Despite the dreary weather, The Republican Party of Walker County , led by Chair Linda Mckenzie, went above and beyond to throw a special retirement reception for U.S. Congressman Kevin Brady.
Community members, City and County leaders and, LEAP Ambassadors braved the rain to witness a sentimental afternoon full of reminiscing on the accomplishments of Congressman Brady. The Walker County Storm Shelter was set up beautifully with refreshments catered by Farmhouse Cafe, and festive centerpieces made by party member, Alice Ellisor.
In the typical Walker County Republican Party fashion, Ms. McKenzie recognized all of the elected officials including those taking office in January.
Mayor Brauninger was first to speak on behalf of the City of Huntsville, accompanied by City Councilman Jon Strong. Mayor Brauninger commented on Congressman Brady’s years of dedication and service to the 8th US district, and presented him with a Proclamation.
County Judge Danny Pierce then presented a proclamation on behalf of Walker County. Judge Pierce thanked Congressman Brady for making his job easier and being great to work with.
Congressmen Brady has spent the last two decades serving his district and there is no better proof of that than his dedication to the H.E.A.R.T.S Veterans Museum. Executive Director, Tara Burnett and two board members thanked Congressman Brady for allowing Huntsville to be home to this one-of-a-kind Museum.
Yvette spoke on behalf of current and past LEAP Ambassadors who have all been immensely impacted by Congressman Brady. Various LEAP Ambassadors, including Ademide Adedokun, Justin Veillon, Brandon Reese, Christine Reese, Ariel Leaf, Christina Perez, and Brian Aldaco, have worked for Congressman Brady during his long career, and we (and they!) are grateful for the opportunities he provided. Moreover, Congressman Brady invited LEAP Ambassadors to the US Capitol and his Ways and Means Committee Room, where he unveiled a statue of Sam Houston (that was on loan from the SHMM).
(Editor’s Note: the LEAP Center is non-partisan, although it does work with officials of both parties to provide internships and other opportunities. LEAP Ambassadors include Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.)
(Pictures by Linda Mckenzie)
After many heartfelt thank you’s, Congressman Brady shared with the crowd some of his favorite memories while serving. He recalled that as long as he can remember, parades have always had a special place in his heart, which was further amplified when he took office. Over the next few minutes, Congressman Brady reminisced with the crowd about his favorite parades, the embarrassing, funny, and lessons-learned.
On behalf of the LEAP Ambassadors, thank you to the Walker County Republican Party for hosting an amazing event, and to Congressman Kevin Brady for supporting the LEAP center and serving our district well.
As the Lone Star State increases its share in the Electoral College to 40 votes, such gains also bring redistricting, with the government attempting to redraw districts so that they have equal populations. With new lines drawn, Walker County will be split into two districts: rt of Walker County will continue to be represented by the Texas’s 8th Congressional District (currently help by Congressman Kevin Brady) and the northern part will be represented by TX Congressional District 17 (Congressman Pete Sessions).
At the Texas Prison Museum, we had the opportunity to meet our current (Brady) and (likely) new (Sessions) Congressman! Some local and state candidates were also in attendance, and some even took the opportunity to ask Congressman Pete Sessions questions. The LEAP Ambassadors, almost front and center, listened attentively.
An audience member pressed Congressman Pete Sessions on his stance on a bill filed by Congressman Kevin Brady. The bill, also known as the “High-Speed Rail Land Acquisition Assurance Act,” was filed on January 10, 2022. This bill ensures that Texas Central’s high-speed rail and other high-speed rail projects cannot seize taxpayer land for projects that will never be started.
As filed, the High-Speed Rail Land Acquisition Assurance Act will require companies to acquire all the land needed to finish a high-speed rail project before construction can begin.
In his response, Congressman Pete Sessions reassured the citizens that he opposed private interest corporations using eminent domain to take someone’s private property. He plans to work diligently with Congressman Kevin Brady in protecting Texas citizens’ rights.
With the transition of redistricting and his retirement announcement, Congressman Kevin Brady reminded Walker County’s people of his commitment to finish the job until the very end. After serving for over two decades, Congressman Kevin Brady’s absence will be felt in Walker County. To offer just a small example, the LEAP Center has placed more than 20 interns in Congressman Brady’s office, and he has hired eight of them as staff.
