Monday, Dec. 31 will be the last time the Orange County commissioners’ court convenes for 2012. It will also be the end of Commissioner Precinct 3 John Dubose’s 12 years of service to Orange County. Dubose was defeated in November’s general election by his Republican opponent John Banken.

In a year when many local officials changed political affiliation to the Republican Party, Dubose stayed true to his Democratic roots. It cost him the election. It was clear that the votes Banken received were in direct correlation to the number of straight ticket Republican votes cast in the county.

Dubose said, “In hindsight, who knows, I might have won if I swapped parties, I don’t know. I’ve been a Democrat all my life; it’s difficult to change that.” Dubose said if he had changed parties, it would not have affected the way he voted. “We’ve always been a conservative court so that really wouldn’t matter.” He said it would have been very difficult to make that decision. “My dad was a Democrat. I’ve been a Democrat all my life, but I’ve never been a real liberal individual so I don’t know. It was certainly a factor.” Dubose says he has no regrets.  It was disappointing to not win, but you live with the consequences. He believes the court will continue to be conservative and effective as a governing entity.

“The court has been very supportive of each other during the time that I was there, and that is really a good thing. We did not always agree, did not always vote the same, we were not disagreeable with each other. I hope and I believe that will continue.”

Dubose has also served as the judge pro-tem for the last 8-9 years; covering for Orange County Judge Carl Thibodeaux when absent.

“Mr. Dubose is a great asset to the county and will continue to be an asset to Orange County,” said Thibodeaux. “He might not be the commissioner anymore but he’s always a community advocate. He works hard for his community. I’m sure we’re going to be doing a lot of communications between him and I during the course of my term as judge.”

Commissioner is not Dubose’s first public office. He was a city councilman for Bridge City for two or three terms and was the mayor of Bridge City from 1995 to 2000, when he won his bid for commissioner and joined the court in 2001.

Dubose has accomplished many things in his 12 years of service. “John’s the type of person that didn’t shy away from any challenge,” said Thibodeaux. “He was the type person, if I needed a project worked on for the county and I had other issues facing me at the courthouse; things I had to deal with personally, I could always pass the project over to Commissioner Dubose. He always did a fantastic job. Man I’m going to miss him. You know the old cliché, you’re losing your right arm, well, I’m right handed, so I lost my left arm,” said Thibodeaux with a little laugh. “He’s been a great asset; I am really, truly going to miss him.”

There are two projects that he is especially proud of; a 1,100 foot extension to the airport runway and the reclaiming and rehabilitation of marshland near Bridge City.

The airport project had been on hold for five years before Dubose worked on it. The FAA requires a runway to be 800 feet wide, which required the clearing of quite a bit of land for the extension. The bid of clearing and ‘grubbing’ the land came in at over $1 million, which put the project out of the realm of possibility. Working with Road and Bridge and the Drainage District, the county was able to get the land cleared, basically, for the cost of running the equipment. Dubose brought the $1 million dollar cost down to virtually nothing. The runway extension itself was funded by a TxDOT aviation grant. With a current runway of 5,500 feet, jets are now capable of landing in Orange. Traffic at the airport has increased from five to six a day to 12-15 a day. Above ground tanks for fuel were also added to the property. “The airport has great potential for the future,” said Dubose. The current need for the airport is a place for a good mechanic said Dubose.

In a coordinated effort of Texas Parks and Wildlife and the drainage district, they rebuilt the marshland habitat near Bridge City that was destroyed by Hurricane Audrey about 1957.

“It’s a great project Orange County got to participate in because Parks and Wildlife wanted to do something here. The funding was available through some fines that had been levied against industry and other areas and we were able to bring that project here. It took a long time, but it’s worked very well,” said Dubose. He said that project was completed three or four years ago. “The fishing will improve greatly over the next few years as the marsh rebuilds itself and replenishes itself,” said Dubose.

“We have a project in motion to put another boat ramp at the bridge at the Old River Cove Inlet.” He expects that project to begin this summer. Currently the project is waiting on permitting. “Clark Slacum has done an excellent job with that project and the bridge project as well,” said Dubose. He said Slacum, the county engineer that came onboard after Les Anderson passed away, came from TxDOT and is familiar with their programs.

