”