With this history in mind, the LEAP Ambassadors are looking forward to similar opportunities in both CD 17 and 8.
Linda Pease has contributed to the Huntsville community for almost five decades. Having moved here in 1972, Ms. Pease spent the next 47 years making Huntsville a better place. So it was fitting that the community spent months planning for a three-hour ceremony on Thursday, October 24, 2019, giving citizens the opportunity to express their appreciation for Pease’s tireless work.
As expected, more than 100 people showed up, and this included, of course, the LEAP Ambassadors, all of whom have been touched by Pease in numerous ways. Indeed, several LEAP alumni showed up from out of town, while others from Washington state (Constance Gabel) to Washington, DC (Justin Veillon), sent cards or gifts.
The event was organized by the Friends of the Wynne, with Nancy Gaertner leading the way.
The house and grounds were decorated…
…catering was provided…
…and SHSU provided a quartet…
The most important part of the evening, however, was for guests to spend time with Linda Pease, and to say, “thank you.”
Pease worked for the City for 44 years, working in the Library, heading the LEAP program, and serving as the Cultural Arts Coordinator. Many of the City’s public sculptures are a result of Pease’s work; she helped establish the Main Street Program in Huntsville; she was almost solely responsible for the City’s “Cultural District;” she facilitated the transfer of the “Wynne Home” from the Wynne family to the City’s possession; and she was responsible for commissioning world-famous Richard Haas to do some 15 murals in the community. Indeed, Huntsville beats out New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, St. Louis, and Oakwood, IL, as having the most exterior Haas murals in the world. This is quite an accomplishment, given that the New York Times called Haas the “greatest architectural muralist of our time.”
In light of these achievements, it’s no surprise that she was given the SHSU Art Department’s Award “Supporter of the Arts” in 2014. Department Chair Michael Henderson announced the award, saying, “If we gave this award to Linda for the next three years, we wouldn’t fully capture all she has done for the arts in our community.”
Equally unsurprising, Ms. Pease was recognized as Citizen of the Year in 2018.
And, with Nancy Gaertner continuing her lead….
…and James Patton emceeing…
…many additional honors were bestowed on this night.
City Manager Aron Kulhavy announced that the Wynne Home porch would henceforth be the “Linda and Ralph Pease Porch.”
Roberta Plant presented Linda an art piece from Charles Pebworth (a close friend of Pease’s, before his passing earlier this year), a gift from Betty Moody…
…while Ilexus Williams and Maggie Denena….
…presented Linda with a flag flown over the Texas Capitol building, a gift from former Wynne Home Intern Lexi Gonzalez, who now works as Chief of Staff for State Rep. Hubert Vo.
Brian Aldaco, another former Wynne Home intern, presented Ms. Pease with a flag flown over the US Capitol building, an honor by Congressman Kevin Brady (for whom Aldaco now works).
And, of course, many more friends were on hand to enjoy the occasion.
Nicolay Dance Works also put on a performance (“Arabian Dance”) on the front porch–now the Linda and Ralph Pease porch!
It was, as expected, a wonderful evening in honor of a remarkable woman.
The Wynne Home has been an operational Art Center for approximately 13 years. Over that span, Ms. Pease supervised more SHSU interns than any other City supervisor (approximately 40) and the Wynne Home has offered some 500 classes to the community.
The players from Northwestern State (our opponents in football) were not the only visitors we had in town this Saturday. On this delightful afternoon, we were also accompanied by the Brady Team, comprised of Congressman Kevin Brady and his district and D.C. staff. As part of their district retreat, Congressman Brady and his staff toured various parts of the district with Sam Houston State University as their prime stop in their Huntsville itinerary.
While the LEAP Ambassadors were wrapping up their presentation to the Colonial Dames, Christina and Brian excused themselves to join the staff in Huntsville’s very own Bennie J’s restaurant, where they met with Brady’s team. And, from there, the group traveled to the Gaertner Performing Arts Center (GPAC).
