State Rep. Craig Eiland is a wonderful choice for the Leonora Kempner Thompson Community Achievement Award.
It will be presented Saturday during a benefit at The Grand 1894 Opera House.
Proceeds will benefit The Opera House.
Eiland has served Galveston County long and well in the Texas House. He chose not to seek re-election.
Although he is a Democrat, his approach was pragmatic, rather than ideological.
He worked with people of both parties to find practical solutions to real problems facing his constituents.
His finest moment was in those awful months after Hurricane Ike, when many people in the Legislature were questioning the wisdom of rebuilding the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.
Why sink another $1 billion or so into rebuilding a campus on a barrier island?
Some people think Eiland single-handedly saved the institution.
That’s a script for a comic book super hero.
What he actually did was more remarkable.
He built a coalition of influential people in both parties who made a strong case that the benefits simply outweighed the costs.
That coalition featured powerful Republicans, including Steve Ogden, then chair of the Senate Finance Committee.
If you know the history of the Community Enrichment Award, you can see it’s a fitting honor.
There’s a recurring theme that involves people who are too stubborn to realize that a “lost cause” is actually lost.
The award was begun by the board of the Harris and Eliza Kempner Fund.
The trustees wanted to honor Leonora Kempner “Nonie” Thompson on her retirement as chairman of the board.
Thompson was involved in many public-spirited causes.
In 1974, she got involved with the movement to restore The Grand 1894 Opera House.
Forty years ago, it was a derelict building.
But what she saw was a working theater, meeting the needs of a community that could appreciate the performing arts.
Her fight on behalf of that almost lost cause was memorable.
People still recall her selling T-shirts and twisting arms to raise the money to restore The Grand.
The award honors the spirit of people who use their talents and influence to preserve and sustain important public institutions.
At a glance
What: The 23rd annual Lenora Thompson Community Enrichment Award
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Grand 1894 Opera House, 2020 Postoffice St. Cocktail reception in Edna’s Room; dinner on stage.
Dress: Black tie
Details: Open to the public; valet parking
Tickets: 409-763-7173 or 800-821-1894