Starr of Paradise: Mayor, preacher recognized for community service

By Erika Pedroza | Published Saturday, October 6, 2012

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COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD – Sam Starr was recognized for his contribution to the city with the Community Service Award, given at Paradise Main Street Festival last Saturday. The award recipient is selected by a majority vote of the Paradise Historical Society. Messenger photo by Jimmy Alford

When Sam Starr isn’t facilitating council meetings from the mayor’s seat or preaching from the pulpit at Paradise Church of Christ, he can often be found hanging banners, mowing a neighbor’s lawn or picking up a dog after a citizen’s complaint.

For his willingness to help and his contribution to the city, Starr was recognized with the Paradise Community Service award at Paradise Main Street Festival last Saturday. The event and the award are organized by and selected by a majority vote of the town’s historical society.

“He’s a great person, and a great asset to the historical society and the town, really,” said society member Donna Weeden. “He does anything we ask him to do, and he does it with a good spirit. We are fortunate.”

Starr and his wife, Carrie, have lived in Paradise since 2005. But their ties to the area extend beyond.

Born in Fort Worth in 1952, Starr grew up in Grand Prairie. Following graduation from Grand Prairie High School in 1970, he attended Control Data Institute, a computer trade school.

“They had a commercial with a guy that would say, ‘I like working with my hands, but I don’t like getting my fingernails dirty,'” Starr said. “I thought it was true of me.”

Starr worked at Brass Craft, which produced plumbing supplies, during the day and attended school in the evenings.

Beginning in 1972, he worked for Control Data Corp. for 15 years, which included a stint in tech support with three different offices – in Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Dallas – at one time.

“Then I decided I wanted to be a preacher,” Starr said.

After graduating from Sunset School of Preaching in Lubbock in 1989, Starr returned to Chico, where his mother was born and raised. He preached at the Church of Christ in Chico for a year, before deciding “to serve the Lord in Czechoslovakia” as the director of English and Bible studies in Borno for four years.

Upon their return in 1995, the family – including son Adam, now 36 – lived in Frederick, Okla., where Starr preached for seven years before returning to Chico to be closer to his wife’s parents.

“When we moved back from Frederick, I was preaching and doing EMT work for eight years,” he said. “I was still looking to do EMT work or preaching in Wise or Jack counties, but I left it up to the Lord to see which fell together first.”

Tragically around that time, the then-pastor at Paradise Church of Christ, Gary Beard, contracted a tumor in his shoulder that ultimately ended up taking his life.

In May of 2005, Starr began preaching at the church, where he has remained.

“The church supported my wife, son and I financially while we were in Czechoslovakia,” he said. “It was an honor that they took me in.”

Then in March 2011, Starr was elected mayor of the city. He also serves as treasurer of the economic development corp. and runs a mowing “hobby” with council member Roy Steel.

“It’s more a therapy than anything else,” Starr said of the mowing. “I like to help in any way that I can. When I decided I wanted to be a preacher, I didn’t know why then, but I know now. It was all preparing me for what was to come.

“It’s paid off well through the years, because you learn a lot by guiding church families,” he said. “You learn to manage, and you learn to listen. That’s the easiest. I just like to help however I can.”

Those efforts don’t go unrecognized, making him an easy selection for the prestigious award.

“There was a lot of conniving on my family’s part,” he joked. “My wife all of a sudden became an auction enthusiast. (The auction was one of the last events of the day, when the award was presented.) But it was a neat surprise.”

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