Thursday, April 25, 2024

Tonna Newman plaque to be displayed at Justice Center

Posted

The Hood County Commissioners Court unanimously approved the placement of a memorial plaque honoring Tonna Hitt Newman at the Ralph H. Walton Jr. Justice Center, during a regularly scheduled meeting March 12.

Newman served as Hood County District Clerk for more than 30 years. She passed away at the age of 64 Sunday, Feb. 18.

Known as the longest-serving elected woman in Hood County government, she was first elected in 1990 and took office Jan. 1, 1991.

According to an article published in the Hood County News Sept. 2, 2020, Newman won the 1990 race for district clerk with 58% of the vote. In doing so, she became the first Republican ever elected to a county-wide office in Hood County with a Democratic opponent.

The election was noteworthy in another sense as well: According to Newman — Hitt at the time — she was elected during a time when the majority of Hood County was blue. She said it was during this election that Hood County swung from blue to red, where it remains today.

“As all of y'all know, Tonna Newman passed away recently,” Hood County Judge Ron Massingill said during the meeting. “Her family came to me with the idea of just putting a bronze plaque out here in the hallway near the district clerk's office to kind of memorialize her service of over 30 years to Hood County. I told them that I would be proud to sponsor that, and for them to give the Commissioners Court some options as to what they would like to say on that plaque."

Massingill then read three inscription options for Newman’s plaque for the court to vote on:

Option one: “Tonna Lynn Newman, the longest-serving female political candidate in Hood County, served as district clerk for over 30 years from 1991 through 2024. Her historical career and commitment to the Republican Party blazed a trail for future female and Republican candidates alike.”

Option two: “Tonna Lynn Newman served as district clerk of Hood County for over 30 years from 1991 to 2024. Her historic election in 1991 made Tonna Hood County's first Republican to win over a Democratic opponent and launched a career in which she became the longest-serving elected female in the county. Tonna's commitment to her colleagues and constituents blazed a trail for future female and Republican candidates alike.”

Option three: “In honor and recognition of the first and longest-serving female in Hood County, Tonna Lynn Newman, and her outstanding service to Hood County as district clerk for over 30 years.”

Massingill then asked the court to vote for the inscription option they felt would best describe Newman’s service to the county.

"My personal opinion is the first option,” Precinct 3 Commissioner Jack Wilson said. “It pretty much says the whole volume of what she did as for the Republican to win in the county at that time, which was blue at that time, and also, the fact that (she served) 30 years-plus in that one position, so that would be my vote for the option one.”

Precinct 2 Commissioner Nannette Samuelson disagreed and cast her vote for option 3, as it was “to the point” and “said it all in just a few words.”

"I really liked option three because it starts ‘with honor and recognition,’ and that's what I think that the plaque is, is to honor and recognize," she said. "When I read all three of them, that one really hit me.”

Precinct 4 Commissioner Dave Eagle also agreed with Samuelson for option three, stating that it was wrong to put a party affiliation on a “taxpayer-funded, paid-for edifice.”

"Given that, I concur,” Wilson said, agreeing with Eagle’s statement.

Massingill then stated the motion made by Samuelson to use option three for Newman’s plaque: “In honor and recognition of the first and longest-serving female in Hood County, Tonna Lynn Newman, and her outstanding service to Hood County as district clerk for over 30 years.”

The motion carried unanimously.