Julia Furukawa Headshot

Julia Furukawa

Stepping up to a new position is often a challenge, but I’ve watched Deport Mayor Pro Tem Craig Folse do it with dedication and (at least apparent) ease. The City Council member took the helm in Deport following the unexpected resignation of three-term mayor John Mark Francis, and at last night’s meeting he took the lead.

I’ve watched the Deport City Council through ups and downs as members grappled with ordinances around campers and reaped the benefits of a new Dollar General store thanks to the work of Francis. It’s clear to anyone who attends those meetings that the council members truly care about their historic community that straddles Lamar and Red River counties.

Some council meetings are only available by attending in person, but Deport has made meetings accessible to anyone with an internet connection to join in via livestream videos. While I go to the meetings in person, I commend the council for making these meetings available to as many people as possible.

These commendations come with a caveat: I have always reported on this community in an unbiased way — and some meetings have caused tough decisions to be made — but I would be remiss not to acknowledge the hard work this council has put in to make the best choices for the future of Deport.

Last night’s meeting had the biggest attendance I’ve seen in my year reporting on Deport, and Folse handled the proceedings like a pro, opening up the floor for public comments and listening to feedback from the audience when it was given. Considering the fact that in the first few weeks he’s filled this office his town was battered by historically harsh winter weather, his job hasn’t been easy to say the least. But Folse established a declaration of disaster and is looking into ways to help Deport residents whose homes and lives may have been damaged by the winter storm.

Involvement in local government or school boards is the first step in fostering change. That’s something I’ve learned during my time as a reporter, and a point that was driven home to me after I covered the visit of state Republican party chair Lt. Col. Allen West. City council members and school board officials make decisions that impact our lives, and they do it at times without compensation. It’s for the greater good of their communities. I’ve seen Deport City Council meetings run past 10 p.m. as council members debated what’s best for their town and, with collaboration, I think they’ve mostly been able to do that.

Folse has big shoes to fill and at last night’s meeting, he did it with confidence. I was thankful to be back in Deport covering a town that is going through a renaissance. Along with other council members, Folse helped make the decision to establish a committee to work alongside the nonprofit organization Project Deport, which works to host events and run campaigns for the betterment of the city.

Even though the city lost a true leader in the resignation of Francis, I look forward to watching Deport council members persevere and continue to help Deport grow and adapt.

Julia Furukawa is the assistant managing editor for The Paris News. She can be reached at 903-785-8744 or at julia.furukawa@theparisnews.com.

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