The Gregg County Republican Party has selected a community organizer to lead it beyond the dominance it already enjoys in local politics.
“I’m kind of called Mr. Volunteer,” Tracy Vincent said Wednesday, the morning after the county GOP’s executive committee named him to succeed Tim Vaughn, who resigned early in his second term to take a job in Dallas.
Vincent, a 25-year Longview resident and Jacksonville native, has ample volunteer background.
The Network Communications sales engineer has been involved in Longview Chamber of Commerce leadership and sits on the governing boards of Crisman School and New Heights Church. He was a member of the board that produced the former Party in the Pines Bike Rally and was on the steering committee for last fall’s Rockers, Riders & Ribs rally.
He’ll step down as a board member of We The People-Longview, a local tea party group, as he enters the new office.
He’s also been a Republican, Vincent said, “all my life, since I first voted.”
That was in 1977, the year he graduated from Jacksonville High School and the election in which Democrat Jimmy Carter defeated Republican incumbent Gerald Ford.
Carter can’t thank Vincent for the win.
“My Republican roots just came through my growing up — family members, business members,” he said. “I had five brothers.”
He and his wife of 13 years, Donna, a News-Journal advertising account executive, are parents of five and grandparents of 12.
Vincent, who turns 59 today, said his sights are set on leading Gregg County Republicans beyond Vaughn’s unexpired term, which ends in spring 2018.
“I’ve got full intention (to run),” he said. “Come spring 2018, hopefully everything will be running on all cylinders. If everything’s great, maybe we’ll just add more cylinders.”
A county’s party chairman fields local candidate filings and often recruits office hopefuls, is the local connection to state and national party activities and serves as all-around cheerleader.
Vincent outlined a three-pronged approach to his new role:
Attracting young people to the party.
Drawing volunteers to be election judges, neighborhood walkers or other roles.
Increasing voter turnout.
“What I want to do is evaluate things — where we are today, where we need to make change and what we need to do to achieve those successes,” he said.
Vaughn applauded the executive committee’s decision. He said he’s known Vincent since both men were in sales for AT&T 20 years ago. Vincent was the sole candidate after Vaughn recommended him.
“I reached out to Tracy several months ago,” Vaughn said. “I thought he had the energy, the interest and the networking capability to keep the movement moving out here. And that means expanding and growing, not just being the dominant party being stagnant, but being very proactive. And his personality type and leadership skills will help him in that area.”
He said the county GOP needs a leader who won’t sit on the party’s local dominance. Vincent said he is aware of that pitfall.
“Sometimes, that (success) can be your worst enemy,” he said. “You’ve got to keep people from being status quo. And you have to change things to make it fun and make it where people can vote their principles.”
Vincent said he’ll continue the fundraising push initiated by past county Chairman Keith Rothra. He volunteered in Rothra’s golf tournament fundraisers and plans a chili cook-off in May.
He’ll also keep Marty Rhymes as manager of the downtown Longview Republican headquarters.
“She has conviction in what she does,” Vincent said. “Marty is an even better friend than she is in the office.”
An election judge since moving here, he enlisted Pine Tree and Spring High high school students to help at the polls in this past election cycle.
“That’s the kind of involvement I’m talking about, getting kids in there to see how it happens,” he said. “We’re going to look at all the demographics, see what we can do with all the demographics. … We’ve been successful, and we’re going to make it more successful. And the way we’re going to do that is getting more volunteers.”