During their tour at the GPAC, they were joined by Craig Brossman, the Facility Manager of the GPAC, and Ronald Shields, the Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Mass Communication. The staff visited the atrium, where they saw works by Jesus Moroles, James Surls, and Kathleen Ash, and also visited Dean Shield’s office, where they saw art by Harry Ahysen and Michael Henderson, which put them in a contemplative mood…
Of course, we also took them to the main Recital Hall, where we joined by President Dana Hoyt and her husband, John. Congressman Brady introduced Hoyt as “the best University President in the country,” and, in a pleasant surprise, the SHSU Choral Group returned from their lunch break and offered to perform!
It was at this point that the hall’s perfect acoustics were put to use and shown off. With voices resonating across the hall, and the reverberating organ playing in the background, they entranced all with their musical talents.
Congressman Brady thanked the music director, Dr. Joshua Bronfman, and noted that the performance “gave him goosebumps.”
Of course, congressman Brady’s staff could not leave Huntsville without learning about the man who started it all, so the team headed to Sam Houston Memorial Museum. Luckily, Mac Woodward, the former Huntsville Mayor, was on hand to give a museum tour.
We always appreciate time spent with Mr. Woodward, and this was no exception as he took time out of his Saturday to educate visitors about Sam Houston and Huntsville, Texas.
Mr. Woodward began with some historical facts of the Tennessee senator who would one day make his way down to Texas. The staff was left to roam the museum freely and learn about one of the greatest politicians in Texas History.
Mary Cordes, District Operations Director for Congressman Brady, told us that during her tour of the nation’s capital she learned that Sam Houston’s desk is one of six still kept in the old senate chamber. It was exciting to hear that Texas roots are famous even in DC! Congressman Brady’s staff was intrigued by the amount of historical artifacts the museum held.
The Museum has Sam Houston’s constitution from the time when he served in the US Senate and a few things that belonged to Margaret Houston.
Before leaving, Congressman Brady talked about the unveiling of the Elisabet Ney bust and how excited he was to be placing it in the Ways and Means committee room.
This was the last stop In Huntsville for the staff before heading on to other parts of Congressional District 8.
It was an enjoyable afternoon with Congressman Brady and his staff, not to mention President Hoyt and Mayor Woodward.
The cadence began and we, the SHSU ROTC, stepped with our left foot first, beginning to march. Gripping the flag as tight as I could, I remembered all those who once fought for those colors. The Texas flag lowered, and the National Anthem began. The audience proudly sang along. As we posted the flags, I looked up to make sure the Texas star was facing the silent audience. I quickly took a left turn, faced the American flag, and saluted. I was honored to represent ROTC and the LEAP Center at the HEARTS Museum’s Annual Veteran’s Day Gala.
As we marched away Col Dennis Beal (ret) began to introduce the Huntsville Men’s choir. They sang “America the Beautiful” and the “Armed Forces Medley”. It was a breathtaking site to see the veterans stand up and honor their branch.
For attendants of the Gala, the Men’s Choir is always a highlight of the evening. When the Army song played, I stood up at attention, and listened. I couldn’t help but sing along and this time I tried really hard to listen to each word: “Count the brave; count the true, who have fought to victory.” These words repeated themselves in my mind all evening resonating as the reason we honor veterans every year. After the medley was sung, LTCOL Bill Miller gave the invocation and Executive Director of the HEARTS Museum, Command Sergeant Major (ret), Mark Robinson welcomed guests signaling the start of dinner.
As a member of ROTC and a LEAP Ambassador, I had dual duties. With the colors presented, I transitioned to my role as a LEAP Ambassador. The Ambassadors volunteered to run the silent auction throughout the evening. We were responsible for the auction by monitoring the bidding, and collecting the money and donations at the end of the evening.
This year, the silent auction proceeds supported the ROTC Martinez Scholarship. The Martinez Scholarship is awarded to an ROTC cadet each year and honors a pioneer family–Sam and Maria Martinez. The LEAP Ambassadors were grateful to be a small part of such a worthy cause.
The silent auction consisted of many delicious desserts, patriotic gifts, paintings, and jewelry.
