Editor’s note: Dr. Tim Westley served as the historian for the Republican Party of Texas, and is in the Republican runoff for Texas Land Commissioner. He sat down with Editor In Chief Jackson Paul on Wednesday, May 18th, for an interview. You can learn more or get involved with his campaign at https://www.texans4tim.com
Jackson: Could you start by introducing yourself to our readers?
Tim: Absolutely. My name is Dr. Tim Wesley, and I’m running for Texas Land Commissioner.
Jackson: Why don’t you tell them a bit more about yourself and your background?
Tim: Absolutely. I am a seven year Army veteran— seven years active duty— and was in the Texas National Guard. I’ve also been a teacher in the public classroom briefly; I’ve taught seventh and eighth grade math and science. The majority of my time in education was spent in higher learning when I taught at the university: critical thinking, world religions, introductory courses, etc. I am also a husband of 27 years, father of three, grandfather of three. I am a former pastor of over 12 years, and I’m also the current historian for the Republican Party of Texas.
Jackson: What made you want to run for Land Commissioner?
Tim: Initially, I didn’t have any intent on running for Land Commissioner. I had just finished up a US Congressional race, my third bid for Congress, and I found myself involved with the Alamo cenotaph protection to ensure that it was not being moved and that the Alamo footprint was protected. During that time, I gained some interest in the land commissioner’s work, because that’s one of the things they do: the stewardship of the Alamo. Ultimately, it came down to hearing about veterans not being honored or respected and a culture from the General Land Office that was not as positive towards veterans as it should be. When it comes down to veterans cemeteries, they view them as a waste of money. For me, as a veteran, that was insulting. I thought at that point this would be the one last thing that would push me towards getting into this race.
Jackson: Yeah, so what do you think makes you the most qualified candidate? What qualifications do you have that no one else can match?
Tim: My background and experience as mentioned, my educational background, and knowing how the inner workings of TEA ( the Texas Education Agency ) works. That’s one of the things that the Land Commissioner is overseeing, and that’s going to be a big part of the job. We have a near $50 billion permanent school fund that is managed through this General Land Office. Portions of that fund, of course, are going towards TEA and eventually to the school districts. I believe that my experience is going to translate well into this job to be able to make sure that those resources are going to get us to a point where we can raise up the level of education for our Texas public school children to a higher level. Right now, we’re in the lower portion of the 50 states, and we should be leading the way. In addition, one of the things that the land commissioner’s office oversees is a total of nine veteran homes–with one just breaking ground in Arlington–and veterans cemeteries. As a veteran, I’ve spoken with numerous veterans and veterans families, and I know those veterans’ needs firsthand. I believe leading the way from that perspective is going to be extremely vital. Further, my work with not only the Alamo and the Cenotaph, but my work as the historian for the Republican Party of Texas–traveling the great state, talking about all things history–is going to be significant, because that’s a major role of the land commissioner’s office to protect and oversee the caretaking of the Alamo–amongst many other things. To wrap it up, my vast experience mirrors what the Land Commissioner’s Office is going to request and require of whoever wins this office.
Jackson: In your most recent press release, you talk a lot about your meteoric rise. You entered this race relatively late and then passed up what was a very crowded field to make into the runoff. So, what do you attribute success to? What do you think voters like about you? Why do you think your campaign has attracted so many people?
Tim: I think it’s multiple things. One, many may not realize it, but I’ve literally been working throughout the great state of Texas, by this point, for multiple years. As historian, I have already been traveling the state speaking to conservatives throughout this great state. So, I had many connections that were already forged. In addition to that, my work as historian has allowed me to write for the Republican Party of Texas. I’ve written well over a dozen articles over the past two years, and my work has been known to many of these voters throughout the great state. Also, my continued advocacy for people–whether it’s the Goldstar mom that has contacted me for assistance or local activists who have contacted me for assistance to get involved. I believe that people simply connect to the fact that whether I’m elected for office, running for office or not, I’m still working, still trying to move things forward, and still trying to assist Texans and Texas in becoming better.
Jackson: What do you think is the current biggest issue that’s facing Texas?
Tim: One of the things we know is, when it comes down to natural disasters, that’s going to be a huge issue. If one part of Texas is affected, then all of Texas is affected. I’ll talk about the natural disasters, because that’s one of the things this office will be overseeing–helping Texans to find relief when the natural disasters happen. I said “when” because it’s not a matter of “if” it’s the matter of “when” they will happen. We look at one example, such as Hurricane Harvey, that happened years ago, yet we see Texans are still reeling from the effects of that hurricane. What do we need to do about that? I believe that we have to put together a foolproof plan that Texans will be served immediately after a disaster, and they can quickly get back on their feet. When it comes to funding that’s coming from FEMA, we have to have liaisons spread out throughout the great state of Texas that are already on the ready. We can’t be reactive. We must proactively do things about this. Not only hurricanes, but also the tornadoes that happened in Texas, or the wildfires, which we just saw here recently take place, burning 1000s of acres. Those are things that are going to continue to happen. So, we have to look at them as something we must prioritize.
Jackson: I want to begin to dig a bit deeper on that. You say we need to have a proactive plan. What does that look like in practice? What would you do to have a proactive plan that is not currently being done?
Tim: Now, when we’re looking at our smaller towns, cities, and counties, they don’t have a liaison on hand. Many of them don’t have the resources. They simply can’t afford to hire and pay a salary to a liaison to have them on hand. I want to make sure we have someone that’s in every part of the region of Texas so that, even when you have the small towns that may not have the capacity to pay for that, we can make sure we provide a budget for that from the Land Commissioner’s Office. Every town, no matter how large or small, will be serviced. That’s one of the things I want to start with right off.
