The Weatherford College Board voted Monday night to immediately give Wise County an advisory position on the board, which is a non-voting voice on Wise County related issues.
Last week the board offered the advisory position but did not want to put it in place until after the May board election and the establishment of a committee to further study the issue and devise a plan for representation of all counties in the district, including not only Wise, but also Hood, Jack and Palo Pinto.
Brent Baker, WC’s vice president of institutional advancement, said the board wanted to give Wise County the immediate opportunity because of the branch campus maintenance tax.
“Not that the other counties aren’t important to us,” Baker said, “but through all these discussions and talks, it’s clear Wise County has a larger stake right now because of the tax.”
Wise County citizens pay 4.6148 cents per $100 valuation, and although County Judge J.D. Clark has been pushing for board representation for two years, the board’s recent action was spurred by a letter from Sen. Craig Estes and Sen. Brian Birdwell urging them to give Wise County a board seat.
“An advisory position is a step in the right direction, but Wise County citizens deserve voting representation on the board, so we will pursue legislation that allows that,” Clark said.
Board member Mac Smith said Monday night that the board doesn’t have the legal authority to create a non-resident trustee position.
“Only the Texas Legislature has the power to authorize and pass legislation that will allow trustees to authorize a Wise County resident to be a member of the Weatherford College Board of Trustees,” he said. “The legislature, not Weatherford College, must follow its process in creating a lawful bill in achieving Wise County trustee representation.”
He said it was his understanding that Rep. Phil King is preparing such a bill to create the post.
Smith made a motion that the board immediately offer Wise County an advisory board member non-voting role and noted it could later become “a position with all its powers and duties as defined and created by the Texas Legislature under a bill as submitted by the representative.”
Dr. Luke Haynes gave it a quick second, but board President Frank Martin said he didn’t agree with the back end of the motion that in his opinion, “pre-approved” legislation that may or may not come through.
“We have no idea what that will look like,” he said. “I don’t agree with it, so you can figure out how my vote will run here in just a second.”
Martin also took a moment to express his disgust that Wise County citizens are not paying the full 5 cents, and he feels that a request for board representation goes against the steering committee’s proposal that was sent to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in 2007, requesting approval to hold an election for the branch campus maintenance tax.
The board took a roll call vote on Smith’s motion, and it was tied – 3 to 3. Voting for the motion were Smith, Haynes and Dr. Trev Dixon. Casting votes against were Smith, Judy McAnally and Elaine Carter, although she waited several seconds before weighing in. Board member Joel Watson was not in attendance.
Martin suggested that since the motion failed, Smith make the same motion but leave off the portion saying the advisory seat could become a voting seat as defined and created by the Texas Legislature’s potential bill.
Martin said if Smith would not make the motion, he would. Smith chose not to, but ended up reading the motion on Martin’s behalf since the president didn’t have the wording in front of him.
This motion passed unanimously, immediately establishing the advisory position, but there was no discussion of how the Wise County representative would be chosen or how long the representative would serve.
Baker said Tuesday Wise County commissioners can select a representative whenever they choose. “My understanding is it’s up to the commissioners court right now,” he said. “It could be spelled out in greater detail later. Typically an ex-officio member is on the board for a protracted period of time.”
Clark said he would put the appointment on the agenda for the next commissioners’ meeting, which is March 13.
“That would give us some time to receive some clarification as to what we’re appointing someone to,” he said. “Since they didn’t outline any details, it would give us a little more time to discuss it in court.”