Brownwood Mayor Stephen Haynes has shown he has a comedic flair, thanks to his performances in Lyric Theatre productions.
Haynes was part showman, part comedian and part statesman at the annual State of the City address Friday, turning what can be a dry-but-essential presentation of facts and statistics into a venue that ranged from entertaining to informative — all of which, ultimately, highlighted numerous strong points of the community and the Brownwood school district.
The event, hosted by the Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce, was held at the Coggin Avenue Baptist Church Connection Center.
The idea for the unusual venue was a collaborative effort between Ray Tipton, executive director of the economic development, City Manager Emily Crawford and Marshal McIntosh, assistant director of economic development.
“We were wanting to do something different and entertaining, but informative at the same time,” Tipton said. “We had multiple meetings about ‘how can we do things different,’ and I can’t even tell you who initially came up with this concept.
Haynes delivered an opening monologue that contained several zingers, then played the role of talk-show host as he called several local officials and business representatives to join him on a set, where Haynes interviewed them.
Joining Haynes on the set were Crawford and Tipton, followed by:
• Brownwood school Superintendent Dr. Joe Young and school board president Michael Cloy
• 3M plant manager Russ Bryan
• Weakley-Watson owner Weston Jacobs
In a crisply delivered opening monologue, Haynes noted the political upheavals of 2018 including Paul Lilly’s victory over longtime Brown County Judge Ray West in the March primary, followed by Lilly’s victory in November over write-in challenger Steve Fryar.
Haynes started to churn the comedy by noting West had been county judge since the time when “Keith Clark was just a teller at CNB … Rex Tackett had just started started drawing social security … people actually got their news from a college-educated journalist rather than Facebook and Internet bloggers.”
Haynes turned to the May city election when he and councilman H.D. Jones defeated challengers Mike Tittle and Patrick McLaughlin. “Fortunately all of the incumbents won. I realize that 40 percent of you didn’t vote for me. I know who you are,” Haynes joked.
A contested campaign is good for the community, Haynes said, noting “It really makes me and the candidates step back and think about what we’re doing … one of the other things that happens is that we all learn something about ourselves.
“I found out during the campaign that apparently, there are some people who think I stand against God, family and freedom, and I didn’t know that before the election.”
Haynes noted there were some “tense moments in the city election. But we really didn’t know that we were just a warmup for the fall election that was coming. That write-in campaign — it got a little ugly. It was so ugly that it made Nancy Pelosi’s comments about President Trump look sweet and tenderhearted.
“It was so ugly that President Trump actually tweeted we should build a wall around Brown County. It was so ugly it made Bill Ruth’s Facebook comments look like love letters.”
Before moving on to a David Letterman-style Top Ten list, Haynes said he was honored that U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway had traveled all the way from Washington, D.C. to Brownwood to attend the State of the City address.
Haynes said he then remembered, “oh yeah — the government’s shut down.”
Conaway described the event as “fun. It was a great idea. It was novel. I do a lot of chamber events. This was the one I’ve had the most fun at. Mayor Stephen Haynes has a career after being mayor.”