Commissioner’s race features city council alums
For The Record
When Deborah Mitchell and Theresa Beauchamp face off for the Orange County Precinct 2 Commissioner seat in the Nov. 6 election, it won’t be for the first time.
In May of 2004, Beauchamp defeated Mitchell 871 votes to 748 in a race for the City of Orange’s Place 1 city council seat.
Beauchamp, a Republican, was re-elected four times, twice without opposition, and held the office 11 years before being term-limited.
Mitchell, former Orange County Democratic Party chair, was elected to Orange City Council in May of 2005 and served a pair of two-year terms.
“Orange was heavily Republican represented then,” said Mitchell, who resigned as local party leader to run this November as one of two Democrats seeking county office this year.
She and fellow Democrat Gail Barnett, who is taking on incumbent Hershel Stagner, Jr. for Justice of the Peace Precinct 1, are giving Orange County its first two contested races since 2014.
Beauchamp, meanwhile, just wants her friends to know she has another election coming. Soon.
“Everybody keeps saying, ‘Here’s our new commissioner,’ and I say, ‘Oh no, no, I’m not,’” she said.
The confusion is because Beauchamp has already won an election this year, defeating incumbent Barry Burton by four votes in March’s Republican primary.
Then, six days later, she was again declared winner in a recount.
“I’m afraid people will think I’m already commissioner and forget to go vote in November,” she said. “I hope I get elected. I’m ready to work.
Mitchell drew no Dem opponent, so was able to marshal her efforts for the fall.
“I’m a voice for everybody, an advocate for every citizen,” Mitchell said. “I bring diversity to have representation for all socio-economic levels.”
Mitchell won council election as the top vote-getter in a three-way race for Place 4 in 2005, and was re-elected in 2007, running unopposed.
She lost to current councilman Bill Mello in 2009. Mitchell ran for Beauchamp’s vacated Place 1 chair in 2015, losing by one vote, 134-133, to Patrick Pullen.
From 2005-2009, Mitchell and Beauchamp served on the Orange city council together.
“We served on council together for four years; we traveled together to attend workshops,” Mitchell said.
In her time on council, Beauchamp is most proud of spear-heading drives to put Christmas angels on city light poles and pushing for a teen curfew that passed in Orange, West Orange and Pinehurst.
Mitchell’s top council memories include helping to build Lions Den Park and working to get the city back on its feet after Hurricane Rita.
“I was able to assist with the evacuation, talk to people and pray with them, and afterwards, I was able to seek out resources to help people,” Mitchell said.
“The council took a different stance. It was like they didn’t want people to know how much damage we had.”
Both Beauchamp and Mitchell have backgrounds in educational leadership, albeit different forms.
An Orange Stark High grad, Beauchamp taught school in Bridge City, Chicago and Houston, before shifting to administration at Kingwood High. She was assistant principal at Bridge City Intermediate and West Orange-Stark.
Mitchell, a native of North Carolina, was assistant principal at West Orange’s North school when she started the first after-school program in the area.
She has family services manager for the local district and worked with Head Start after-school program at the high school and intermediate school for 37 years.
Mitchell says economic development and quality of life are two of the issues she will tackle if she’s elected commissioner.
Beauchamp said “I was really upset with all that wasn’t going on [in county government], and then people started calling me and said, ‘Have you thought about running for commissioner?’
“We’ve got to grow, and we’ve got to get it looking better. We’ve got to get it back up to speed, where people feel more comfortable about living here.”