EDITOR’S NOTE: A version of this story was garbled in Sunday’s paper. The OA regrets the mistake.
New Ector County Commissioner Donald Lawrence “Don” Stringer was raised a blue collar Odessan and he expects to take that approach to his work in Precinct 3, which includes most of the city.
A native of Hobbs, N.M., who has been here since he was 3 years old, Stringer wants to be as frugal as the other commissioners and back the county’s cleanup of illegally dumped trash, among other goals.
Referring to his late father Burton Roe Stringer Jr., who owned an oilfield service company, he said, “I’m an Odessa boy to the bone.
“I was raised blue collar and hard-working and that’s what Precinct 3 is. Dad always thought being a commissioner would be a good gig, helping the county and so forth. When I learned that Dale Childers was retiring, I said it was time to get off the bench and get some skin in the game. Quit talking about it and do it.
“I hope to control the budget and make sure there is no frivolous spending, which is all the commissioners’ main goal. When I was campaigning, I truly thought we’d get a new courthouse; but now I don’t see that happening in the near future due to COVID, the downturn in the oilfield and the negatives we have going against us. I don’t think the funds will be available any time soon.”
Stringer graduated in 1985 from Odessa High School, where he played centerfield on the Bronchos’ baseball team, attended Odessa College, was a roustabout, worked on pulling units, drove trucks and worked for his father before going to Tulsa, Okla., as a debt collector and Auburn, Calif., to work in a sawmill.
Following another stint with his dad, he sold bearings, coupling belts, pullies, power transmission components and other equipment for Motion Industries for seven years.
“I was out driving a delivery truck south of the interstate when I stopped at a stop sign and saw a faded old real estate sign of Nell Brown Associates and thought, I’m personable, I can do that,” he said. “I called Nell as soon as I got back to the office and she said to enroll at the Southwest College of Real Estate in Midland. I went there the following Monday and got my license on Sept. 1, 1997.”
He worked three years for realty broker Virgil Trower, spent 10 years selling new homes for Gary Whitehead and returned to Trower & Associates, where he will stay on the staff. Stringer and his wife Shawn have two daughters and five grandchildren. His late mother’s name was Lena Marie. He has a brother and two sisters. He is 53.
Noting in late January that he was on his way to a week at a new commissioners’ conference run by the Texas Association of Counties at Texas A&M, Stringer said, “I have a lot to learn, but I’ll be accountable for my decisions.
“I certainly hope to pick up good pointers in College Station. I will serve honestly and humbly.”
Each Ector County commissioner makes $60,218 per year.
Stringer said former Foreman Electric owner Vern Foreman, a lifelong friend who was a city councilman in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, gave good advice when he learned of Stringer’s Republican primary candidacy vs. carpet and flooring company owner Jeff Russell.
“Vern told me I’ve got to be thick-skinned and listen to my constituents and when somebody comes to court wanting money to ask why, why, why?” he said.
Having attended West University Church of Christ since he was 5 and serving for many years as the church’s principal songleader, Stringer said, “My philosophy is faith-based.
“I had the privilege of going to Odessa Christian School as a small boy and I believe a kid gets his or her morals developed by the time they are 7 or 8 years old.”
Explaining that he strayed from his religion in his teens and early 20s, Stringer said, “Satan has a job to do and he does it well, but if kids have those ethics and morals instilled at an early age, they’ll come back to those values as adults.”
Asked his view of state and national issues, he said, “We need conservatives in office and we need to get rid of a bunch of the regulations on oil. Republicans are more energy-friendly and the Democrats just aren’t on it.
“Being a Realtor, the only thing I have to offer is service. If I give the best service, I get referred and I have more happy customers. Being a county commissioner is a lot like that. I give it my all and when people tell me they appreciate it, it’s as good as a hundred dollar bill. A pat on the back goes a long way.”
Trower said Stringer “is a really good salesman who tries to treat everyone fairly and honestly.
“I hope we helped Don get elected and I think he will make an excellent commissioner,” Trower said. “He fooled a lot of people because he got a good percentage of the votes (958 votes or 55.96 percent)
“He can handle both jobs because you can set your time in real estate.”
Trower said Stringer “will look at everything and analyze.
“Don won’t go off and do a fast decision,” he said. “He meets people well and he will take the books home and study them.”
Trower said Stringer won the primary with no Democrat in the race “because he had been in this area for long time and people knew what kind of a person he was.
“He didn’t have an agenda,” he said.
West University Church of Christ Treasurer Benny Cowan said his wife Colene succeeded as a Realtor in Midland for 20 years “because like Don, she never thought about the commission, she just tried to match people up with the house they wanted.
“Don is a guy you could sit down and talk with for two weeks and he’d sit and make comments about it,” Cowan said. “He is the kind of friend you look for all your life and sometimes never find.
“When you’re a family man like him, all you think about is how to please your family and provide for their needs and he definitely does that.”
Cowan said Stringer is a talented songleader who puts a lot of effort into that, too. “You can tell he rehearses, but he has been doing it for so long that he could probably lead every song in the book,” he said.