Former Grayson County Democratic Party Chair Lander Bethel has filed to run in the Democratic primary for the 4th Congressional District of Texas currently held by Republican John Ratcliffe.
“I have entered this race in hopes of bringing people together with a new understanding of this office, being willing to listen to all of the constituents, and working to address the needs of the citizens of the 4th Congressional District,” Bethel said in an email asking him for details on his run for office.
Catherine Krantz has also filed to run in the Democratic Primary for the congressional seat.
Bethel grew up in Norman, Oklahoma and graduated from high school there. He is the eldest of four kids raised by his hardworking parents.
“I went to the University of Oklahoma, graduated with a BA in psychology,” he said. He then moved to Chicago for graduate school and seminary, finishing a Master of Divinity degree.
“After graduating and being ordained, I moved to south Texas, where I worked as an associate pastor, developing a growing youth program and helping the church discover the importance of service in the community. My sweetheart and I married a few months after I was ordained,” he said.
After three years there he received a call as pastor of First Presbyterian Church, in Laredo.
“There, I helped develop Laredos Unidos, a border ministry project working in colonias in Mexico, to build houses and churches, provide safe drinking water, and develop opportunities for livelihoods. I was a founding member of a refugee assistance program that provided legal representation for people in dire situations,” Bethel said.
He was then called to Grand Avenue Presbyterian Church, in 1994. The congregation has been historically involved in service to the community and the college.
“My wife and I have raised three sons here, each attending schools in the Sherman Independent School District,” he said.
Four years ago, following the retirement of the pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Denison, Bethel began serving as their pastor while continuing his work with Grand Avenue Presbyterian.
“I enjoy being a part of the two largest communities in Grayson County. I find people here thoughtful, eager to serve, willing to learn, and ready to be generous when they understand the challenge before them,” he said.
Bethel has served on the Federal Emergency Food and Shelter Program board chair for 20 years, where he has become more familiar with nonprofit organizations in the county that take on the challenge of caring for hungry people, at-risk youth, people in need of shelter, and other people in desperate situations.
“I have served on the Bioethics Committee of Wilson N. Jones Hospital for 20 years, interacting with staff and patient families, learning about issues of health care and the challenges facing our hospitals with federal cutbacks on health coverage, and the threat that presents to rural hospitals throughout this district,” he said.
He also said he helped found Grayson Disaster Relief in 2005, when the area was inundated with 1,100 families that moved into the county as they fled hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
“We brought together churches, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and people eager to help in resettling families. We came together again in 2007 to organize long-term recovery efforts for Grayson County residents who were flooded out of their homes,” Bethel said.
In addition, Bethel served on an advisory committee of the Sherman Independent School District and serves as an Advisory Committee member of the Child Advocacy Center, in Sherman. He also volunteered as a chaplain for Home Hospice of Grayson County for 15 years, served as a board member for several years, and as president of the board for one year. He has also worked in leadership positions on committees and councils of the Presbyterian Church.
“I have always taken an interest in what we do in our public efforts, and have been committed to bringing people together to work on problems without regard to political affiliation,” Bethel said. “I’m a lifelong Democrat primarily from my understanding of the gospel of Matthew 25.35-36, ‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you came to me.’
“Democrats are not perfect. But, I think the kinds of things emphasized by the party to take on some responsibility of caring for people who find themselves vulnerable, or concerned about what we share for the common good as a nation are exemplified by the Democratic Party.”
He served as the Grayson County Democratic Party Chair for five years helping organize elections, working with new Elections Administrator Deana Patterson, leading meetings of the party and attending state conventions as a delegate.