Ilene Enochs is still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up.
Following last night’s city council meeting, the Bridgeport native will have more time to pursue that quest. After almost 10 years, Enochs served her last meeting as an elected official of her hometown.
“It was time,” she said. “It was not anything specific. It wasn’t like ‘that’ made the decision for me. It was just a matter of, ‘I think it’s time.’ I’ve enjoyed the years that I’ve spent. I have grown a great deal and learned a lot. I don’t have any regrets about it.”
The 35-year educator was brought out of her first retirement in 1997 and back to her hometown from Richardson by her brother, David Ray, to sort insurance claims at his medical practice.
“I resisted for a while – medical is not my thing,” Enochs recalled. “But he insisted, saying he needed the help. So for eight years, I helped collect on claims insurance companies said they didn’t owe.
“When we got that all cleaned up, I kept thinking, ‘OK, now I’m just going to see what I need to be when I grow up.’ So I told him, ‘I think I’ve done what you asked me to do. I’ll move on and see what else I need to do.'”
When she began working for her brother, Enochs commuted for a couple of years. Then in 1999, the 1956 Bridgeport High graduate and her husband, Joe, returned to her old stomping grounds.
The move afforded her the opportunity to become more involved in the organizations she’d joined while working here.
For at least 11 years now she’s been a member of the city’s Education Foundation and Civic Club; volunteered weekly at a local nursing home; and steered the Leadership: West Wise educational program.
The intertwining of local heritage and the deep roots of her family – her grandfather came to Bridgeport in a covered wagon in 1873 when he was 4 – fuel her involvement in the Bridgeport Historical Society and its Heritage Museum.
She added to that involvement in November 2003 when she was appointed to place 3 on the city council. At the term’s expiration the following May, she ran and was re-elected to the post she will hold until Saturday’s election.
“They told me I wasn’t obligated to run [for re-election] but I thought, ‘this is a good thing,'” Enochs recalled. “I was learning a lot about my community. Even though this is my hometown, there are a lot of things from the city side that I had never explored. I learned how things operate and what makes a city run.
“The bottom line is the people in a community make the city; they’re the people you are serving. To be able to be of service to the community is a fulfilling experience.”
Enochs esteems two specific accomplishments made by the council during her tenure – the Northwest OHV/Industrial Park and the fact that the city has not raised taxes since 2006.
“Basically we’ve managed to do more with less to be able to keep the city on track and at the same time not let (the city) go down,” Enochs said about the maintained rate. ” … It’s frugal progression that we’ve made in order to stay on top of what needs to be done. There are always things that you’d like to be able to do, some of them we’ve not accomplished. But there have been things that we have been able to.”
One of those was the park. In 2007, the city council and Economic Development Corp. approved the purchase and began work to convert an old rock crusher covering 300-plus acres into a dual-purpose park.
The recreational park has hosted national events and been the site of commercial filming and has a high volume of patrons from all over the state and country. The business zone currently has three tenants, the largest being T-Top Manufacturing, which is expanding.
“Very gradually we’re seeing the park begin to be developed,” Enochs said. “Our community will be enjoying that probably 100 years from now. It’s a long-time benefit to the whole community and the whole area, really … That was a leap of faith and the work of forward thinkers.”
That quality, she contends, is essential for any elected official.
“To be visionary is so critical because you constantly need to be planning ahead, whether or not you can accomplish something at that moment, whether you are financially able or in any other way able.” she said. “But you need to have your plans laid out so that you know what the future will bring. You may have to make adjustments, but you need to have a plan.”
Enochs pointed out a past council’s decision to concrete streets as one example of that innovation.
“To me, that was a visionary move,” she said. “They saw a need, and they fulfilled it. To be that visionary – yes they made a bigger commitment, but it’s lasted so much longer. When the money has been paid, you get a much longer life for that money … Those concrete streets that were done back in ’96, ’97 are still holding up, and our other streets – we keep having to fill in potholes.”
Enochs hopes that quality is instilled in her successor, Kevin Lopez, the only person to file for place 3.
“I’m excited he will be filling that place,” she said. “Hopefully he will come with visions of what this community should be.”
Confident that he will, Enochs will revert to pondering what to do when she grows up. Perhaps she’ll be able to more frequently visit her son, Jarrett, and her grandchildren – Averyl, 28; Taylor, 23; Austin, 22; and Nicholas, 15 – who live in the Sherman and Houston areas. (Enochs and her late husband had an older son, Walker, who died in 1997.)
Maybe she’ll find another avenue through which to continue serving her community.
“I’m not sure,” she said. “I’ll just kind of wait and see. I love getting to help and be available to people … It’s a joy to get to do these things. God has given me good health, and I have enjoyed being able to use my time to possibly help somebody else.
“If there’s an opportunity that seems to fit with me, I’ll probably be doing it.”