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Gene Carey – Much more than a public servant

The Flip Side Revisited
Posted by WhosPlayin on 2016/4/9 13:12:06 (990 reads)

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Gene Carey, former Lewisville Mayor (Photo courtesy of City of Lewisville)

Former Mayor Gene Carey was, by any measurement, as successful a local politician as you will find. By my count, between his first city council election in 1993 and his last race for mayor in 2006, he won eight elections without a defeat, and not a single one of them was close.

But Gene was not a normal politician, local or otherwise. His public success was built on something far more important than a dynamic public persona or the prestige of the office that he held. When you talked with Gene, you knew he cared what you had to say, and what you were going through or dealing with. He listened intently and answered directly. When you had his attention, he was focused on you. He built support one person at a time by building personal trust.

This quality surfaced not only to those he supported. It also applied to those who didn’t vote for him, and occasionally to those who ran against him. Over the years, Gene drew a couple of very young opponents in mayoral elections. Both times, after winning in landslides, Gene made it a point to reach out to them and encourage their involvement in the city in other ways.

Patrick Booth, who ran against Gene for mayor while still a teenager, was very grateful for Gene’s kindness and encouragement. Patrick, now a counselor and author of “The Long Road Home,” told me “One statement he made to me that I have always appreciated during my last campaign was that he liked watching me mature over the years. Since then I have always appreciated the value of experience a little more. Gene was a considerate leader and the city was lucky to have him...” Patrick went on to serve on the Lewisville Park Board, and made a later run for city council.

I first met Gene Carey in the summer of 1989. He was a new member of the park board, which I had joined two years before. I remember him being very amiable, and over the next year, he proved to be the kind of board member you always want to see: no personal agenda, and a willingness to listen, provide intelligent input, and place the needs of the community first and foremost.

We became friends, and stayed close friends until Gene’s untimely death this past Monday at the age of 73. It was an unusual and unlikely friendship, considering that we were both political activists with strong views. I’m a fairly liberal Democrat and Gene was a staunch conservative Republican.

But we had total respect for each other and complete trust in each other’s sincerity. And we both placed love of our country and its people well above party. I heard Gene say on more than one occasion, “I’m not a fan of Obama (or Clinton years before), but he is my president.” We found much more in common on local issues.

When I decided to make a run for City Council in 1991, Gene jumped in with both feet to help me. He made phone calls, distributed signs, and persuaded friends. And we started a personal tradition that year that we carried on for more than a decade. It’s normal to plaster polling places with candidate signs on the night before an election. Gene helped me cover the polling places with my signs late that first election night, followed by a trip to a local coffee house. We maintained that tradition until a few years ago, placing signs for either his races, or for friends we both supported in city elections. Those nights were my favorite times I spent with him.

I lost that first election to a worthy incumbent, and was a little surprised two years later when Gene informed me that he had decided to run for an open seat. Honestly, with his easy-going temperament and laid-back style, I had never thought of him as a politician.

I will never forget the first candidate forum in which he participated. The quiet Gene Carey transformed into a local political dynamo in front of my eyes. He was polite but forceful, energetic, and rattled off a number of issue-specific proposals in a near staccato cadence that blew me away. That night my perception of this man changed, and I had an inkling that he might be in the game for a while.

I helped Gene in every campaign he ran from that point on. I pulled together mailing lists, walking lists, created brochures, and even occasionally helped write speeches. His campaigns were never about him, but were about the city he served.

Current County Commissioner Bobbie Mitchell became mayor of Lewisville on the same day Gene first took his place on the city council. Gene’s personal qualities won her over from the beginning. “Gene was my buddy,” she told me. “We ‘pal’ed around and had a wonderful time together. He would come to my house and we would drink tea and work on the budget.”

Commissioner Mitchell went on to explain: “Gene was a wonderful friend, Daddy, husband, and citizen. We just bonded. If you ever needed a friend, Gene was there. He was a friend to everyone and would do anything for you.” She was absolutely correct.

Gene Carey always rose above his labels. As he was a mayor, city councilman, board member (he continued serving on boards after he left office), church deacon, he was first and foremost one of the nicest and most decent human beings I ever met. Our conversations would go from local issues to state and national issues, occasionally to his church, and always to our families. He loved his family dearly, and talked about them all the time. And he never failed to ask about mine.

He had a strong and subtle sense of humor. It could be the type of sly deadpan humor that would slip past you if you weren’t paying attention, or blatant and irreverent. Bobbie Mitchell told me the story of a time she and Gene were crossing a street in San Antonio. “Gene was always a gentleman, and he was helping me across the street. He said, ‘Look, you know what those people over there are thinking? They’re thinking how nice of that young man to help that elderly lady across the street!’ I nearly had to swat him!”

Words do not have the ability to do justice to the man Mayor Gene Carey was. He was an everyman who became great by the force of his simple human decency and a strong willingness to serve his community. He has left an incredible legacy, not just of political accomplishment, but of friendship. He affected numerous lives in innumerable ways – all of them positive. And his passing has left a huge hole in the lives of those who knew him.

Related: Hundreds turn out to Gene Carey's funeral

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