Words by Jonathan Hooper
Photography by Shad Ramsey and provided by Jeff Meador
The road from Honolulu to Granbury is one less travelled—and it isn’t even a road.
One can get here from there: it just takes a while. From one military base across an ocean to another, through stints in west Texas, Washington D.C. and Austin, the path is hardly a straight line, much less a wrinkling tesseract. But such was the path taken by the Granbury ISD Director of Communications, Jeff Meador.
You may know Jeff, even if you have never met him. You may have seen him taking photos at Granbury schools. Perhaps you have received notices for bad weather days at school, or read about the recent construction and technology improvements at Granbury High School, or seen him on stage at the Granbury Opera House, or enjoyed his culinary style (or lack of it) at the annual 50 Fellas Foodfest. That’s Jeff.
Meador was born in Honolulu, where the family had moved following his father’s second tour of active duty in Vietnam. A few years later, the family moved to Ft. Hood, where the family settled in Copperas Cove. His dad later became an educator, teaching 5th grade Science. His mother was also an educator, first as a librarian, then later an educational diagnostician. They moved to McCamey, TX “because they paid a lot better in west Texas than Cove.”
“My sister had been in band in Copperas Cove, and she was a very good flute player. But I thought the saxophone was the coolest thing ever, so I joined the band.”
The band in McCamey was typical of many west Texas bands programs at the time. There were about 200 students in the school, and more than half were in band. “We went to State Marching Contest twice, and were runner up in the Honor Band competition for Class AA. We were energized to win, and had plenty of competition around us.” Meador later went on to attend Tarleton on a partial music scholarship.
As a Political Science major at Howard Payne University and later at Tarleton State University, Meador had a goal of working in Washington D.C. Unfortunately, he did not know anyone there, and his family had no connections inside the Beltway. He applied for a summer internship with U.S. Congressman Charles Stenholm in 1993, and won it, leading to additional work after graduation with Stenholm as his assistant campaign manager for the 1996 election, and as campaign manager in 1998. He moved to D.C in 1999 to work as a legislative assistant of education with Stenholm until 2002 when he became campaign manager for the 2002 election.
Following that successful campaign, Jeff took a break from the life of public service and moved to Austin to work for Sprint for three years as a Regulatory Affairs Manager.
“Boring. But I was able to utilize some of my political skills working with the State Public Utilities Commission and with various groups on telecommunications issues. Still boring.”
Upon realization that the corporate world did not suit him, he took a position as the public policy information officer in the Center for Agribusiness Excellence at Tarleton, working with studies regarding federal crop insurance program. His expertise gained from the Stenholm years in DC and west Texas fit nicely.
One year later, Meador found his way to public education. It had been lurking about for generations. In addition to his parents’ involvement in public schools, his great-grandparents believed in the importance of education so much that they moved to the Rocky Point community near Stephenville for closer access to John Tarleton Agricultural College, now Tarleton State University. His grandmother enjoyed a career in public education that spanned from the 1930’s to 1978, earning a Master’s degree in Education at North Texas State Teacher College, now the University of North Texas. His grandfather started as a farmer near Stephenville, and later became a bus driver and custodian.
Jeff Meador circa 1974 on the beach in Hawaii with his aunt and mom, wearing a shirt that says “I’m a Little Tarleton Texan.”
Where Is Your Camera?
He began his career in the Granbury ISD as the Public Information Officer in 2007. As technology rapidly changed, so did his duties with the school district. The job today is more about establishing better communication with the teachers, students, and parents, and then on into the community.
“My role in 2007 was very similar to my role today, but the technology has changed the actual work so much since that time, particularly the various means of the transmission of information. So the job evolved with the demands of that technology, including social media, text messaging, automated phone calls, and other exchanges and interactions with parents and teachers that did not even exist ten years ago.”
A recipient of multiple awards and honored by critical acclaim for his educational reporting, Meador seems to be everywhere every day. Early mornings might begin at an elementary school event before breakfast, followed by meetings with parents or administrators or both, and an approaching press deadline to print media by noon. A quick lunch before taking photos at a middle school event leads to more meetings, then still more meetings, more writing, improving the various district web pages, more photos, and late afternoon travel to an out of town concert or game, and another deadline, perhaps to the local newspaper, or a media outlet in the Metroplex.
“The first thing people ask me is ‘where is your camera?’ If they can’t see it right away, they think I don’t care about the event. I have the camera. I always have the camera. But sometimes if the event needs to be up on media quickly, I can shoot it with my smartphone, and it is up on Facebook or whatever before people can finish their question. But I always have the camera. Well, almost always!”
Nobody Likes Bus Duty…
Working directly with teachers, parents, and students is the best part of Meador’s job. He is happiest when he can be a successful advocate for the students and for the programs in which they are involved. He does his best work promoting the numerous success stories found in every Granbury school. For him, those are the easy parts of the job. But there are also those trying times when he has to go strictly into “work mode” and deal efficiently with the confidential information related to sensitive topics or tragic accidents. “Those are so very tough, but must be done, and I am the guy who must do it. Those events, and bus duty. I actually do bus duty at the high school on an occasional basis. Nobody likes bus duty.”
There Are No Small Roles…
In addition to his work in the schools, Meador has been active in numerous community endeavors, and has served on the boards of Hood County YMCA, Operation School Supplies, GISD Education Foundation, Ruth’s Place, Boys and Girls Club, and others. Since 2015, Meador has been also extremely active at the Granbury Opera House, serving as secretary on the board for the Granbury Theatre Company. Did his previous career in politics prepare him for the stage? He thinks that perhaps his behind the scenes roles in Washington politics is similar to his participation in the GTC, but his acting skills were not a part of the D.C. scene. He gets a lot of satisfaction from his role in finding the potential in the struggling organization and helping to turn it into a vibrant center for the arts, bringing thousands of people to downtown and the greater Lake Granbury community.
“People have been kind to let me act on stage in five productions, and serve as assistant director for two more, but I do a lot more work in the areas of marketing, promoting, and communications for the GTC. There is a tremendous amount of talent, both local and imported, that finds its way to the Granbury Opera House stage. It’s incredible for a small town and theatre of our size. And our theatre itself is remarkable!”
Promoting events and organizations while advocating for people is a way of life for Jeff Meador. His life has been a shared legacy of public service to the citizens of Texas, generation after generation, in the best Texas tradition of farm and education, always looking to the future while taking care of the present.