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Advocate for open government closes his latest chapter - Odessa American: Ken Brodnax

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Advocate for open government closes his latest chapter

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Posted: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 12:00 am

Royce Bodiford’s departure from the Odessa City Council as the first "victim" of term limits instituted in 2002, a year after he took office, has been well-documented.

Indeed, the word "victim" has to have the quote marks because he’ll now be relieved of the heavy decisions and deliberations that go with a job with a downright scrawny paycheck.

But rest assured Bodiford never made a council decision without considerable thought. And that’s one trait you really appreciate in an elected official because snap decisions tend to create problems.

He’s also a good listener, another quality that you like to have in a representative of the people.

Pardon me for injecting myself into this discussion, but I can personally vouch for Royce’s deliberative nature. We worked together for several years on "West Texas Journal" when he was general manager of KOCV-TV, then the Basin’s PBS station.

The show gave us a lot of opportunities to go beyond the headlines and discuss the deeper side of issues. I found it admirable that Royce, who spent much of his life in radio and television, would venture into deeper waters.

Too many of those who followed him into broadcasting don’t have much beyond their veneer and varnish and the "happy talk" that now is a staple in "entertainment" news coverage.

Even after we quit doing the show, we’ve spent a lot of time just kicking around issues — local, state and national — between the two of us. But rest assured, Bodiford has never had any qualms about expressing his views on the public stage as well.

Anyway, he’s been an exceptional councilman, helped along by the support of his wife, Helen. Her engaging nature, and the fact that she’s an incorrigible shutterbug, make them quite a team. A whole lot of Odessans have photos that Helen snapped at various events and made special efforts to distribute.

But Royce also leaves a legacy that probably won’t become a tradition in officialdom.

He’s a fierce defender of open government.

In lots of instances, Bodiford urged his fellow officeholders, as well as appointed officials, to lay the cards on the table and let the chips fall where they may.

All too often, politicians and bureaucrats have a tendency to "duck and cover" when things go wrong. And, as has been said many times, the cover-up usually is what proves most embarrassing. Two words — Richard Nixon.

Royce’s advice, when a sticky situation developed, always wanted to get the facts before the public as soon as possible. That way, the story was out and done with. Efforts to withhold details just meant you were prolonging the agony and giving news hounds opportunities to pound you over the head repeatedly for hiding facts until the truth finally emerged.

If you could boil Royce’s philosophy in that regard down to a few words, it would make a great sign to post prominently in council chambers and on the walls of policymakers.

Alas, without an advocate, the good advice most often ignored probably will become extinct.

Odessa, TX

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