“The match money that Orange County needs to put up to work on the East Roundbunch Bridge will be covered by a number of drainage crossing improvements, bridge improvements; mostly in Precinct 3, but perhaps in other areas of the county as well.” That money will not come out of the county’s pocket because it will be using hurricane grant funds as the county’s match and then TxDOT will take on the project of the East Roundbunch Bridge. “We’re really pleased about that because it is a major, major project. I’m not saying that we’re not qualified to do it, but it’s not something the county does every day and TxDOT does manage those things. That’s a real win, win for the county in years to come,” said Dubose. The bridge was heavily damaged by Ike. “It’s not unsafe, but it’s mechanically in pretty bad shape,” said Dubose. He said the fear is one day they’ll have an issue and not be able to open or close the bridge as needed.

“While it won’t be a replacement, it will be a very, very major rehabilitation, to the point that mechanically, it may look similar to what is there now, but it will be in much better shape.

“That’s a project of course I would have liked to seen us get started, but it will take several years. It’s a massive project. It will be inconvenient for a while, frankly, no matter who’s commissioner, because that bridge will have to be shut down for quite some time while that work is being done.

“It’s quite an interesting project. I was fortunate enough in the last month or so to stand on that thing while it was being opened and closed and see how it works. It’s pretty neat actually,” said Dubose. “We are going to have a lot of money and time spent on rehabbing that bridge, but it’s a necessary link to Chemical Row and certainly we want to preserve that,” said Dubose.

Last week round 2.2 of Hurricane Ike funds were approved to be used in the reconstruction of roads over the next three years. There are 42 roads on the list in Precinct 3. Dubose said money will run out before they get them all completed, but he predicts one half to two thirds will be finished when the funds run dry.

Dubose may soon be gone from the county court, but his influence will still be felt for years to come.

He said what he will miss the most will be the people. “It’s been a great deal of fun working with the elected officials as well as the employees of Orange County.”  What he will miss the least is calls about the citizen’s collection station located at the old landfill.

“We’ve had a wonderful relationship for the 12 years he’s been on the court,” said Thibodeaux. “Not only has John been a great commissioner for Orange County, but John has been my friend all along and will most certainly continue to be my friend.”

Last week Dubose was surprised with a small party and presented with a plaque for his 12 years of services to Orange County.

Evan though his duties as commissioner will cease next week, as a certified public accountant John will be kept fairly busy the next few months as tax season is fast approaching. “I will make an attempt to pick up some additional business. We’re definitely going to be busy for a while. After that, this summer when it quiets down, I’ll have some time to reflect on what else I want to do.”

Will he run for public office in the future? “I don’t know. I guess a good politician never says never, but I have no current plans for public office, but you never know. I’ll keep the doors and options open.  Something may come along that I’m interested in.”

John will have a little more time to enjoy his family, his wife Joyce; son John and his wife Heather,  their two children, Logan, 16 and Danica, 12; and daughter, Joy Simonton and her husband Robert and their two children, Christian, 18 and Adley, 3. “That one is the apple of her papa’s eye; and she knows it. That’s the bad thing” said Dubose of Adley with a laugh.

“The county will be facing some challenges in the future; hopefully not another hurricane. If you look at what the county has been able to do with the restoration of these buildings, we’ll soon have three buildings completed. A lot of folks were displaced by this last hurricane. Much work has been done. While we never want to get another hit like that, if that were to occur today, things are in much better shape. We have generators in place; changes have been made that the county would not be affected as severely as it was in 2008. We should be proud of that. You’ve got some fantastic people, Jeff Kelley, along with his group; the maintenance department has done tremendous work on staying on top of these new buildings. We just have good people. That is as simple as I can say it. We really do have good people.

“I have really enjoyed being commissioner and working with the county. I have never had a job that I hated to go to work. I’ve been very fortunate in that.”

About Penny LeLeux

Penny has worked at The Record Newspapers since 2006. A member of the editorial staff, she has "done everything but print it." Most frequently she writes entertainment reviews and human interest stories, with a little paranormal thrown in from time to time.She has been a lifelong member of the Orangefield community.