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Posts published in “Day: September 15, 2011”

State senator talks border security at chamber meeting

The West Chambers County Chamber of Commerce heard from State Senator Tommy Williams at their Sept. 13 meeting, and Williams did not mince words; things aren’t as bad as they could be, but numerous issues — including border security — are not as resolved as they should be either.

Barbers Hill Independent School District superintendent Dr. Greg Poole introduced Williams by relating how he testified in Austin on behalf of the school district. “There was a guy from Amarillo who wanted the school district’s money,” Poole said. “Nobody wants plants that might explode or other dangerous things, but they do want our money.”

Poole said that Williams stood up for Barbers Hill. “Tommy said that even though it might benefit many districts, he would not throw Barbers Hill under the bus. It would have been very easy to play politics, but he knew it wasn’t the right thing to do.”

Williams touched on numerous issues, including the wildfires ravaging Texas. “One of my cousins had to leave her home,” Williams said. “The state’s resources are stretched thin. I know the authorities are getting the wildfires under control, but the only thing that will cure this is rain. Please keep these folks in your thoughts and prayers; further west it feels like we’re living in a tinderbox.”

Williams also touched on the current drought and the need for the reinforcement of Texas’ infrastructure. It was when Williams started discussing border security, however, that he began painting a picture of how serious the issue really is. “There’s nothing that concerns me more about the future of our state than what’s going on along our southern border,” Williams said. “I recently made three trips down to that area and saw border patrol agents trying to intercept drug dealers.

“When you start looking at the statistics, it’s pretty scary.”

Williams said that the amount of money traveling across the Texas border is close to $25-32 billion per year. “80 percent of that money is from marijuana sales,” Williams said. “We have to decide in our country and our state how we’re going to deal with this. California and Colorado have effectively legalized marijuana use, but it hasn’t cut off the illegal drug trade.

“It’s funding a huge criminal enterprise, and the spillover violence is having a huge effect on our country. The casual tolerance of marijuana is fueling the drug industry.”

Border security, Williams said, isn’t just about stopping drug traffic. “In about a years’ time we capture 300 to 400 special interest aliens coming into Texas from Mexico,” Williams said. “These aren’t the folks coming here to work. These are people from Afghanistan, the Sudan, and other countries known to harbor Al-Qaeda influences.

“We’re only catching one quarter of who’s coming through. These are not people coming here to work. These are people coming here to do us harm.”

Williams applauded the Department of Public Safety for their role in securing the border. “These terrorists are smugglers and traffickers. These are not nice people,” Williams said. “But they are scared to death when the DPS shows up. They say it’s because they don’t know what they’re going to do, that the DPS personnel are crazy.

“We want them to think you’re crazy,” Williams said with a laugh. “And what I’ve found is that the Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, they don’t call the federal helicopters in. They call the state’s DPS guys, because they are willing to fly in dangerous conditions. They’ll go out when the feds won’t.”

Williams was frank about the severity of the issue. “People in other parts of the country don’t understand how bad this is,” Williams said. “Interstate 10 eastbound is a major drug thoroughfare, and it’s only a matter of time before they see the drug violence in their own areas.”

Jessica Woods receives Terry Davis Award

HIGHLANDS– The Chamber of Commerce presented awards to leaders in the community at their monthly luncheon last week. The prestigious Terry Davis Award, for exemplary community service, went to Jessica Woods for her efforts with the Chamber, Jamboree, and Partners In Education, to mention a few of her achievements.

Other awards for service were: Outstanding Volunteer Firefighter, Janette Thompson; Outstanding Deputy Constable, Constable Ken Jones; Outstanding Sheriff’s Deputy, Deputy Ted Douthit; and Business/Organization of the Year, Kostka Auto Body Repair, David Kostak owner. The luncheon was held at the Highlands Community Center, with president Phillip Morris. The featured speaker for the event was Traci Wheeler, executive director of the Baytown Chamber. Her talk was on membership drives for the chambers, and also the role the chamber plays in the community.

The Terry Davis Award has been given for the last 28 years, to a person who works for the betterment of the community selflessly. See inside box for details on Terry Davis’ life.

Jessica Woods, recipient of this year’s award, is known for her work as president of the Chamber, co-chair of the Highlands Jamboree, and chairperson of the Chamber’s Partners In Education program. She has held each of these positions for several years, and continues to serve the community today.

In her emotional acceptance speech, Jessica said the award was especially important to her because her father had received it previously in 2006, and she was honored to follow his example. Jessica Woods is co-owner with her father of Rainbow Jewelry and Loan on Main Street.

Traci Wheeler spoke about her 38 years with the Baytown Chamber. She noted that chambers are non-profit, with no government support, but that many people don’t know that.

The purpose of a chamber, she said, was to “solve community problems, and bring about improvements.” A chamber can also be the will and conscience of a community.

Wheeler said that in contemplating a membership drive, a chamber should consider three aspects: one, relations; two, retention; and three, recruitment. This changes the traditional drive from simply trying to “sell and sign” up new members.

New members should be told the benefits of membership. They can be informed of the program of work of the chamber, and told what is in it for them. They should be shown an annual report, and informed of workshops, seminars, crime prevention, and quality of life.

As part of a membership drive, board members will be asked to sell 3 new members. the annual campaign will include a telemarketing session, 3 hours long per volunteer. The group will be broken into teams, with captains and 10 members per team, who will compete. Bells, whistles, clown noses and more make this a fun event, she said, and it is all over in one and one-half days. She said that this can be a very successful method for building the membership of the organization, and not a burden on any of the volunteers.

Most of all, she said, members should be “thanked” for their participation in the chamber. They should be contacted regularly by the chamber, with opportunities to build their business.