GALVESTON — The Park Board of Trustees’ newest member has been in the headlines before, although he’s usually the one writing them.
On Thursday, the city council unanimously voted to appoint Sports Illustrated reporter Thayer Evans as the newest member of the Park Board of Trustees.
Evans has lived on the island for six years, according to the application he filed with the council prior to his selection.
During an interview with the city council earlier this month, Evans said that his experience as a journalist — which includes stints at the Houston Chronicle and The Galveston County Daily News — would be an asset to the board.
Evans’ bid to join to Park Board did draw some attention from an unusual source. A handful of people, apparently fans of the Oklahoma State University football team, wrote to the Park Board after Evans was reported to be a nominee for the post, urging that he not be chosen for the position.
The fans were apparently angry at Evans about a series of articles he co-authored for Sports Illustrated in 2013 about the OSU football program, that asserted, among other things, that team’s players were being paid cash, were cheating academically and using illegal drugs between 2001 and 2011.
The report has led to an investigation by the NCAA, which is ongoing.
One fan contacted The Daily News about the Evans as well, and implied that Oklahoma fans would boycott cruises out of Galveston if Evans was appointed. No evidence of such a organized boycott has been found.
“College football fans are certainly passionate about their respective teams. I am never surprised by the things they do,” Evans said in an email to The Daily News following his appointment. “I appreciate their passion. That’s what makes sports so great, even if their passion is sometimes misdirected.”
Council members after the meeting said they did not think the fans’ threats amounted to much.
“The emails did not address anything specific or in particular about what they were basing their opinion on,” Councilman Craig Brown said. “It was basically just concern about the way Mr. Evans had reported on Oklahoma State University in the past.”
Neither the city, nor the Park Board, has anything against the Oklahoma State football program, Brown said.
“I wish he had done Oklahoma, instead of Oklahoma State,” Mayor Jim Yarbrough — who played college football at the University of Texas — said after the meeting.
The Park Board of Trustees is responsible for maintaining the city’s beach parks and supporting the local tourist industry. The seven-member board has control of an about $23 million budget.
Park Board trustees are unpaid.
The council on Thursday also reappointed three other members of the board: Miguel Aleman, Joyce Calver McLean and Clyde Steddum. The council also reappointed Richard DeVries and Benny Holland to the Wharves Board of Trustees.
Call for more members, diversity
While the council was on the topic of committee appointments, District 4 Councilman Norman Pappous made a public appeal to urge more people to join city boards.
“We’re just not getting applicants,” Pappous said. “It’s getting to the point that we’re having people over for quite a long time.”
Pappous said if more people don’t volunteer for board positions, some boards may have to be dissolved totally because of lack of participation.
Officials said that a number of city boards do not have enough qualified applicants to fill available spaces. Among the boards the city is trying to fill are the Airport Advisory Committee, Building Standards Commission, East End Lagoon Ad Hoc Committee, Ethics Commission, Finance and Fiscal Affairs Committee, Galveston Port Facilities Corporation, Landmark Commission, Tree Committee and the Gateway Beautification Ad Hoc Committee.
District 1 Councilman Tarris Woods agreed there was a need for more people to participate on city boards. He suggested that one way to increase participation in the boards would be to allow council members to find, choose and appoint members from their own districts.
“Not only would we have enough people to fill the boards, but you’d have a golden opportunity for diversification from different geographic areas in the city,” Woods said.
Woods said he believed that some potential volunteers are dissuaded from applying for board positions because of a perception that appointments are decided unfairly or with preference to certain people.