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By Barbara Brannon and Kay Ellington/Texas Spur and Caprock Courier—
By Barbara Brannon and Kay Ellington/Texas Spur and Caprock Courier—
Early voting began Monday, Jan. 11, for the Saturday, Jan. 23 special election to fill the unexpired term of Senator-elect Drew Springer (R-Muenster) in Texas House of Representatives District 68. Five candidates have filed as of Monday’s deadline.
John Berry (R) of Jacksboro is a financial planner and former Jack County commissioner.
Jason Brinkley (R) of Gainesville is an attorney and Cooke County judge.
Craig Carter (R) is a businessman and, since 2016, owner of the Old Nocona Boot Factory in Nocona.
Charles Gregory (D) of Childress is a retired postal employee.
David Spiller (R) is a Jacksboro attorney and member of the Jacksboro ISD school board.
The Texas Spur and Caprock Courier newspapers reached out to all five candidates this week with a standard questionnaire; four responded by press time with information that should help voters make decisions in a short time frame. Additionally, several candidates have announced tours last week that incorporate the western parts of the spread-out district.
Voters throughout the district, which includes 22 counties of West North Texas, should check with their local election jurisdictions regarding polling places and hours for early voting and for election day.
HOUSE DISTRICT 68 CANDIDATES PROFILES
ABOUT JOHN BERRY
Jacksboro resident John Berry served as Precinct 1 Commissioner in Jack County from 2017 to 2018, fulfilling an unexpired term. A Certified Financial Planner with more than 25 years in the financial services industry, Berry has owned Corner Post Financial Planning for nearly 15 years. He currently serves on the board of directors for the Lubbock Christian University Summer Camp program and is past president of the Hope Shelter. He is a member of the Jacksboro Chamber of Commerce and has volunteered for other charities and non-profits such as 4-H, the Boy Scouts, the Salvation Army, and the Lions Club. The Berry family are members of and attend Jacksboro Church of Christ.
John was raised in the Texas Panhandle and graduated from Texas A&M University, where he met his wife, Melanie. After college, John and Melanie lived in Houston before returning to west Texas. They were able to acquire the land and home built by John’s great-grandparents outside of Jacksboro, where they raised their two boys and run a small cow/calf operation. Son Trey currently attends West Texas A&M University in Canyon and son Michael attends The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina in Charleston.
“It is important that we carry on the legacy of sending a representative to Austin who not only believes in our conservative rural Texas values, but is willing to fight for them as well. I want thank Drew Springer for his years of service in the Texas State House and look forward to working together with him as he begins to serve in the Texas State Senate.”
“Raising my family on a ranch and owning a small business for decades gives me a unique perspective on the needs and challenges facing our district. The size of this district land wise creates regional needs that must be addressed such as access to water, healthcare, and broadband internet while we must also ensure that there are viable jobs to allow our families to stay in rural Texas. We must also fight for lower property taxes for homeowners and be willing to protect and defend our individual liberties.”
ABOUT JASON BRINKLEY
Jason Brinkley and his wife, Katie, reside in Gainesville, Texas. A fifth-generation resident of Cooke County, Brinkley is currently serving in his second term as the Cooke County Judge. Prior to taking office as county judge in 2015, he served as a justice of the peace for Cooke County from 2009 through 2014. Brinkley holds a juris doctorate from Oklahoma City University School of Law and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Texas A&M University, with a minor in economics. He has also maintained a small law practice for the past 12 years.
Brinkley served five years as president of the Texoma Council of Governments. He currently serves as vice president of the North and East County Judge and Commissioners Association, and vice-chair of the Rural Action Caucus and vice-chair of the Ag and Rural Affairs Policy Steering Committee for the National Association of Counties. He also serves on the National Association of Counties and the Texas Association of Counties boards of directors.
Brinkley also serves on several local boards and committees in and around Cooke County.
KEY CAMPAIGN MESSAGES
- Local decision making: I firmly believe that government closest to the people governs best.
- Expand rural broadband internet: A comprehensive and aggressive broadband internet plan for Texas is of paramount importance.
- Rural health care: We must work to find solutions to optimize healthcare for Rural Texas, including increases in telehealth and incentivizing public-private partnerships with our medical providers to make available doctors, nurses and community health workers to the most underserved areas.
What areas of public policy or community issues matter most to you? Texas is a very diverse state with 254 counties and over 1,000 incorporated communities; however, most of the population, and therefore a large part of the influence, is located in six major cities. We must ensure that rural Texas continues to have a strong voice at the state level. Whether addressing rural health care, rural broadband, water, or schools, what is happening in rural Texas often differs greatly from what is happening in the urban areas.
What strengths would you bring to this office that put you in a better position than your opponents to serve constituents? For the past six years serving as the Cooke County judge, I have made it a priority to fully represent my constituents. I have successfully served in leadership capacities at the regional, state and national levels. At the state level, that focus has been on retaining local decision making. At the federal level, that focus has been on expanding rural broadband by redirecting federal dollars and changing broadband mapping. We have had successes, particularly on changing broadband mapping. This extensive knowledge and experience will allow me to hit the ground running as your State Representative and to be a strong voice for rural Texas.
