The Police Chief Chronicles IV: Meet The Good 'Ol Boys


OPINION — If I disappear after this editorial, I’d like to have a gravesite at Fairmount with a statue just like Thomas McKloskey.

Many months ago, candidate Travis Griffith wanted me to support him for police chief in the election slated for May 2024. I told him that San Angelo LIVE! would always give him access to our audience, but there was no way on God’s green earth I would personally support someone who vanquished me in my inaugural run for office. Besides, I was still reeling from that grumpy old man and suffering PTSD from that incident. I’d bet it was Griffith who placed that sign I tried to replace on that fateful day. Another reason I declined was that endorsing candidates costs more money than I wanted to lose. See 2016. In other words, I wasn’t against him per se, but I wasn’t for him either, and I also knew I had employees who might support him. I promised I would be fair.

I think that freaked him out a little. A couple of weeks later, a dear friend of mine attended a fundraiser for Griffith where my friend wrote a check to Griffith’s campaign for $500. He wanted to talk to me about it. Apparently, Griffith’s campaign finance guy, a man named Rob Watkins, handed the check back and wanted my friend to instead pay me the $500 to purchase advertising for Griffith. This is where it is more profitable to have a large sales team separate from the writers. I couldn’t take his money, I said. That $500 wouldn’t be enough to do much anyway, and besides, what is this, I asked? A bribe? If Griffith wanted to buy advertising, he could buy it directly.

The next thing I know, Watkins wants to meet with me. We set up a meeting time on a Tuesday, I believe. I was in Lubbock that day and had to move appointments around up there to make the trip down that morning to make the meeting. By the time I landed at Mathis, Watkins had canceled the meeting, and the trip was wasted. He rescheduled a few days later but didn’t make that meeting either. Griffith was there, though.

At the meeting, I explained to Griffith the best way to buy ads on San Angelo LIVE!, the same briefing I gave Hernandez’s ad man, Stephen McLaughlin. Griffith never advertised with us, and I think I know why. It would become an add-on feature of an Early Voting Surprise, this time by the Griffith campaign. More on that in a later dispatch of the Chronicles.

I have never had much contact with Rob Watkins. I knew he owned the Chick-fil-A franchises and several years ago, he asked me to help him cloak his venture to build a paid storage facility on the Concho River as being owned by his very young daughter. I was told that Chick-fil-A didn’t allow franchisees to own other businesses, so he was apparently financing his daughter for the venture instead. Accordingly, the city council approved the zoning request for his daughter, not him. I also knew he was highly competitive and smart. I admired that.

Now the Chick-fil-A guy is involved in at least two major local political campaigns. He was Carter’s big donor, and now he was financing Griffith’s run for chief, including acting as his campaign treasurer. The bell went off. Watkins might be the guy behind the curtain with the Google Maps and Early Voting Surprises. After all, Watkins built and operates the busiest drive-thru for any Chick-fil-A in the country—from little ol’ San Angelo. Now he appeared to be using his business acumen and competitiveness to build a political empire that will rival the bankers’ political efforts. He was finding success too, having already installed a county judge.

McCloskey's Statue in the Fairmount Cemetery.

McCloskey's Statue in the Fairmount Cemetery.

Like in all political endeavors, rich folks like to dabble, and Mike Hernandez’s campaign is not without a few dabblers as well. While Mr. Chick-fil-A is steering the Griffith campaign from the finance chairman position, Hernandez’s finance guy is banker Mike Boyd.

Bankers make excellent politicos behind the scenes because they can wield outsized influence since bankers control so much money. With control of money, even other people’s money, bankers build excellent relationships deep into the business community. Boyd has been particularly good at doing this. Before he retired, a trip by his windowed office on the first floor of the old First Financial Bank building was required if one wanted to find out if he or she had a chance of running for office successfully.

I made one such trip back in 2015. I wanted to see where he stood on the re-election of former Police Chief Tim Vasquez, who was up for re-election in 2016. I learned he was supporting Frank Carter, but he told me that in a banker kind of way by leaving the door open, for me anyway, that he may switch sides. I doubt he would have.

Over the years, I have agreed and disagreed with Boyd about who he supports politically, but it was always intriguing to learn why. I have never doubted his intentions, even when he would not support me. Boyd seeks what is, in his opinion, in the best interest of San Angelo. He is always on the lookout for quality people to fill important local public offices. I think this developed as a hobby for him during his banking days. He served as interim chamber of commerce director at least twice. He has served on the Shannon Trust Board of Directors. Unlike other board members, he had to decline getting paid because of his banking role, but he served for many years anyway. He is instrumental in the close working relationship between local governments—county, city, school districts—and Goodfellow Air Force Base. Two Altus Trophies and the millions of federal and state dollars spent on Goodfellow AFB testify to that.