The auction closed following dinner, signaling the Ambassadors to collect the bid sheets, notify winners, and prepare the items for pickup. This was undoubtedly the most challenging aspect of our job because we only had a short window of time to prepare before the program ended.
U.S. Congressman Kevin Brady was present at the Gala to thank veterans and show his support. We were fortunate enough to speak with Congressman Brady and thank him for his Congressional service. It is always rewarding for LEAP Ambassadors to visit with our elected officials and learn from them.
C.F. Hazelwood then gave a benediction to end the Veterans Day Gala. The auction winners were instructed to pay and receive their items as they walked out. Some bought one item, while others took home more than four.
We ended the event with Mrs. Clark (the HEARTS Museum Officer Manger) by discussing the event in After Action Review (AAR) format. Overall, the event was successful, and we are excited for the next HEARTS Veterans Museum event! Thank you to the HEARTS Museum for allowing the Ambassadors to volunteer each year in support of our local veterans.
The perfect afternoon activity after a Monday full of classes for some students might be lounging around, relaxing by the pool soaking in the last summer rays or even sitting back and watching Netflix, but not if you’re a LEAPster. When we were made aware of Congressman Kevin Brady’s 4th Annual Blues & BBQ event, we all leaped at the opportunity to volunteer!
The venue, Dosey Doe Big Barn, was perfect for the western-themed night. It was the ideal take on a “rustic-vintage” look with the wooden beams that doubled as décor, the old Coca-Cola, Sunoco and General Electric signs that adorned the walls, and the many different types of quaint little chairs that surrounded each dinning table.
As guests began pouring in through the large stained wooden doors, we welcomed them with a warm greeting and thank them for attending while directing them to the dining area, buffet, and bar. Once Congressman Brady arrived, people began lining up to speak to him and shake his hand. After non-stop tête-à-tête conversation with his guests, Congressman Brady hopped on stage to speak about the upcoming presidential election and the importance of his constituents.
As Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Congressman Brady’s chief responsibility is to oversee the tax code. Impressively, eight Presidents, eight Vice Presidents, twenty-one Speakers of the House of Representatives, and four Supreme Court Justices have served in the Ways and Means Committee! As a government official of great responsibility he gave everyone an update on what he has been working on in D.C. and stated his goals. After the applause died down guests continued to enjoy their meals. Along with a rewarding speech we were lucky enough to enjoy tasty brisket, roasted BBQ chicken, potato salad, and grilled squash!
The night closed once everyone had enjoyed a slice of dessert from the Texas sized cake that congratulated Congressman Brady.
Before the guests made their way out, they made sure to get some last words with the Congressman snapping some pictures with him along the way.
Congressman Brady was more than happy to take a picture with us as well, and his staff (The Brady Bunch) even invited us to hop on stage and join them in their staff picture! We all had a great time, and we hope to participate again soon!
Our last day at the Convention was, in many ways, the longest. But for the Walker County Delegation, which overwhelmingly supported Ted Cruz for President, it was also a fun day.
The first thing on our agenda was kolaches with Congressman Kevin Brady. It was there that we saw Francine Stanfield, Brady’s Campaign Manager, who recognized us from previous events for which we had volunteered. Both Congressman Brady and his staff were very welcoming to the Walker County Delegation and to us as SHSU students, as always.
We congratulated Congressman Brady on his recent win and after meeting with him for a few minutes we proceeded to the breakfast table for kolaches and fruit to give us energy for the long congressional district caucus meeting ahead of us. Although we only had to vote on delegates and alternates to send to the national convention, it took roughly 6 hours. The meeting began shortly after 8am and ended around 2pm.
At this meeting we had to elect the delegates that would attend the National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio and also the party representatives who will represent us to the national delegation in Washington, DC. This process was interspersed with various speeches by elected officials or candidates. The first of these was the best, with Congressman Brady opening the proceedings.
The usual order of business, however, was a bit more tedious. The process for nominations proceeded in the following manner:
Speeches for each nominee, including those by the nominee him or herself (nominees got three minutes total);
Voting for each delegate (and alternate) position;
A run-off of two or three candidates, depending on the proportion of the original candidates receiving a threshold of votes;
Start over for the next position.
Because there were between 5-9 candidates running for each position, the process took a while.
