Liberty County has a flare for unearthing former politicians surrounded by scandal to once again seek office. Or, at least plenty of former Democrats who found themselves no longer in positions of power, within the now Republican controlled County, suddenly becoming bonafide Conservatives.
Toby Wilburn has filed a candidate treasurer form with the local County Clerk, seeking the office of Commissioner, Pct. 1, currently held by Bruce Karbowski. This will allow Mr. Wilburn to begin raising money for a run, though he has not yet announced.
Wilburn's tale, a former Democratic Commissioner, is a long one fraught with citizen outrage and lawsuits, as well as facing federal charges for wiretapping the County Courthouse.
Though in the end, the grand jury did not take action against Wilburn, KSHN 99.9 summed it up best back in that time period: " According to reliable sources, a Liberty County Grand Jury voted last Wednesday to take no action on possible state felony charges against the three men, who by their own admission, conspired to bug offices and wiretap phones at the Liberty County Courthouse."
Perhaps bringing up the candidate's legal troubles may lead some to say "let it go" (We're sure Wilburn does), as he was acquitted. We can agree with that, but his story goes much further. At one point, citizens in Woodland Hills subdivision having to sue over conditions so poor on their roads under his mismanagement that buses and EMS services could not safely travel on them.
"County officials also learned Friday that a lawsuit had been filed against Commissioners Court over an issue that plagued Wilburn since he took office in 1999. Residents of the Woodland Hills subdivision in Wilburn's Precinct 4 are suing for unspecified damages, saying commissioners were negligent in allowing their roads to become too dangerous for school buses and ambulances. Wilburn had complained of insufficient funds to repair roads, but other commissioners argued that he had mishandled his budgeted money."
“Toby came to me and said I just can’t survive this,” Liberty County Democratic Party chair John Archer recalled. It wasn’t so much that the new map split his community in two that bothered Wilburn, it was that they had removed the very boxes he was counting on to get reelected. After only a couple of years in office, everybody else in the precinct hated his guts.
The problem was the roads. In rural counties, a commissioner’s chief duty is keeping the roads in good condition. He spends most of his time not at the courthouse, but in the county barn, where his paving equipment resides and his men receive their orders. By all accounts, Wilburn’s machinery spent too much time in the barn and not enough on the roads. More development around Dayton has meant more traffic, and maintenance on what used to be farm roads did not keep pace with the growth. Roads were particularly bad in the low-lying areas along the river, where periodic floods had taken their toll. Potholes and decaying shoulders were causing accidents. In some of the new subdivisions, conditions had gotten so bad that homeowners were getting organized. In June, a demonstration in front of the courthouse made the front page of the local weekly, The Vindicator. Most ominously, a resident of one of the new subdivisions filed suit against the county for lack of maintenance.
People blamed Wilburn, and not without reason. “Toby just didn’t have a plan,” Archer said. One of his first moves was to repave the road in front of his barn. Wilburn did a good job on it–maybe too good. “It was a nice road. Asphalted. While we’ve got roads that school buses are driving down to pick up kids that are pretty dangerous roads,” Archer said.
Yet when citizens threatened a lawsuit, the other commissioners offered to bring their equipment and men to help Wilburn out. But Wilburn wasn’t interested, Archer said. “He said ‘Get out.'”
Simply put, it is unfathomable that voters seriously consider putting a candidate back into the very office that he failed so miserably at the first time. We can only imagine at this time of growth in the County, games such as above would be disastrous.
Of course, this go around Wilburn knows he needs a certain label to be considered seriously in the County. That being that he is now a Republican office seeker. However, good memories, and a few reminders are well needed in this race.
http://kshnfm.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=277:april-2002&catid=20:2002&Itemid=18 KSHN Vol. 17 No. 64 4/2/2002
https://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Official-gives-up-Liberty-County-seat-during-probe-2053155.php Houston Chronicle 06/09/2001
https://www.texasobserver.org/359-dateline-texas-a-little-bit-more-equal/ Texas Observer 08/17/2001