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Citizen Stone

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It was the winter of 1999 and I was getting interested in local politics. Having commuted to Dallas to work for several years, I was like most people; I didn’t know much about the issues facing my little suburban community of Flower Mound.

I heard there was a town hall meeting coming up, so I decided to get my feet wet. It was a chilly January evening as I parked my car in the almost deserted lot. As I entered the building, I looked to my right, toward the council chambers room and saw six people sitting at designated seats, facing the audience. The “audience” consisted of one man in the front row, facing the elected officials of the town.

Being as inconspicuous as possible, I quietly took a seat in the back row to observe the proceedings. I don’t recall what the agenda was, but, every time a topic was addressed, the man in front got up, walked to the podium, and gave his opinion on it. Having used his three minutes on each subject, he’d sit down and wait for the next issue, at which time he was up to opine again. 

Ordinarily, I’d have figured that the guy was an eccentric character with a lot of free time on his hands. Hence, I only intended to be there for a few minutes. Yet, I found the scene to be compelling because the man was articulate and seemed to know the issues better than the people sitting above him. I stayed until the end because I wanted to meet the guy who was standing alone against what appeared to be an intractable coterie of elitists. I’ve always had great respect for those with the courage to take a stand against the odds when they believe in what they’re fighting for. It takes courage to be the underdog, struggling against the powers that be.

When the meeting adjourned I waited outside to meet this indomitable public advocate. Paul Stone and I have been friends ever since.

A year or so later, I was running for Mayor and Paul was running for a Council seat. I began referring to him as an encyclopedia with legs, as he tutored me on Flower Mound government, providing an education that served me well during several debates.  Nevertheless, on Election Day we had our rear ends handed to us by the incumbents. But, the experience opened up a dialogue in the town that ultimately ended the careers of our erstwhile opponents.

A few years later Paul was running again and I had taken the job as editor of a local newspaper. My supportive editorials may have played a minor role, but given his increasingly high profile, his vast knowledge of town government and a charming personality that makes him as approachable as a teddy bear, Paul won easily.  Jody Smith, the woman who headed the ticket, became the Mayor, and, along with another newly elected councilmember, Laurie Long, a new era was about to be ushered in.

Paul was unopposed in 2006 and continued in his seat until a few months prior to the 2008 election. His job with the Small Business Administration at his Fort Worth office was getting busier, making it more difficult to handle those late night council meetings. He resigned the office, opening a seat for a council appointment, which, a short time later, went to Al Filidoro.

Although Paul has been on several boards and commissions over the years that led to a Council seat, one of the accomplishments he takes most pride in is his work on creating the Transportation Commission. When he left the Council he became its first chairman.

First dubbed “Citizen Stone” by a former Town Secretary because of his consistent service to the community, he was named “Citizen of the Year” in 2000 by the Flower Mound Rotary Club. 

These days, Paul refers to himself as “a recovering politician and government junkie.” He continues to show up at an occasional Town Council meeting when he wants to add something to the dialogue; otherwise, he watches them on TV from the comfort of home.

He says the current Mayor and Council are doing a good job in broadening the tax base and opening opportunities for more commerce. He believes the River Walk will be a marvelous addition to the area, especially if the Public Improvement District is approved by the voters in November. The PID would be used for infrastructure needs, but would free up enough capital for the developer to add numerous attractive amenities. As Paul says, “The Council was right to put it on the ballot and let the public decide what they want.”

I can’t help wondering what our town would be like if it had not been influenced by Paul’s legacy. He reminds me of George Bailey, the character in “It’s a wonderful life.” Without him, Flower Mound might have become “Pottersville.”

 

Bob Weir is a long-time Flower Mound resident and former local newspaper editor. In addition, Bob has 7 published books that include “Murder in Black and White,” “City to Die For,” “Powers that Be,” “Ruthie’s Kids,” “Deadly to Love,” “Short Stories of Life and Death” and “Out of Sight,” all of which can be found on Amazon.com and other major online bookstores.

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