New Year, plans for ex-commissioners
By Dave Rogers
For The Record
No one ever said making governmental ends meet in the years after Hurricane Ike devastated Orange County was going to be easy.
So pardon outgoing county commissioners David Dubose and John Banken if they seem a little battle-fatigued as they exit their offices for the last time later this week.
“It’s hard to say,” Dubose said when asked to list his top accomplishments in eight years as Precinct 1 commissioner.
“I brought a business aspect to the county, but the business of the county is run a whole lot different than a retail business.”
Banken, Precinct 3 commissioner for one four-year term, said the county was $7 million in the red when he arrived in 2013.
“We were gaining a couple of million dollars a year to balance the budget,” he said. “The court was working good together.”
Banken said that in 2015, after the election of County Judge Stephen Brint Carlton and Commissioner Barry Burton and re-election of Commissioner Jody Crump, the dynamic of the commissioners court changed.
“Immediately, they wanted to start cutting benefits for employees,” Banken said. “This is the way they balanced the budget – by cutting benefits for employees and retirees.”
The balanced 2017 county budget was passed in September by a 4-1 margin with only Banken opposing.
Banken came to commissioners court after serving nine years as Bridge City mayor and six years on city council.
He was defeated in his county re-election bid last spring, losing in the Republican primary to John Gothia, former board chairman for the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce.
A former plant manager, Banken said he hasn’t decided on the next chapter in his life.
“I’ve got options,” he said.
Dubose owned and operated Sholars Drug Store in Orange until 2006.
“I decided the county had been so good to my family, it was time to give back,” he said. “Commissioners court was the best place to give back.”
Dubose announced in 2015 he wouldn’t run for re-election.
“Originally, I had planned to serve three terms. That would make me 70 years old,” he said.
“It turns out my son in Seattle has a new baby, and I have another grandkid in Kingwood. My wife, Harriet, has been such a jewel. It’s time to spend time with her.”
Dubose recalls that Orange County was “$4 million to $6 million in the red” when he came aboard in 2009, “mainly because we were planning on getting some government money (after Ike) which never developed.”
The 2008 hurricane is a strong memory for him. Although he wasn’t officially in office, as a commissioner-elect, Dubose was allowed to go with County Judge Carl Thibodeaux to the regional command center and assist.
“One of the highlights was I was elected to the Southeast Texas Regional Planning Committee and I was able to make sure Orange County got a fair share of government grants,” Dubose said.
But the county is always fighting an uphill battle with a short stick, he said.
“Our economic development corporation works on a budget of $150,000. Port Arthur’s EDC has a budget amount of $1 million,” he said. “We’re constantly in competition with Cameron Parish in Louisiana and Jefferson County for new development.”
During his two terms, Dubose said, “We did get some industry. But the main thing is we didn’t lose anything.”