Outgoing mayor of small town near Cedar Creek Lake schedules vote to change city’s government to ‘weak mayor’ model before leaving office
SEVEN POINTS — Mayor-elect John "Joe" Dobbs barely had time to savor his victory in the city’s election May 8 as the first gay mayor before he realized he was facing yet another challenge.
He learned this week that outgoing Mayor Gerald Taylor placed an item on the agenda for the City Council meeting May 14 that will transfer the administrative powers of the mayor’s office to an "administrative board," which would be the council at large. In effect, the plan is to switch Seven Points from a strong mayor form of government to that of a weak one.
"They’re definitely playing games with me," said Dobbs in an interview in the City Council chamber this week. "I’m going to find out if there is anything I can do about it."
The first item on the May 14 agenda is to canvass the results of the May 8 election, which shows Dobbs winning with 109 votes, compared to his opponents, Bubba Powell with 75 votes and Wanda Nichols with 31 votes.
The second agenda item is the proposal to establish the new form of government, and the third is to swear in the new mayor and council members.
Dobbs said supporters of the proposal to change the form of government claim they want to do it because he is inexperienced as a politician. But in reality, he said, it is a continuation of a political vendetta against him because he is gay and has stepped on some toes in his position as volunteer fire chief.
During the campaign, his opponents and their supporters informed voters that he was gay and urged them not to support him for that reason, said Dobbs, who works as a juvenile probation officer in Rockwall County.
"They tried to make an issue out of it, and it backfired on them," said Dobbs, who noted that his opponent Powell is a business partner of outgoing Mayor Taylor. "Most of the citizens I talked to said they didn’t care what my sexual preference was or what I did in the bedroom. They said they just wanted the city straightened out."
Dobbs said Seven Points citizens are desperate to see someone take control of city business and run it efficiently because of the controversy that has plagued City Hall for months. Last fall, the FBI and the Henderson County District Attorney launched investigations and issued warrants for all of the city’s computer records.
Two indictments followed the issuance of the warrants. City Judge Monica Corker, who resigned, and outgoing Mayor Taylor, who is also a member of the volunteer fire department, are now free on bond facing felony corruption charges.
Dobbs said that in his capacity as fire chief he demoted Taylor from the position of assistant chief to a regular firefighter because of ethical concerns about him. In a subsequent council meeting, Taylor responded by calling him a "fucking queer bitch," he said.
The new mayor said he is contemplating whether to pursue any action against Taylor under federal hate crime laws for the alleged public harassment.
The joint investigation of Seven Points by the FBI and the District Attorney continues, and the District Attorney sent two investigators to City Hall on election day because of complaints about irregularities involving Dobbs’ opponent Nichols. Nichols allegedly was visiting City Secretary Debbie Mosley’s office and told a couple who entered the office she was running for mayor.
Michael Tayem, Dobbs’ partner of four years, said he witnessed the electioneering by Nichols while he was serving as a poll watcher for Dobbs.
"I’m his bull dog," said Tayem, who helped Dobbs with his campaign. The couple own a home together on 30 acres in Seven Points.
Dobbs said he believes that he has proven as volunteer fire chief that he has the organization abilities to run Seven Points efficiently, and that he is confident the majority of the citizens support him. Most of the firefighters support him wholeheartedly, he said.
"It was a tough fight, but the public spoke," Dobbs said. "And they showed sexual orientation doesn’t have a damn bit to do with it."
Dobbs said he ran a clean campaign and refused to engage in any negative conversations about his opponents.
Lahoma Sue Powell, a lifelong resident of Seven Points, said she supported Dobbs in his campaign and will continue to do so.
"It’s going to come out all the better," Powell said. "If he hadn’t made mayor I would probably have moved out of Seven Points, and I’ve been here 69 years. This is a man for mayor. He just happens to be gay."
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 14, 2010.