Jackson: So essentially, you’re going to have the Commissioner help smaller towns and small regions. You can have their own liaison pay for this?
Tim: Yes, if they are not able to do it, because they don’t have the funding. I want to at least be able to help provide someone so that, when the natural disaster strikes, even if the town is small, they too will be able to get their fair relief from the federal government and from the state of Texas.
Jackson: That makes a lot of sense. What other specific policy proposals do you have to have a more proactive plan?
Tim: Ultimately, I want to look at what has taken place. What we know for sure is that, anytime natural disasters strike, we typically end up with a study. We will do what, in the army, we call the after action review. What did we do right? What did we do wrong? What can we do better? There’s no doubt we’re gonna have those studies. The problem is with the government. We’ll end up with studies, but we don’t actively apply those studies. What I want to do, as part of the action plan moving forward, is to go through and find out what we learned from Hurricane Harvey, for example. Also, to figure out what type of studies are already available. The next thing, what have we applied from what we’ve learned and what haven’t we applied and why? I want to go ahead and move forward. Again, we’re going to be proactive to make sure we can bridge the gap with information that we’ve already paid to gather.
Jackson: That makes a lot of sense, making use of the studies that we currently have. So another question I have, what advice would you give to young conservatives who are trying to get involved in the movement?
Tim: Tell them to start at the lowest level, because we know for a fact that when it comes down to being effective, our school districts are going to be extremely important. They determine a lot about what takes place within the schools. If they have an opportunity to be involved in a school district race, a school board race, or something of that nature, get involved. Also, get involved in your precincts. Imagine for just a moment if a young conservative were to become a precinct chair, and they really engage the precinct. That precinct now can begin to control the direction of votes. If the neighboring precinct does the same, now we have precincts that begin to control votes and control the information flow. We can now begin to control counties. If we can begin to have a flow of control in these counties, we can do it with neighboring counties and ultimately spread it throughout the state. Also, get involved in volunteer efforts. People think that we have to wait until we get a paid position. Why not become an intern? That’s one of the things I encourage young conservatives to do is intern with someone. If you see someone advertising an internship, go ahead and take it. That’s where you’re gonna learn a lot from professionals in the field. Start working low and don’t aim for the top all the time, because some figure “if I can’t become an intern with the US congressional office or something, then maybe it’s not worth my time.” But the fact of the matter is, the majority of the people that are gonna cause the greatest impact are going to be volunteers and many will be at the lowest level because our local governments are where we see a huge majority of the effects that government is going to have on us on a day to day basis.
Jackson: What’s your favorite part about being on the campaign trail?
Tim: Engaging people hands down. I learn so much from engaging people. By engaging people, I learn what their true concerns are and what their true needs are. As I’m learning those things, they were able to really encourage me. Even as I travel the great state of Texas now, I need to do the same after being elected. One of my goals is to make sure that I have at least a couple of townhall meetings per year, and I want to have them strategically placed. So, no matter where you’re at in Texas, you’ll be able to come to one of those town halls, express your concerns, be able to engage with me, and be able to see the transparency that my office plans to have for the people.
Jackson: You mentioned you enjoy meeting with people and getting to hear their stories and learning from them. Do you have any particularly fun or insightful stories about meeting with voters?
Tim: Yes. I had one voter just yesterday telling me “Dr. Westley, we know that when it comes down to Texas history, we have a lot of tourism that takes place,” She says she was recently in San Jacinto and the elevator was not working. We had tourists that were there saying, “hey, if we come into this beautiful monument and the elevators are not working, what good is it?” Just hearing things like that was a great concern, and whether I am elected or not, I’ll be working and making sure we get that elevator fixed. In terms of inspirational stories, I received a message from a 78 year old lady about two days ago [editor’s note: Monday the16th.] In that note, I’m just gonna paraphrase, she basically says she’s inspired by my campaign, inspired by what I’m doing. She wants to do all she can to help. She asks if I have any push cards, because she’s 78, but she’s willing and ready to go and blockwalk door to door for me. It touched my heart. It also inspired me, because if someone that is in her late 70s is willing to blockwalk for me, then I’m simply humbled. It’s things like that that are why I’m here. As I go along the way, I’ve heard many, many more of those inspiring stories. I had a lady yesterday, she came up to me after I had a speaking event, and she was in tears. She said, “I’ve heard the story of the Alamo many, many times, and I know it quite well, but I’ve never been brought to tears from hearing it.” I said, “Ma’am, you’re not the only one. I’ve shared the story many times, and people typically find themselves in tears after I share the story.” Even though I don’t go into extreme detail, it still moves them. What happens is that it touches the passion within people. It touches their emotions and their heart because they hear about how great the sacrifices made back in the 1800s were. So, just engaging with people and hearing their heartfelt stories motivates me and reminds me of why I am running for this office.
Jackson: Do you have any last words for our readers?
Tim: Yes, I want to encourage them to join the others. We’ve had some extreme success on this journey: starting off as the last of eight candidates in the primary and being able to get to the runoff. We’re seeing a lot of great progress. As we’re nearing the end of this particular runoff election, we have been able to garner the support and find ourselves in the top three in 84% of the counties. I believe that with the people it’s gotta be unfortunately a low turnout if things hold historically, but I want to encourage them to get out and vote. Get out and participate and encourage others to get out and participate because ultimately, it’s one thing to register to vote, but it’s another thing to actually participate in the process and go out and cast that vote. I want to encourage you. You have to make sure that you are heard and don’t assume that someone else is going to do it.
Jackson: Thank you for taking the time to sit down with us today.
Tim: You’re more than welcome. Thank you for having me for the interview.
Learn more about Dr. Westley’s campaign at https://www.texans4tim.com