Monday, September 25, 2023 Sep 25, 2023
76° F Dallas, TX



DENTON-A Monday-morning peek inside the courtroom of the Denton County Commissioner’s Court reveals a scene unlike that in any other commissioner’s court in the nation. Three Republican women occupy five of the chairs in this traditionally Democratic court. The other two are held by men- Old-Guard Democrats. This unusual majority came about when Ruth Thnsey was elected last November during Ronald Reagan’s landslide victory for the presidency. Little was said locally, but the story got national attention in The Washington Post.

Political observers see the Republican majority in Denton as an example of a realignment of political parties across the state, but to cach of the three women who took office this past January, it represents the achievement of a personal goal. They don’t like to think that their gender is one of the reasons they make for a good human-interest story, but, on the other hand, they can’t hide the pride they feel as role models to women in their community.

Commissioner Lee Walker was the first to be elected, back in 1980. A personal tragedy had made her realize that she needed a new direction in her life, so she tackled the Commissioner’s Court race with the support of her husband and won. At 52, she carries herself like a model but wears the no-nonsense look of a person who’s not easily fooled or dissuaded from her opinions. Walker, who represents Precinct 3 (western Lewisville, Highland Village, Flower Mound, Argyle and Roanoak), says that for a time, she felt isolated as the only woman and the only Republican on the court. “For two years,” she says, “between the two conservatives and the two liberals on the court, I was the swing vote.” She says that the addition of two more women to the court has given her more confidence.

In 1983, Commissioner Sandy Jacobs took office. The Illinois native moved to North Carrollton in 1970 and became active in Republican women’s organizations. She is described by her peers as the most analytical of the commissioners. Whether that is a compliment or not, Jacobs takes it to mean that she does her homework before making decisions. Precinct 2, which Jacobs represents, incorporates North Carrollton, The Colony, eastern Lewisville and the new town of Hackberry. It is probably one of the toughest precincts to represent, since it’s influenced by the burgeoning growth of Dallas County, just to the southeast.

One of the first things Jacobs did was to equalize library funding throughout the precinct. She also initiated a 43-city transportation committee and, as its chairman, convinced the commissioners to spend $100,000 on hiring a consultant to look at issues such as the expansion of Highway 121. She also initiated an effort to decide once and for all just where the line is drawn between Denton and Dallas counties-an unresolved problem since 1888.

Tansey, 39, probably fought the toughest battle to win her seat on the Commissioner’s Court last November. She beat incumbent Billy Joe Wilson for the Precinct 1 position with the slogan, “We don’t need another good ol’ boy,” and has since received letters and phone calls telling her she should be at home raising her kids. The former political science professor represents Denton, Lake Dallas, Cop-pell and several rural areas. She didn’t mind that her April proposal to purchase a $600,000 temporary jail facility might drain the county’s emergency reserve fund by half. She ignored the look of dismay on the race of County Judge Buddy Cole.

The most surprising aspect of the new court is that although the three Republicans vote alike on party issues such as political appointments, they rarely agree on issues such as expanding the new jail facility or giving emergency funding to the county hospital. They enjoy being role models for young women. Walker says it best: “When we talk to the girls, we tell them it’s a whole new world. I’m not a feminist; my husband has taken care of me for 32 years. But so many girls out there are not told of the choice.”