It was an interesting process, but it’s unclear exactly how meaningful it was. Each delegate elected to attend the national convention would have to pledge to vote for the candidate according to the state’s primary’s result. In the end Montgomery County Delegate Ann Kate fulfilled the position for first delegate, which was bound to vote for Cruz.
Steve Toth of Montgomery County fulfilled the second delegate position, which also was bound to vote for Cruz. Finally Ann Mazone of Grimes County fulfilled the third delegate position, which was bound to vote for Donald Trump in the national convention.
This last one was a special victory for our county’s Cynthia Prehoda, who had nominated her.
Even though this process seemed lengthy to some…
it was full of energized nominees that proved to be great entertainment to the public. Some delegates were so passionate that they fought back tears while giving there speeches and others were persistent and ran for all three positions in hopes of getting elected to one–all of this interspersed with lottery drawings for speaking order…
…and dashes to the podium to get voting ballots for each position…
By about noon, we decided we better get a group photo, while there was still a group left to photograph!
After a busy morning of delegate voting, we decided that it was time to indulge in a satisfying lunch break. Thus, Megan Chapa, Kaitlyn Tyra, Kay Deahl, and I (Brian Aldaco) went down to Cafe Herrera. The Mexican cuisine style restaurant is conveniently situated a street across the convention center. This allotted the sufficient time for the eager delegates to return in time for the remainder of the convention’s general session.
Upon entering through the rustic Spanish-style doorway of the restaurant, the savory aroma of the sizzling beef pleasantly overtook our senses. This was a proper indicator that we had chosen the right lunching venue. With our menu items ordered we distracted our appetite with the classic Mexican chips accompanied by a spicy green salsa and an even hotter red salsa. The wait for our piece d’resistance was minimal, however, thanks to the quick cooking skills of the chef (surely he must have known of Ted Cruz’s imminent arrival). With our Enchiladas Verdes, Enchiladas Rojas, and tacos al pastor served, we continued to enjoy the entertaining anecdotes of Mrs. Deahl. Sharing her history of Republican participation and college experiences made us consider our privilege to attend the State Convention with greater appreciation. After our plates were cleared we rushed across the road, entered through the convention doors, and climbed up the stairs. We were ready to continue fulfilling the duties of a State Convention delegate.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz was the speaker at the last main session. He won the Texas Republican Primary for the presidential candidacy so all the delegates were really excited to hear Senator Cruz speak! All the seats had “thank you, Ted” signs so that the delegates were able to show their appreciation for all of his efforts during his campaign race.
His wife, Heidi Cruz, introduced him on stage. She gave us insight of their campaign tour and expressed how good it felt to be back home in Texas! All were happy that the two and their two children, Catherine and Caroline, sacrificed so much to represent Republicans all across the United States.
Senator Cruz’s speech was very positive. He reaffirmed the beliefs that he will fight for in the Senate and how his unsuccessful presidential campaign will not hinder any future efforts during his office term. Although he did not endorse any candidate during his speech, he left many of us more hopeful about the future of our party and our nation.
The excitement of hearing Senator Cruz speak gave many delegates energy as we prepared for the rest of the fourth and final general session.
The Honorable Attorney General Ken Paxton–who, incidentally, is facing criminal charges as for Securities Fraud–gave remarks following Senator Cruz’s speech. He discussed his successes as Attorney General and some of the current issues Texas is facing. His speech informed delegates about his opinions on current events and how he plans to handle these situations. The Honorable Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Sid Miller (also under investigation) and the Honorable Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton also spoke to delegates. Thanking the delegates for their continued support, their speeches were generally positive about the future of the Republican Party and the State of Texas.
Andy Ngyuen, President of Texas Asian Republican Assembly provided his perspective on being a Republican. His life story as a refugee escaping Vietnam for a better life in America helped exemplify the pursuit of the American Dream, one of freedom and liberty. Ngyuen believes that by upholding these principles, the party would become the moral example of the nation.
The final speaker was Senator Jeff Sessions, who served as a kind-of surrogate for Donald Trump. Sessions, who represents Alabama, has endorsed Trump, and is stumping for him on the trail.
