Texans are renowned for fierce love and devotion to our state. That is one of the reasons Denton County Day was extra special for the 175 Denton County delegates this year. Texas turned 181 years old this past Thursday, and we spent Texas’ birthday eve walking the corridors of our beautiful state capitol.
Denton Chamber of Commerce president Chuck Carpenter organized the first Denton County Day 30 years ago, in 1987. He got the idea after then State Representative Jim Horn told him about open house events some Texas cities hosted for their legislators in Austin.
“The mission of Denton County Day has remained true for 17 legislative sessions now,” Chuck said. “It is our opportunity to heighten the image of our Denton County legislative delegation during the regular legislative session.” Every other year, our state legislators devote months away from their families and careers to work on our behalf here in Austin, Chuck explained. “We unite from across the county to thank them publicly among their peers.”
The Denton County Day 2017 delegation and legislators on the Texas Capitol east entrance stairs. (Photo by Angelica Del Rosal)
In its infancy, Chuck said Denton County Day involved only Denton and Lewisville. After that first venture in 1987, however, Denton County Day grew quickly, now with delegates from cities all across the county.
Who are these delegates? It sounds formal, but the reality is that people from all walks of life take part in Denton County Day.
North Texas Fair & Rodeo executive director Glenn Carlton explained why. “When I’m in that capitol building, that’s just cool. You see how our government works. You meet representatives and senators, get to know their staff. Then when you feel strongly about something, you can shoot an email or call them. They have a face with a name. You feel like you’re playing a part in the government. And we are.”
Bill Utter Ford’s Carl Anderson has participated in Denton County Day since its inception. “I’ve been in Texas my whole life, and I thought I knew Texas. But every Denton County Day, I learn things about Texas I didn’t know. You look around the capitol, see the history, the pictures of all the governors, and it’s amazing. I can’t believe anybody from Texas wouldn’t want to be here.”
The Denton County Day itinerary included a reception for legislators and their staff, briefings from our Denton County legislators and keynote speakers from various government sectors and agencies. For instance, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush headlined the closing luncheon this year. Talk about takeaways. Before his presentation, not a soul in the room understood the role of that office, one of the oldest in Texas government, created in the dawn of Texas’ birth.
Delegates stayed busy between Denton County Day events, too, voluntarily dividing into teams to visit legislators on their turf, in their capital offices.
Back and center is Denton Mayor Chris Watts, County Judge Mary Horn and Denton Chamber of Commerce's Angelica del Rosal at 2017 Denton County Day. (Photo by Kim Phillips)
“I think in today’s political climate, there are a lot of divisions,” said Monica Glenn, owner of Denton’s Best Western Premier hotel. “This is a way of bringing everyone together. We have representation from the city, chamber, county, school district, UNT, TWU, NCTC, United Way, economic development, CVB, businesses and general citizens. We all come together to represent Denton, because in the end, we are all on the same team and want what’s best for our city and our county.”
Glenn Carlton also serves as Denton Chamber’s Chair of the Board. “What’s unique about what we do here is the vetting process that our position statements take,” he said. We started that process four months ago. And it’s not just the Chamber. In the same room, public schools, universities, the chamber, city and county come to agreement on each other’s positions so when we come to Austin, we are united. That’s a lot of cooperation, and it’s special. We have our differences, but we don’t show it here.”
Being part of the full spectrum of activity available while Denton County Day unfolds in Austin is a confidence-builder. The idea of visiting a legislator to talk about something important used to be intimidating. Not so anymore. I’ve learned the ropes over the course of several Denton County Days.
A fringe benefit to Denton County Day is that old buzz word networking. “This is only my second Denton County Day,” said Chamber Vice President of Economic Development Adam Gawarecki. “It’s a great bonding experience to get to know community leaders.”
Denton County Day is for every Denton County citizen interested in our government. I often hear people express that they feel their voice doesn’t make a difference in what happens. Denton County Day changes that paradigm. Together, we make a difference.