Less than a week after Hitchcock commissioners voted to fire police Chief John Hamm, community members gathered Tuesday to talk about the future of the city.

But some residents in attendance still have questions about the recent past.

“You look at how Santa Fe runs things versus how this community is run, and there’s a lot of shady stuff and information that needs to come to light,” said Lisa Nebout, who moved to Hitchcock with her family in 2012 after growing up in Santa Fe.

Residents have had trouble getting any sort of information from city officials since commissioners voted 3-2 and without explanation Thursday to fire Hamm after weeks of conflict at city hall between the popular homegrown law officer and Mayor Dorothy Childress.

Leading up to that tense meeting, Childress did not respond to multiple requests for comment and has declined to comment about the matter since Hamm’s firing.

“We’ll talk another day,” Childress said Tuesday on her way into a presentation by a group from Texas A&M University in College Station.

Without public comment from city hall, residents of the cash-strapped community have traded rumors, including that Childress has forced veteran Capt. John Jenkins to retire or resign or that she has approved hiring additional officers since Hamm’s ouster, among others.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” Commissioner Monica Cantrell said.

Childress declined to comment Tuesday about the matter and interim Chief Michael Allen referred questions to Childress.

“I think the mayor may be slightly overwhelmed by the challenge of it all, and might manage things differently than what some might like,” said Sam Collins III, a Hitchcock resident who has been generally supportive of Childress. “She might give some information on a need-to-know basis, which may be good or bad.”

Facing a $900,000 deficit on a budget of a little more than $3 million going into the new year, city officials have been searching for savings.

Earlier this year, the city commission voted to eliminate four police positions. The layoffs left the police department with 19 staff members, including 13 police officers and six support staff members.

Residents Tuesday met as part of a public presentation by Texas Target Communities, a Texas A&M University service program through the college of architecture that works with local governments to create a master plan of sorts, said Jaimie Masterson, the associate director of the program.

Texas A&M students over the course of a year will work with city officials and community members to devise a picture of Hitchcock in 20 years or more, Masterson said.

“This is more for the future,” Collins said. “The immediate issues aren’t going to be fixed tonight, but they can be heard. I don’t want anyone to feel like they are not being heard.”

The program has helped other small communities earn grant funding through developing visions for the future, Masterson said.

As residents Tuesday discussed the city’s needs, several mentioned the need for communication.

“The big thing for saving the community is going to be communication,” said the Rev. Darrell Glenn of the Galilee Missionary Baptist Church in Hitchcock. “There are a lot of different conversations going on. We need to figure out an opportunity for the community to come together.”

Tuesday’s discussion doesn’t answer all of the questions residents might have, but it’s important to bring residents together in some way and this is a good start, said Patty McNeal, another Hitchcock resident.

“This place should be filled,” she said. “If you live in Hitchcock, you should be concerned about what’s happening. In a way, this is bringing us together.”

Matt deGrood: 409-683-5230; matt.degrood@galvnews.com

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(10) comments

Carlos Ponce

Still no reason given as to why Police Chief John Hamm was dismissed.
I refer you to Heber Taylor's 2014 Editorial, "The Hitchcock police chief is gone, an explanation is missing"
https://www.galvnews.com/opinion/editorials/article_8c5d7e34-2814-11e4-a3d6-001a4bcf6878.html
"Oh, come on. You can’t fire a police chief and expect people to be satisfied with no explanation whatsoever. Obviously, with a split vote, there’s debate about whether the firing was justified. The refusal to comment because of legal reasons is just a complete abdication of responsibility — elected officials have a responsibility to keep voters and taxpayers informed."
What Heber Taylor wrote in 2014 can be applied here in 2018.
It still looks like wrongful dismissal to me. John Hamm should be reinstated.

Robert Waggoner

My response to you isn't about the content of the article. I don't have a dog in the fight and will keep my opinions to myself. You've twice stated that the dismissal was wrongful. That's not like you to make this type of statement with no facts. You have always presented your arguments with facts. Why not now?

Carlos Ponce

I've known John Hamm since he was a student in my Algebra classroom. I work with him as a Director in the Hitchcock ISD Educational Foundation. I had a nice long talk with him on July 21, 2018 at the Hitchcock Hooks Fishing Tournament. I know City Commissioners Monica Cantrell and Mark Cook who voted against his dismissal. From what I do know, the firing of Chief of Police John Hamm was WRONG, WRONG ! WRONG! I know of Dorothy Childress' history with the Hitchcock Police Department and have repeated Galveston Daily News articles from that era. A lot more in "The Bulletin" - a local paper available in that era. But there are facts in this case I will not put into my posts. If you don't trust me - fine. You don't owe me a thing.

Robert Waggoner

Carlos, I never owed you anything or you owing me either. If you have facts that you don't want to divulge, that's fine, but you should have stated that in your comments. Otherwise, your comments seemed a little less creditable without stating facts as you always do. Being upset with my comments doesn't make your case for Mr. Hamm more credible. It only says you are upset with the whole issue of his firing. Like I said, I don't have a dog in the fight.

Carlos Ponce

I'm not upset with your post. I shared the facts I wanted to share but held back on other information. No offense taken. There are things I know.......[beam]

Paul Hyatt

Mr. Ponce you will never get the truth about what is going on at City Hall as long as Childress has anything to do with anything. She will not even tell commissioners how much money is in the accounts. As for her telling the GCDN anything of substance, well that is not going to happen. There is even more going on at the PD and City Hall that has not come to light but soon will come to light. After the recall is started and people are removed then our City needs to start removing the behind the scenes power brokers who have caused this mess to happen. Until that happens Hitchcock will not grow no matter what Sam Collins things or does!

Carlos Ponce

In the meantime Hitchcock has lost an excellent Police Chief.

Jim Forsythe

If you had been at the meeting, you would know it was not about the Mayor or the Police chief. It was a very good meeting.
If you are interested it what the future holds for Hitchcock, please go to the next one.

Samuel Collins III

Thank you.

Paul Hyatt

ROFLOL.... Really it was a good meeting? For who? The ones who wanted Hamm out and Allen in? There was a fix on that meeting right before the meeting happened... Childress hated Hamm and what he stood for and there were others who wanted Allen as Chief....

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