Smith County

to see a slew of contested races for primaries

{child_byline}By Cory McCoy


As early voting for the March 3 party primaries begins on Tuesday, voters will choose from quite a few candidates in competitive races. There are several contested Republican races and two contested Democrat races in Smith County.

In addition to the county races below, there also are several contested constable races.

Republican Races

Smith County Commissioner Precinct 1

Three candidates will be facing off to take over for commissioner Jeff Warr, who is not seeking re-election. Voters will choose between three candidates with backgrounds in public service: Pam Frederick, Paul Perryman and Neal J. Franklin.

Pam Frederick

Mayor of Bullard, Frederick has 17 years experience in city administration. She first served on the Bullard City Council and has spent the past eight years as mayor. Frederick is a retired elementary school science teacher. She retired from Jack Elementary School in Tyler in 2018.

She believes serving as a county commissioner is the best way to serve others on a larger scale.

Paul Perryman

Paul Perryman has been an elected commissioner and treasurer of the Emergency Services District 2 board since 2015. Perryman is a mortgage banker by trade and owner of Team Perryman Auto Sales. He said he is running because he believes the county is raising taxes too often, citing a proposed courthouse bond that would result in the third property tax increase in four years.

Neal J. Franklin

As the Tyler Fire Chief Franklin led the Tyler Fire Department before retiring and moving in the private sector where he was the General Manager for the ETMC EMS system. He currently is a Leadership Training Facilitator for Core Insights.

He has served on the board of directors for the Texas Fire Chiefs Association, Better Business Bureau, Baptist Child and Family Services, Tyler Junior College-EMS Professions, Smith County Behavioral Health Leadership Team, Children’s Park of Tyler, and the Alzheimer’s Alliance.

Franklin was endorsed by influential the conservative group Grassroots America – We the People.

Smith County Commissioner Precinct 3

A Tyler City Councilman will face off against an incumbent commissioner for the precinct 3 seat.

Terry Phillips

Incumbent Terry Phillips has served as commissioner for precinct 3 since 2009. Phillips is a real estate investor, and stated his career in Oil and Gas.

Over his first three terms he has established himself as a strong conservative republican, often voting against tax increases. Last fall he led the push for Smith County to become the seventh “Second Amendment Sanctuary County” in the state.

He has been endorsed in this race by Grassroots America – We the People.

Bob Westbrook

He will face off against community leader Bob Westbrook in his bid for a fourth term.

Westbrook, a Tyler City Councilman since 2017, said he is running because he feels that the precinct has been under represented on the court.

Westbrook is a past chairman of the Tyler Area Chamber of Commcerce. He previously owned CiCi’s Pizza franchizes. If elected, he plans to resign his city council seat in December.

During his tenure Westbrook has championed infrastructure investment and challenged the city to find funding beyond the half cents sales tax which had resulted in years-long stagnation of projects.

114th District Court

Three lawyers are vying for the seat of retiring Judge Christi Kennedy.

Mitch Adams

Adams is running on his experience trying felony cases. He said he has more than two decades of experience trying criminal felony cases. Since 2013 he has run Mitch Adams Attorney at Law, where he practices criminal defense. Prior to that he spent five years as a staff attorney for the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, and also worked for law firms in Beaumont. He spent a year and a half as a contract public defender for Smith County. As judge he hopes to reduce incarceration costs and help attorneys use their time more efficiently.

Jarad Kent

Kent is the son of retired Judge Cynthia Kent, who served on this bench from 1989 to 2009. Retiring Judge Christi Kennedy has held the seat since.

Kent is a partner at the Chamblee Ryan law firm. He has spent much of his areer practicing civil law. He has been praised by retired Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham and retired Sheriff J.B. Smith.

He said it would be an honor to serve in the same court his mother presided over for 20 years.

Austin Reeve Jackson

Jackson is the owner of Jackson Law Firm and practices criminal, regulatory and appellate law. He was previously a prosecutor in Gregg County, serving as the county’s Chief Appelate Attorney. In addition to his law degree, he also is attending Fuller Evangelical Seiminary. He is a past precinct chair for the Smith County Repiblican Party and sits on boards for Historic Tyler and the Hispanic Business Alliance. He hopes to ensure that Smith County’s three courts that handle criminal cases have experienced judges on the bench, with the retirement of Kennedy and eventual retirement of longtime 241st District Court Judge Jack Skeen. He also hopes to work with the District Attorney’s office to expediate cases in which defendeds would receive probation, but is sitting in jail in pre-trial custody. On average, more than half of the Smith County Jail’s population is made up of defendants on pre-trial misdemeanors or felonies.

He has been endorsed by state Rep. Matt Schaefer and Grassroots America- We the People.

Smith County Republican County Chair

A former Smith County Commissioner will face off against a former Tyler city councilmember to lead the county’s GOP base.

David Stein

David Stein, a former Smith County Commissioner and Republican Club president, is hoping to head the political branch of the Smith County GOP. The Republican Club is the fundraising branch of the party, which Stein served as president of in 2009 and 2012 to 2014. He was appointed to the commissioners court to serve an unexpired term from 2005 to 2006.

He is the president and area developer for commercial cleaning company Office Pride. He also is chairman of the government affairs committee for the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce. He hopes to reinvigorate the county party and bring once active members back into the fold.

He has been endorsed by Grassroots America — We the People.

Ron Shaffer

Stein will face off against Ron Shaffer, a former Tyler City councilman. Shaffer represented District 5 from 1999 to 2005. He is a financial services professional and serves on the boards of the Smith County 911 communications district and executive board of Horizon Industries. He has held various positions on committees with the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce. He also is hoping to bring unity to the county party.

The Republican Party also has three contested constable races

Democrat Races

Smith Democratic Party Chair

A local pastor is looking to unseat the current chair of the local Democratic Party chairman.

John Walton

Pastor John Walton is challenging incumbent Michael Tolbert for the Smith County Democratic Party chair.

Walton is the Precinct 34 chair and also serves on the board of the Half Cent Sales Tax Corporation for the City of Tyler. He is known for his role in the community as an advocate for the homeless, and heads Church Under a Bridge – Saturday, which is not affiliated with the nonprofit Church Under A Bridge, which operates on Sundays. His ministry is an outreach of Humanitarians for America, which is also working to create a Tiny House village called Camp Victorious to serve the low income, homeless and disenfranchised.

Michael Tolbert

Tolbert, a local businessman and real estate agent, is seeking a second term as head of the party. He has volunteered with the party since 2008 and served as a precinct chair for nine consecutive years.

Tolbert holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering management, completed the Texas Agricultural Lifetime Leadership Program and a paralegal degree.

Even though he was born in Kansas City, Missouri Tolbert’s family has deep roots in East Texas and he moved to Tyler to manage a farm that had been in his family for decades. Tolbert said he has raised cattle, bison and a variety of row crops, and is now conducting research on regenerative agricultural practices. He believes it is imperative that the environment and natural resources are protected for future generations.

Tolbert credits his son, who is in middle school, as a primary reason he got into activism and sparking his desire to see a society where every single person has a fair shot at living up to their fullest potential.

On the Democrat side, there also is a contested Smith County Precinct 1 Constable race.

Cory is a multimedia journalist and member of the Education Writers Association, Criminal Justice Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has appeared on Crime Watch Daily and Grave Mysteries on Investigation Discovery.

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