The Denton County GOP has a new face after a special election was called last month to elect a new chair for the party.
John Dillard, former mayor of The Colony, was elected as the new chairman on Oct. 11, effective immediately.
Dillard succeeds Lisa Hendrickson, who originally announced in June she would not be seeking a re-election in 2018. In early October she resigned due to health issues, including a ruptured appendix.
Denton real estate agent Jayne Howell was Dillard's opponent in the special election. Dillard won the final vote 48-44.
"I won, and it was a great feeling, but also I had to get to work," Dillard said. "I got sworn in that night, Wednesday, and started on Monday. I have been busy as all get-out ever since."
A chairman is elected every two years in the Republican primary election. However, when a chairman resigns in the middle of a term, there is a process in place to fill the vacancy, said Jennifer Harris, publicity chairwoman for the county Republican Party.
Harris said the process involves a meeting of the party's executive committee, which includes precinct chairs from across the county. During the meeting, they elect an interim chairman to serve until the next election.
Dillard was elected as interim chairman of the Denton County GOP at the Oct. 11 meeting.
Deon Starnes, executive director of the county Republican Party, said that as soon as Hendrickson resigned, the party took immediate action for an election.
"The secretary of the party called for the special meeting, which corresponds with the bylaw and state laws," Starnes said.
Dillard said the job is different every day, but not glamorous. The chairman runs meetings, works as the chief executive of the committee, and comes up with programs and policies to help the party win elections.
Dillard said he's trying to keep focused and manage Denton County Republicans' activities.
He said he's been involved in local politics for the past 20 years, attending state conventions as a voting delegate. In 2016, he was the elector for the Electoral College for Congressional District 26, which he said was an interesting feat.
"Very few people get to do it — no one understands [the] Electoral College," Dillard said. "I have also been assistant precinct chair."
He said Hendrickson has a lot of innovative ideas and wants to keep things stable within the party.
His two focuses include keeping Republicans in office up through the primary elections and, in many cases, to candidacy. He also wants to start working on boosting voter turnout for the general election in November 2018.
However, his main goal is to is to keep Denton County and Texas red.
"The change I am going to do is more grassroots stuff," Dillard said. "I'm not a guy who believes in big fundraisers, except for the Lincoln Reagan [Dinner] and the volunteer banquet."
Getting residents to go out and vote is just one of Dillard's main focuses; another is recruiting more volunteers. To do this, he said he'll work to communicate with people of all types.
"I retired last December as district manager, basically a sales guy," Dillard said. "So you look at your products and see common goals, I sell you something and you are happy with it. You want to see that your side offers certain things they agree with, and they vote for it."
One way to boost voter turnout is organizing volunteers to knock on doors and educate residents about who's on the ballot, he said.
"It's about what the people want," Dillard said. "You have to get people to show interest in what is going on. Your vote is important. If you don't vote, then someone you don't like may win the election. Right now there is an excellent group of people running for office. People need to educate themselves."
The Denton County Republican Party office has three paid staff members and hundreds of part-time volunteers. The volunteers are the driving force of the party, and Dillard said any organization needs more volunteers.
"I am very proud of my state, my country. I wanted to make things right," Dillard said. "If you want things to be right for your kids and grandkids, you need to get involved and do things. It is not about me. I don't get paid. I'll do the job, get thanked and go home."