Mathis, colleagues reflect on long career in public service
Jimmy Daniell Isaac
Jan. 2, 2018 at 6:42 a.m.
Upward mobility led John Mathis to turn his career to politics 11 years ago, but the newly retired Gregg County commissioner says his first love remained public service through patrols.
"Patrolling is just not patrolling," said Mathis, who joined Gregg County as a part-time sheriff's reserve patrol officer in 1974. After splitting the job with a full-time gig at the now-defunct Schlitz brewery for several years, Mathis joined the sheriff's office full time in 1983.
"You go through these neighborhoods, sit down and talk to people and get to know them and let them get to know you," he said. "I got so familiar with people that I knew what kind of vehicles they drove."
Mathis has retired effective Sunday after 11 years as Pct. 4 commissioner. He announced his retirement — and resignation of the final year of his third term — in October before endorsing Longview City Councilwoman Kasha Williams to succeed him.
Williams and Easton Mayor Shannon Brown are running in the March 6 Democratic primary for the seat. The winner will face Republican candidate G. Floyd in the November general election.
"It's time to just take more time out with my family," Mathis said of retiring. "I have grandkids, and I've been missing out with my grandkids and their sports and activities because I've been working, working, working. I've been serving the county for 43 years. It's time for me to take care of my family, do my hobbies and play golf, and enjoy my kids and grandkids.
"Don't get me wrong — I love my job," he said, "but it's time for me to take time out for my family."
Mathis said he decided to run for commissioner as an opportunity to move up in county employment and service while also helping residents in roadwork and other needs.
His past work with area employers such as Kenny Mobbs and Randy Brogoitti construction companies aided his experience needed to oversee Pct. 4 road and bridge crews.
"I was serving the community, but I wanted to do more," he said of the move to the court.
The largest road and bridge project during his tenure was at the East Texas Regional Airport, Mathis said. Crews from all three of the county's road and bridge teams helped in dirt work and other clearing to make way for more hangar space that airport staff could rent to prospective businesses.
"It brings in business into Gregg County," he said, "and people don't realize we were trying to organize a business park out there for different businesses."
The last large project Mathis worked on was for the Longview Arboretum and Nature Center. Again, crews from all three precinct road and bridge crews helped dredge a pond and clear land and trails to help launch Phase 1 of the 26-acre project.
Colleagues said Mathis provided more than construction oversight to Gregg County Commissioners Court.
Pct. 3 Commissioner Gary Boyd said he and Mathis cooperated well in managing county manpower and equipment on projects, adding: "And besides that, I ended up halfway liking him."
Pct. 1 Commissioner Ronnie McKinney said heated negotiations over the past two-plus years led to the county purchasing property in downtown Longview to expand Gregg County Courthouse parking options.
"A lot of times, people think our committee up here is a rubber stamp," McKinney said. "It didn't come easy and there were so many options, and I know Commissioner Mathis was a lot like I am in that I'm not a patient person. We both just about threw our hands up because we had so many obstacles."
The court endured the challenges to arrive at a decision with Mathis as a driving force, proving Gregg County commissioners work together when courts in other counties sometimes don't, McKinney said.
"That's a shame because the county suffers," he said of other counties' commissioners courts in disharmony. "I wish (Mathis) would stay another year but that's his decision and you never know until you walk in somebody else's shoes."
Mathis said he appreciated the kind words from his colleagues.
"The name of the game is just helping each other," he said. "I hope that's what we continue to do. I love you all and I'm going to continue to love you and that's all I have to say. Happy new year."