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 first in a series profiling the candidates seeking the District 10 seat and how they plan to fill the shoes of an iconic Texas lawmaker.
He comes across as a soft-spoken and often quiet. Yet he doesn’t need to be in the spotlight to command attention.
When John Wray speaks, people listen.
His ability to build coalitions, seek solutions and achieve consensus in solving difficult problems is admired and respected by those who have seen him in action on the numerous board and nonprofit organizations he serves, as well as his service on the Waxahachie City Council, where he currently serves as mayor.
“Being a good listener helps, and I’m a good listener,” Wray said, describing his approach to solving difficult problems. “Whether it’s practicing law, public service or in life, the key to solving complex problems — especially those where people have opposing viewpoints — is having the ability to listen to all points of view and then identify the common ground that everyone agrees on.”
Building coalitions to find solutions and reach the best outcome for everyone isn’t easy, Wray said, but it is a challenge that he enjoys.
An attorney by trade, the Waxahachie native is passionate about public service and giving back to the community.
“It’s the way I was raised,” he said, praising his parents for instilling a strong work ethic and a need to give back.
Pointing toward Interstate 35E and the mobile home park where his parents lived when he was a child, he talked about how they taught him how to work hard and earn the things you want.
“Things weren’t always easy, but I have wonderful parents and I was blessed to live in a great community. I had so many role models here,” he said, noting that after finishing his undergraduate studies at Texas A&M University and law school at the University of Texas, he couldn’t wait to return to Ellis County.
In addition to his law practice, for much of the past decade Wray has been an active volunteer sharing his service and experience with multiple organizations serving the community — including his tenure on the Waxahachie City Council.
As for his candidacy to run for the District 10 seat, Wray responds by crediting one of his mentors, Jim Pitts.
“I have great respect and admiration for Mr. Pitts,” Wray said. “What he has done in Austin is truly phenomenal. Ellis and Henderson counties have been very fortunate to have him as our representative for the past 22 years. He has made an impact through his ability to get things done.”
Wray quickly pointed out that the next lawmaker to represent District 10 will be starting from scratch.
“Regardless of who wins the election, our next representative will be starting on the ground floor as a freshman representative. Although that individual will be filling Jim Pitts’ seat in the House, they won’t start off as House Appropriations Chairman and they won’t have the benefit of all the coalitions that Mr. Pitts has built over the years,” Wray said.
Speaking softly and never breaking eye contact, Wray said that every politician has a platform and beliefs they passionately defend and promote.
“I’m no different,” Wray said, still speaking softly. “I’m a staunch fiscal conservative. I don’t like raising taxes and I firmly believe that if Texas is growing, that new growth should be able to generate the revenue that we need to handle our governmental needs. I’m pro business and I’m set against imposing regulations that hamper businesses. Businesses create jobs — jobs that are needed for hard working Texans to achieve the American dream. My parents didn’t mind working hard. Thankfully for them, there were jobs available that allowed them to provide for their family and buy a home. I’m against regulations that make it harder — sometimes impossible — for businesses to create those jobs.”
Wray paused for a few seconds to ensure the words had sunk in.
“While those are my beliefs and my platform and the vision that I have for Texas — a vision that I know is shared by a lot of Texans — it doesn’t mean anything unless I can get other members of the House to work with me on achieving those goals,” he said.
“Like Mr. Pitts, Ellis and Henderson counties need a representative who will be able to make things happen in Austin,” Wray said. “To find solutions and solve problems, it requires someone who is willing to listen, not just speak. I know I can make a difference in Austin.”
When the word “compromise” was raised, Wray winced and shook his head.
“That’s become such an ugly word in politics,” he said.
“If you’re asking if I believe it’s possible to compromise on some issues in order to achieve an equitable solution for everyone without sacrificing your own principles, absolutely,” Wray said. “It’s part of life. It’s impossible to get everything you want all of the time and anyone who believes that is living in a fantasy world. But I also believe there are times that you have to draw a line in the sand and never cross it.”
While reiterating his stance on keeping taxes low and spurring job growth by not overburdening businesses with unnecessary regulations, Wray also touched on the need for school finance reform and returning more control to local districts.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to be able to work on these issues,” he said. “They are extremely complex, challenging problems that have been going on for more than a decade. That doesn’t mean the Legislature can’t find a way to solve the problem. But it will require lawmakers with the ability to build coalitions and bring people together instead of being more concerned about who is standing in the spotlight in front of the cameras.”
Wray leaned back in the chair and smiled.
“I don’t care who gets the credit as long as we find solutions, get things done and do the job we were elected to carry out,” he said. “I can help make that happen. I can help the citizens of Ellis and Henderson counties and I can help the state of Texas. That’s why I’m running.”
Wray’s legal practice serves small businesses and families in Ellis County. He also co-owns a small title company in Ellis County.
He and his wife Michele have two children, Morgan and Patrick. They attend First United Methodist Church in Waxahachie.