ABOUT CRAIG CARTER
Craig Carter described himself in his questionnaire as “a self-made man born and raised in Texas.” He said, “I own and operate a food bank in Nocona, Texas, that serves 30,000 families a year. Most know me for buying the Old Nocona Boot Factory and creating over 100 jobs with Old Boot Factory western stores all across the DFW. I am unapologetically a gun-owning God-serving Texan committed to defending our freedoms.”
KEY CAMPAIGN MESSAGES
- Property tax: Texans are being taxed out of their homes and businesses and we cannot allow this to happen any longer.
2: Pro-life and pro-gun.
3: Rural infrastructure: power grids, high speed internet, and creating new jobs and new revenue streams for rural communities.
What areas of public policy or community issues matter most to you? Property taxes, job creation and rural infrastructure improvements are my top three community issues to resolve. People like my father, retired tax-paying citizens, are being taxed out of their properties. This quality of life is not acceptable to hard-working Texans who retire and cannot afford peace of mind to live out their days in their homestead. Rural infrastructure such as high speed internet or fiber are a necessity for the modern evolving world. With the pandemic, telemedicine and remote learning have dramatically increased, making high speed internet a necessity. Power grids have to be kept to operating standards to ensure a safe and inviting economic environment for all.
What strengths would you bring to this office that put you in a better position than your opponents to serve constituents? I bring a track record when it comes to fighting for upgrades to rural towns. Take Nocona, Texas, for example. In 2016, I bought the Nocona Boot Factory. At this point there was no high-speed internet, power surges at one point caught my building on fire, the city streets adjacent to my building were not paved. In two years I got fiber to the city, the power grid upgraded, the streets paved, brought in Nocona Brewery and Nokona Glove Factory and increased the tax base for the city to continue improvements on its infrastructure. I know how to create jobs in rural areas, bring economic solutions to expensive problems, and use the resources you have around you. I am honored to serve my community now, and would be humbled to represent HD 68.
ABOUT CHARLES GREGORY
Charles Gregory, who filed for candidacy on Jan. 4, did not respond to our fill questionnaire by press time. According to his Facebook page, he retired from the US Postal Service in July 2020.
In a text message, Gregory said, “I grew up in Hall County, Memphis, Texas; have been gone 33 years and am now back home in Childress County. I live 10 miles west of Childress at Baylor Lake. I have a fishing lease between Turkey and Matador on the Billy Campbell ranch. . . . I am class of 1977.”
ABOUT DAVID SPILLER
David Spiller was born and raised in Jacksboro, Texas. Upon graduating from Jacksboro High School, he graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, and from St. Mary’s University School of Law. He had practiced law for 34 years and had a private law practice with his two sons, and previously practiced with his father and brother. He also owns Spiller Title, believed to be the oldest family-owned title insurance company in the state of Texas, which started by his great-grandfather in 1888. He has served as city attorney for the City of Jacksboro for 33 years, and as general counsel to the Jack County Hospital District for 30 years. He is also a credentialed advanced mediator, having mediated well over a thousand cases since 1997.
Spiller is currently serving his 26th year as a trustee of the Jacksboro Independent School District.
He lives in Jacksboro with his wife of 33 years, Ginger. They have two sons, Mason and Reid, who are both attorneys in Jacksboro. Mason and his wife, Alex, have one son, Shepherd. Reid and his wife, Haley, are expecting a child. Ginger and David Spiller are members of First Baptist Church of Jacksboro.
KEY CAMPAIGN MESSAGES
- I am a rural conservative, and will advance and defend the conservative principles, beliefs and values of the people of this district.
- I will fight for lower taxes, will protect the right to life, will defend the 2nd amendment, will protect rural schools and hospitals, will work to provide rural Texas with access to high-speed internet, and will defend our property rights and water rights.
- I will provide experienced, knowledgeable and accessible representation that the citizens of this district deserve.
What areas of public policy or community issues matter most to you? In addition to what I stated above in my three key messages, I believe the immediate critical issues affecting the district are (1) redistricting, (2) maintaining local control of our counties, cities, schools and hospital districts, and (3) and promoting economic development and opening up businesses. Having an experienced, effective advocate in Austin fighting to maintain our rural district and our rural representation is imperative. Without it, each county in the district faces the risk of being absorbed by urban districts. As to local control, I don’t like Washington dictating and trying to control our lives. I don’t like Austin doing it either. Local decisions should be made by local people, not politicians in Austin. What’s good for Austin, Houston and Dallas is not necessarily what’s best for our district. Lastly, as to economic development and businesses, I don’t like Austin mandating what businesses in our district can and cannot do.
What strengths would you bring to this office that put you in a better position than your opponents to serve constituents? I am a rural conservative and have the experience and knowledge necessary to most effectively represent the citizens of this district. As city attorney, I fought to help build a reservoir, providing a water source for our city for the present and future. As the general counsel for our hospital district, I worked to guide and construct a new, state-of-the-art replacement hospital for Jack County and the surrounding area, providing much-needed heath care and medical services for the present and future. As a trustee of the school district, I have worked diligently to support and improve public education that is so vital to rural communities and its children. As an attorney for 34 years, I zealously fight and advocate for my clients on a daily basis and am responsive to my clients’ concerns. However, as a mediator, I have the communication skills necessary to work with others to resolve conflict and differences. All of those traits and skills are required to effectively represent the citizens of this district.