With his name not appearing on the ballot in a crowded mid-term election, unseating Republican Brown County judge nominee Paul Lilly will not be easy for write-in candidate Steve Fryar.
For Fryar, a former Republican nominee for state senate, getting his name out will not be simple with signs supporting a variety of candidates already going up and advertising opportunities becoming increasingly sparse as the November general election nears.
“We’re going to do the same thing every other candidate does, we’re just going to do it harder and smarter,” Fryar said. “We will use social media, newspapers, radio — TV time if we have to. We will do everything we can do get our name out there and educate the voters of Brown County how to actually vote in the write-in process. We have not done this in years. I cannot remember a write-in candidate in Brown County. Not since I have been voting and that was in 1984.”
Fryar said he decided to join the race after receiving numerous requests following the ouster of acting Brown County Judge Ray West in the March primary. Fryar added his biggest dispute with Lilly was questions regarding his past. According to Lilly’s Linkedin account, he worked with Howard Payne University since 2011 and previously served as a chief of police and university professor for 26 years, but did not specify who or where he worked. One place not listed on Linkedin was Caldwell, where Lilly served as police chief in 2009 until the Caldwell City Council ousted him with a vote of no confidence. Lilly would later appeal the decision in district court, but had his appeal thrown out.
“Shortly after the primaries, and I am not exaggerating here, 75 to 100 people who mostly don’t know each other started coming up to me from everywhere,” Fryar said. “Everywhere from Weakley-Watson, the bank, church, just all across the county saying ‘You need to run against this guy because the public does not know who he is.’ I started to question, who is he? I knew he was a professor at Howard Payne [University] and a former police chief at Howard Payne, but that was really all I knew about him. I don’t know that I have ever met the guy. People start giving information to me and I thought, this is not what Brown County needs as our chief elected officer.”
Fryar said his most glaring advantage over Lilly is his lifetime of residence in Brown County and the vast network he has from more than five decades of working in and around Brown County. He said his main focus if elected would be improving the economy of Brown County by using his vast network of business leaders and local, state and federal politicians.
“Part of economic development is not just talking the talk, it’s walking it and I’ve walked it for a long time. I’ve walked it here, in Austin and I’ve done it in [Washington] D.C.,” Fryar said. “… It’s knowing the industry leaders. I’ve known them forever. We need to expand our industry, retail and industrial, we need to expand both of them. They will both bring in a good tax base, payroll taxes, payrolls and good people to our county.”
Fryar did not list off any specific policy changes he would implement to attract new businesses, but said he would work closely with the area chambers of commerce and municipal development boards as well as individuals he knows through serving as president of PF&E Oil Company and Freedom Distribution. Through his political and business connections, he hopes to develop partnerships with area industries to strengthen city infrastructure at a reduced cost through public-private partnerships or P3s.
“For example, with the courthouse renovations, a P3 could have come in and helped pay for a courthouse renovation so the county does not have to pay 100 percent,” Fryar said. “If the county owns property close to the courthouse, the private company would develop that for retail or office space. It’s a good trade. Public-private partnerships have really taken off … It would have to be a part of a bidding process and be approved by the commissioners court.”
The Bulletin has reached out to Lilly for a response, but he was not available for comment Tuesday.