EDITOR’S NOTE: With the announcement of State Rep. Jim Pitt’s retirement, a new legislator will be representing Ellis County next year in Austin. This is the second in a series profiling the candidates seeking the District 10 seat and how they plan to fill the shoes of an iconic Texas lawmaker.
Confident, outgoing and personable, J.B. “Jake” Ellzey approaches politics with the precision of a combat fighter pilot.
It is a skill set that has served the native Texan well during the past 20 years during his career in the Navy, which included multiple tours flying combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A graduate of the Naval Academy, Ellzey has dedicated his life to serving his country. Recently retired from the Navy, the Midlothian resident views running for public office as a natural progression in a life dedicated to serving others.
“My wife and I have two small children, ages 2 and 4. We all see what’s going on in Washington and in Austin. I have never been the type of individual who sits by and complains about the problems. I’m the type of person who believes in doing something about it. I’m a native Texan and I love my state. When Jim Pitts announced his retirement, I saw this as an opportunity to step forward and make a difference in different arena.”
A self-described conservative, Ellzey believes in limited government, lower taxes and fewer regulations that hamper business growth and job development.
“There are things that government needs to do, such as providing infrastructure, water and protecting property rights,” he said, listing a number of items where government, especially state government, plays an instrumental role in keeping Texas thriving.
“The one thing I want to make clear, however, is that when we talk about the role of government, there needs to be efficiency and transparency in everything the government does,” he said.
Ellzey is not naïve.
He is approaching his campaign and mission if elected with the same preparation he used during his career as a Navy combat pilot. He is well versed on the issues — as well as the challenges and pitfalls.
He is determined.
“If elected my first mission will be to align myself with other like-minded fiscal conservatives in the Legislature and work together to keep Texas moving forward,” he said. “We have an obligation to the residents of Texas, to our children and our children’s children.
“We do not need legislation that will create additional taxes. Texas is one of the fastest growing states in the nation. That growth should fund any additional revenue needed to pay for the things government needs to do — such as transportation infrastructure. We also need to ensure that the funding mechanisms for transportation — like the gas tax we pay every time we buy gas, is going to what it is supposed to be used for and not funneled into the general fund,” Ellzey said.
The retired Navy Commander spoke passionately on the need for full disclosure and transparency in government, as well as the need for efficiency.
“Are we getting the best bang for the buck with our tax dollars? Probably not,” he said, citing his work as a squadron commander and air boss where he constantly worked to find more efficient ways to maintain mission readiness while reducing expenses.
“I want to bring that experience to the Legislature. I want to be part of the process to find more efficient ways of doing the things government needs to do and be steadfast in opposing legislation that’s going to increase taxes and hamper business development. I will not waiver on that,” he said, adding that many of the major issues Texas currently faces — such as transportation infrastructure and water needs — are generational issues that require planning and commitment.
“We didn’t wake up one morning and realize that we need more roads and more water,” he said. “What we need is strategic planning that anticipates future needs and sets aside dedicated funds to tackle those needs over a generation. These issues shouldn’t be crisis issues because they are issues that can and have been anticipated for at least the past generation if not longer.”
Through strategic planning, Ellzey wants to steer the Legislature into a direction of planning and funding for future needs over time, eliminating — or at least greatly reducing — the need for emergency bond funding and other mechanisms that raise taxes and create additional government bureaucracy.
Having spent much of his adult life going into harm’s way to protect America, Ellzey is a champion for property rights and protecting individual liberties.
“I can promise you that I didn’t spend the last 20 years of my life fighting for my country in order to go to Austin and pass legislation that will infringe on our inalienable rights and freedoms. I cherish my rights and I cherish the freedoms that we have living in Texas. That’s why I couldn’t wait to get back to Texas when I retired from the Navy. I can promise that one of my top jobs as a legislator will be protecting individual property rights for all Texas and making sure that government does not infringe on those rights,” he said.
Transitioning into his position on school funding, Ellzey pointed out that while he does not have an equitable school finance solution (that has also evaded the Texas Legislature for the past five sessions), he said he believes that local control has to play a key role in that solution.
“Local school boards know what is best for the students in their district,” Ellzey said. “Yet they are constantly being burdened with unfunded mandates from Washington and Austin that prevent teachers from doing what teachers do best — teach. While I don’t have the answer, I will tell you that I will always vote for legislation that puts our local school districts and parents in control.”
When it comes to standardized testing, Ellzey said the system has gotten out of hand.
“We need accountability,” he said. “But the unintended consequence is we now have a system that requires our teachers to teach to the test. That has to change and we change that by putting our parents and local school boards back in control.”
As a squadron commander responsible for the lives of others during combat mission, Ellzey believes the role of State Representative carries the same weight and responsibilities.
“Lives may not be lost if I make a bad decision, but the impact of those decisions will either help or hamper millions of my fellow Texans. I look at my children and I want their future in Texas to be as bright as it possibly can be. That can’t happen if we continue to saddle them with debt and hurt the economic climate of our state by making it prohibitive for companies to run businesses and create jobs. As I said before, I could sit around and complain, but I chose instead to do something about it.”
Ellzey and his wife Shelby have two children, McCall and Jack and live on a 10-acre homestead in Midlothian.