Candidates vie for votes

By Racey Burden | Published Saturday, February 3, 2018

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Waiting to Debate

WAITING TO DEBATE – Willie Garrett, Kent “Buck” Manoushagian and Todd Bailey, candidates for justice of the peace Pct. 4, wait in the audience for their turn to take the stage. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Candidates from across Wise County introduced themselves to voters Tuesday night at the Arcadia Theatre in Bridgeport and debated their opponents (if they had one), giving constituents a chance to see how their potential public officials stack up against one another.

Twenty local politicians and three from state and national races attended the candidate forum, hosted by Bridgeport Chamber of Commerce and Wise Republican Women. Those who were unopposed gave short stump speeches, and those with opponents were asked questions submitted by the audience.

All of the candidates for county offices are running as Republicans, and their races will be decided in the Republican primary on March 6.


All four candidates for justice of the peace Pct. 2 – Callie Watts Manning, Ashly Coker DoByns, Kim Redman and Tammy Cowley Sosa – tried to convince the audience they were the best woman for the job.

Manning, the current Pct. 2 JP, said her experience as a legal assistant for Simpson and Boyd and in the JP’s office sets her apart. Manning was appointed to the post in August after Craig Johnson resigned to join the Sheriff’s Office.

“My experience is really untouched by any of my opponents in that area, to be honest,” Manning said.

DoByns, the current administrative assistant and custodian of records at the Decatur Police Department, said she would like to focus on improving the electronic record-keeping at the JP’s office if elected. She also spoke of her interest in working with teenagers through the truancy cases.

“I believe I can make a positive impact on our county, on our people’s court and on our youth,” DoByns said.

Redman, the chief court clerk for the Pct. 4 justice of the peace office, focused on her 30 years of customer service.

“There’s not a personality or temperament or dispute that I haven’t had to take care of,” Redman said.

Sosa has worked at the Pct. 2 JP office since 2004 and is currently the chief court clerk. She said she’s familiar with all the procedures and policies of the office.

“It is a job I love and I am passionate about,” Sosa said. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”


The three men running for justice of the peace Pct. 4 – Kent “Buck” Manoushagian, Todd Bailey and Willie Garrett – also attended the forum.

Manoushagian, a local businessman, grew up in Wise County. He said his strength lies in his ability to connect with people.

“I am absolutely, totally a people person,” Manoushagian said. “I am much better off listening than I am speaking.”

Bailey has a military and law enforcement background, and formerly worked for the Bridgeport Police Department. He cited that experience as above the rest.

“This is a job interview,” Bailey said. “Hire the best candidate for the job.”

Garrett has spent 30 years as a first responder, both as chief of the Lake Bridgeport volunteer fire department and as a medic for Wise County Emergency Medical Services. He said the public service aspect of the JP’s office is what appeals to him.

“The JP should be honest, have integrity, be a leader in the community and be humble,” Garrett said.

The incumbent, Clay Poyner, is not seeking reelection.


There are four candidates for Pct. 3 Constable – Cary Mellema, Charles Applewhite, Terry Terry and Tony White. Only Applewhite and White attended the candidate forum.

White has a law enforcement background as the former police chief of Rhome and Sansom.

A good friend of Applewhite, White said voters couldn’t go wrong with either of them.

“We’re there to serve the court and serve it with integrity,” White said.

Applewhite also has a law enforcement background and worked for the Wise County Sheriff’s Office as a patrol officer and investigator.

Both men talked about building up trust in the office. Former Pct. 3 Constable Doug Parr resigned from office after pleading no contest to theft charges in Aug. 2017.

“As police officers you work under the public trust,” Applewhite said. “Whoever gets that position will have to build that public trust back.”


Incumbent Kevin Burns and challenger Johnny Wall asked voters to consider their work experience when voting.

Burns is running for a fourth term. He’s the chair-elect of the Texas Conference of Urban Counties and has served as the chair of the National Watershed Coalition.

“It’s been the most frustrating job I’ve ever had, the most challenging job I’ve ever had and the most fun job I’ve ever had,” Burns said of being a commissioner.

Wall was a maintenance supervisor for the Texas Department of Transportation and has worked on several large-scale TxDOT projects.

“I’ve always been familiar with working on a tight budget,” Wall said.


Longtime county clerk Sherry Lemon and her challenger, Julie Schooling, attended the forum.

Lemon cited her 28 years of experience as county clerk and her future plans for the office as the reasons why citizens should vote for her. She also said she knows how to manage the staff of 13 to the best of their ability.

“My thing is I do it first, then we do it together, then you do it alone,” Lemon said. “You have to empower people to learn their job.”

Schooling said she’s a current customer of the clerk system through her job at the Wise Title Company, and she’s seen aspects of the office she believes could use improvements. She believes she has the organizational skills to make those improvements happen.

“I have always loved being part of the Wise County community,” Schooling said. “As Wise County grows, because it is coming, I would like to be a part of that.”


Incumbent Randy Singleton was the only candidate present Tuesday night. His challenger, Tim Kirkland, did not attend.

Singleton is running for his second term. He said the city is working on recovering from the oil and gas downturn while still keeping taxes down.

“I’m all about Bridgeport, and I’m all about Wise County,” Singleton said.


The only national and only Democratic candidate at the event, Greg Sagan, is running against Rep. Mac Thornberry.

Sagan, a former Navy officer and Vietnam veteran, said he was never involved in politics and never a member of a political party until last year, but “I have a strong background in service.”

Sagan is running against Thornberry because he believes the incumbent does not stand up for his constituents in Washington.

“My belief is that this district is not being adequately represented,” Sagan said.


Candidates without an opponent who spoke at the event included: County Treasurer Katherine Hudson, Justice of the Peace Pct. 1 Jan Morrow, District Clerk Brenda Rowe, County Commissioner Pct. 4 Gaylord Kennedy, County Judge J.D. Clark and Brock Smith, district judge of the 271st Judicial District.

Two Republican candidates for state senate District 30, Craig Estes and Pat Fallon, also attended.

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