Boyd has never, ever asked me to do anything political except to tell the truth. I’m sure he has disagreed with my version a time or two, but he has not harassed me about it. And there’s hope for the future. Boyd has helped fundraise for the annual July 3rd fireworks for a couple of years now.

One of these days, I might convince Boyd that a fellow Aggie Corps alumnus and military reservist is worthy of more, but that day is probably many years off after this editorial. This piece confirms that I’m too wild for his well-heeled and moderate banking sensibilities.

In similar light, Griffith’s Chick-fil-A guy must not appreciate my declination to join his cause because as the campaign heated up, Griffith began a deliberate effort to isolate, personalize, and attack me and my company.

In finance records to date, Chick-fil-A guy Watkins has donated $7,000 to the Griffith campaign, and we have witnessed his sign operation in and out of his daughter’s storage place on the Concho River. He’s crazy smart. He’s the campaign treasurer listed on Griffith's finance reports. I wonder if he’s the Google Maps maker too? He blew me off for two meetings so he remains an enigma.

Above all, the biggest question on my mind is, if I were supporting Griffith’s opponent, why would I ever dine at Chick-fil-A again when Cane’s is right across the street?

The underlying point of this piece is that all candidates have good ol’ boys behind them. As a voter, it’s your job to decide which ones earn your vote.

Thomas McCloskey, owner of the Arc Light Saloon circa 1890s.

Thomas McCloskey, owner of the Arc Light Saloon circa 1890s.

The year 2016 was absolutely the worst police chief election. I was still trying to figure out how to position our fledgling online paper in the political realm. The lesson ended in the only annual loss San Angelo LIVE! as a company has ever suffered. By the time the Brad Goodwin vs. Carmen Dusek 391st District Judge race, Vasquez vs. Carter police chief race, and Trump concluded, I was left pulling $55,000 out of my own buttocks to cover my company’s loss. I’d rather be pinched by a police chief candidate instead. That was the year I was told by my sales guy that San Angelo political power broker and banker Mike Boyd “would never, ever support me” because I refused to endorse his judge candidate Goodwin. Multiple advertisers pulled over the Vasquez vs. Carter race. Carter had a ton of support but not from me. A large ad buy by Vasquez at the end of his unsuccessful runoff with Carter was never paid. I ate it. My conclusion was that police chief races are bad for business. I also learned that as a company, we would never, ever endorse a political candidate. Folks just don’t want to be told for whom to vote. By the way, that year my competitor, the San Angelo Standard-Times, endorsed Vasquez over Carter. No one complained, either.

About this piece:

In the wild and wacky world of police chief elections, where candidates are more hostile than a porcupine in a balloon factory, the San Angelo LIVE! Publisher Joe Hyde has taken it upon himself to pen a multi-piece exposé. This thrilling saga dives into the history of San Angelo police chief elections since the 2000s, aiming to not only entertain you but also explain why these elections are as tricky as herding cats. Reporting on them? Well, that’s a whole other rodeo, where friendships end faster than a celebrity marriage. Next, brace yourself to learn about information warfare with chemical munitions and all about the Good 'Ol Boys who want to decide this election.

  1. Police Chief Chronicles I: Pinched in the Buttocks
  2. Police Chief Chronicles II: The Smartest Guy Doesn't Always Win the Election
  3. Police Chief Chronicles III: How Hernandez Loses
  4. Police Chief Chronicles IV: Meet the Good 'Ol Boys
  5. Police Chief Chronicles V: Shilling for the Government
  6. Police Chief Chronicles VI: Chemical Munitions
  7. Police Chief Chronicles VII: Timmy 2.0
  8. Police Chief Chronicles VIII: Stolen Valor

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The "Good Old Boys" were, and possibly are, a group of upper class men and women who feel that what they want is what's good for San Angelo. When it came to politics, they depended on Sonny Cleere to do a reconnaissance and generally took his recommendations before interviewing the candidate. This was the case when Tim Vasquez first ran for Chief and ended when he went up against Carter. Vasquez had reached a point where he became a huge liability to their individual reputations. Several of the actual Good Old Boys (and Girls) are mentioned in Sgt. Palmer's "Ranger Report". No one mentioned in Joe Hyde's Opinion piece was a Good Old Boy. As a lesson in history, McClosky's Arc Light Saloon was across the street from the Gulf Colorado and Santa Fe Station on 4th Street (The Catholic Outreach Center.) The Saloon building still stands.


live, Thu, 06/06/2024 - 12:50

I researched the Arc Light and believe it was at where Heritage House is housed today. George Alexander told me about the history of that old building.

There's a pic in the article of a man in a Model T with the Arc Light Saloon on Concho behind him. 

But I am willing to consider maybe it was somewhere else before moving to the NE corner of Chad and Concho.

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