Once the guest speakers were finished presenting, it was time to call the final General Session to order. Our main point of business was to elect a National Committeeman and Committeewoman. After hearing the candidates speak, each Congressional District voted by paper ballot to determine which nominee would be elected. Each Congressional District then reported the numbers to the Convention Secretary during a roll call. Voting by paper ballots was a tedious process, yet it provided more accuracy than a voice vote would have. For Committeeman, Robin Armstrong was reelected. For Committeewoman, Toni Ann Dashiell was also reelected in a surprisingly close election. Although the delegation cast only two votes, it took about an hour and a half to complete! Fortunately, electing the at-large delegates and alternate delegates to the National Convention were easier because they were submitted by a committee and we could approve them as a slate and by voice vote.
After we approved the two lists of delegates to attend the National Convention on Texas’ behalf, the Convention was adjourned. It was an accomplished feeling to know we completed our first State Convention as delegates!
The process was exciting, entertaining, and rewarding. We learned about Parliamentary Procedure, current events, and helped participate in an important democratic process. It was tempting to bask in the glow of the final exit from the convention…
…but we chose instead to think of how lucky we were to be in Walker County, where voters nominated students to attend the State Convention.
Our initial foray into this type of politics could only have been made more rewarding by the presence of Linda McKenzie and Terry Stivers, both of whom had much to do with our attendance at the convention.
Thanks to all the members of the Republican Party who helped make this possible, and we look forward to participating further in the years to come!
Most students enjoy sleeping in on Saturday mornings, but the LEAP students were more than willing to spend their Saturday morning learning about campaigns. It was an interesting educational experience, combining hands-on learning with exposure to campaign volunteers, staff, and even a US Congressman, all willing to share their knowledge.
One of the staples of campaign life is to feed your volunteers, and Congressman Kevin Brady did so enthusiastically. In fact, we kicked the morning off at The Black Walnut Cafe where we enjoyed coffee, kolaches, breakfast tacos and mingling. Congressman Brady, who joined us in the walk, offered a pep talk; Francine Stanfield, his campaign director, made sure we were comfortable; and Kory Curtis, an analyst for Brady’s campaign, showed us the ropes.
With a map, a clip board and a lot of enthusiasm, the block-walking teams set off to their assigned neighborhoods. It was a great experience, especially for a group of Political Science majors.
The initial results were encouraging, with many opening doors, welcoming us, and thanking us for information about Congressman Brady. This helped us build confidence.
The experience also taught us the importance of the communication process between voters and elected representatives. Block walking, town forums, and district presence are all an important part of learning about the concerns of voters–directly from the voters.
In canvassing the other student volunteers (who had gone in tandem in different directions), they had a similar response. Some of the introverts indicated they wouldn’t want to do this every week, but the extroverts were energized by the process. All of us learned a lot, from the voters, from Congressman Brady, and from the campaign staff. It was particularly educational for one of our high-school volunteers, Ryan Brim, who is an introvert but is exploring career options and community engagement.
Beatriz Martinez, who block-walked last week as well, enjoyed spending additional time with Congressman Brady.
She had actually never met a US Congressman. Megan also enjoyed spending time with Congressman Brady, and this is probably her fourth or fifth time at one of his events.
Kaitlyn Tyra, an Accounting Major, enjoyed learning more about campaigns from the staff. I enjoyed these things, too, but also enjoyed seeing how campaigns play out on the ground.
We all also appreciated the lunch provided. Walking builds an appetite, and we were able to relax again for lunch at the Black Walnut, where we enjoyed burgers and other comfort foods, as well as the closing remarks from Congressman Brady expressing his appreciation.
One of the great things about being a POLS major or, more generally, a student is SHSU, is that our learning takes place inside and outside of the classroom. Another great thing is that so much of our learning is fun. Today was a great example of both of these qualities.
The LEAP Center Ambassadors are a non-partisan group. Individual Ambassadors make their own choices regarding volunteerism or work. Past and present Ambassadors have worked for Representative Senfronia Thompson (D), Representative John Otto (R), Mayor Anise Parker (D), US Congressman Kevin Brady (R), Senator Mary Landrieu (D), and many other members of both parties.