A barber, his bucket and my favorite Texas politics story

[Photo via Lubbock Avalanche-Journal]

WHEN MAURICE STANLEY decided to run for Lubbock City Council in 2014, he retrieved a clear plastic bucket from the back room of his barbershop.

He then taped a handwritten sign on the side of the repurposed bulk bubblegum container: “MAURICE’S COMMON SENSE FUND.”

What Stanley couldn’t foresee was the political controversy that would soon come from the bucket – or the honoring of American heroes that would ultimately come from it.

Donning a barber jacket at his January announcement, the 67-year-old said the bucket would be his only means of soliciting campaign funds. Stanley, widely regarded in the community, would accept unsolicited checks from friends and supporters. But, otherwise, folks could walk to the counter and put whatever dollars and cents they could spare into the bucket.

Over the next four months of preaching infrastructure maintenance and decrying borrow-and-spend conservatism, hundreds of folks contributed a few dollars or a few cents at a time.

The bucket. Photo courtesy of Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

In April, Stanley beamed when his campaign reported the common sense fund had amassed $2,740.

THE TEXAS ETHICS COMMISSION, however, wasn’t as enamored by the bucket as Stanley or his supporters. The entity overseeing the state’s political fundraising doesn’t look favorably upon a lump-sum cash contributions of $2,740 without any contributor information whatsoever (which is how the filing reported the bucket’s donations).

Stanley was indignant when opponents called foul and the media rushed to cover the Hub City’s Bucketgate. “People come in, they get their change and they drop it in there. There has never been anything bigger than a $20 bill in there,” he said. “I don’t see that I am violating anything.”

But over the next couple of days, Stanley would see that not only was he in the wrong, he could face state legal action. A call to the TEC for advice in rectifying the mistake resulted in another call to a charity of the candidate’s choosing to arrange a $2,740 donation.

THE TEXAS-SOUTH PLAINS Honor Flight was more than obliged to help resolve the bucket controversy. A news conference at the barbershop was arranged, and a check was cut.

But it was there in a hurried Honor Flight barbershop presser that something else happened. The old barber suddenly grinned bigger than he had before in the campaign, more light came from the eyes behind the thick-trimmed rectangle frames than reflected off of them.

Honor Flight was a perfect match for a man who’s spent decades more concerned about listening to the problems and joys rolling around in the head of hair he’s cutting than the tip he’s earning, who’s primary concern in perpetual barbershop political talk is a diminishing notion of community membership and social contract in an age of individualism.

As it turned out, Stanley didn’t win, he didn’t even come close to making the runoff. But he loved the outcome of the race.

“I’m much more satisfied putting my time and effort toward Honor Flight than I could be with anything else,” he said this week after returning home as a volunteer, mostly as a Wheelchair Wrangler, on the most recent trip.

It’s evident that his time and effort are satisfying, but, for those closely observing him in the shop, so are his lousy attempts to sneak his tips into the bucket – a bucket that now reads “HONOR FLIGHT”.

SINCE THE INITIAL contribution in April 2014, the barbershop’s customers have raised nearly $17,500 to date.

They’ve helped send 11 elderly veterans to Washington. Aged American heroes who otherwise might not have had the opportunity to see sites honoring service, monuments standing because of their courage, memorials to friends who never came home.

 

Jay Leeson can be heard on the Other Side of Texas weekdays from 5-6pm on AM 580 Lubbock. Email him at jay@othersideoftexas.com or on Twitter @jayleeson.

This column first appeared in the Lubbock AvalancheJournal.

 

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