• October 18, 2021
 A look back: Lydia Stark “I have kept my promise”

Lydia Malernee Stark | Photo courtesy of the El Paso County historical society

A look back: Lydia Stark “I have kept my promise”

In 1962 Lydia Malernee Stark, a retired speech teacher, ran as a Republican for County Superintendent of Schools against John T. Bean.

Stark ran on one platform: to abolish the office she was running for.

She ran as a Republican in a strongly Democratic county. No Republican had been elected countywide since Alfred Sharpe of Clint was elected state representative in 1904.

Stark claimed the office was out of date and was costing taxpayers money because the County Superintendent had no schools to superintend, since all the schools became independent school districts and were free from county control.

Instead of passing out campaign fliers, she passed around a petition for people to sign so an election could be called to let the people decide whether they wanted to abolish the position.

Stark won, beating Bean by a wide margin, and received support from staunch Democrats and her local Republican party.

Stark did what she could to rush the process and took on an all-male Democratic county government that had no interest in abolishing the office.

Stark was able to get the needed 8,000 signatures to put the issue of abolishing the office of County School Superintendent on the ballot.

This inspired the County Judge to talk to his friend, Texas Governor John Connally, and force through legislation – authored by Maud Isaacks – that then went to the House floor for a vote.

On February 13, 1963, the office was abolished. Stark put a sign on her office door stating, “Office closed, I have kept my promise.”

After leaving office she was named by the El Paso Women’s Club “Mother of the Year” in 1963 and worked as a tutor and teacher until she died in 1970.

Author: Joseph Longo – El Paso County Historical Society

Joseph Longo

Born and raised in El Paso. Jose is a Curator and Archive Committee Chair for the El Paso County Historical Society. He does research and lectures about local history; and wrote several articles for the Password. Also, a former member of the El Paso City Historical Landmark Commission.

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