HITCHCOCK, Texas — As Texans in the small city of Hitchcock brace for a frigid Christmas, the warmth of one helpful neighbor shines through.
Chris Armacost remembers the destruction last year’s winter storm brought his close community. His neighbors were left powerless and stranded with broken water lines, an emergency uniquely impacting his small community of many elderly and disabled residents just north of Galveston. When he realized their pipes may burst again, he took it upon himself to protect them.
“He was at my house at six o’clock last night in the dark and the cold wrapping water pipes,” Hitchcock resident Bettye Vogler said. “I didn’t have anybody to do it for me. I told him that it’s cold. He said, ‘No, I’m gonna do it.’ And then he told me that they had done 13 homes yesterday, and they were gonna do a few more… a real blessing.”
But for Armacost, it’s just part of the job.
He happens to be the Mayor of Hitchcock — although he won’t introduce himself that way. Among the many titles he holds — public school employee, little league coach, church-goer, husband… “mayor,” or “former county commissioner,” won’t come up in conversation.
“It’s just a mindset,” he said. “You have to be more of a servant. Most people probably don’t even know I’m mayor. It’s just about trying to help.”
And as the temperatures plunged, help he did. With the extra insulation he bought with his own money ahead of the cold, he offered a lifeline to his constituents.
“If you need help… send me a text.”
It’s a common kind of post on his professional page, always complete with his personal phone number and a disclaimer that he won’t be accepting payment.
His citizens, however, paid him back plenty in praise.
“You are awesome,” one constituent wrote. “All public officials should be so dedicated to the community they serve.”
“Who else has a mayor like ours?,” another asked, in what may be the most wholesome comment section on a public official’s page in Facebook history.
By the time the cold front rolled in, Armacost had protected more than 20 homes. Since then, he has pivoted to other urgent needs — offering to “swing by” his neighbors’ homes to check on their water line and personally checking on their individual electric needs.
“I’ve had a few people ask… I do not charge for any help I offer now or in the future,” he wrote. “If I post something on here offering help please know it’s always free.”
That generosity is certainly appreciated, but it does not necessarily come as a surprise for those who know him.
“He has been the backbone of our community,” Ms. Vogler said. “He’s always there. He makes it very, very common for the citizens to reach out to him with anything. Even helping people get pulled out of ditches, and get mosquitos sprayed for, and food distributions, and new commerce coming into Hitchcock. He is the epitome of what I think an elected official should be.”
Perhaps “mayor,” though, is not the title Armacost prefers the most.
“We’re all the same, we’re all humans,” he said. “My thing isn’t about trying to move on anywhere. Just trying to help the community.”
That’s lucky for him, because Ms. Vogler says moving on may not be so easy for him.
“If he ever tries to leave this city, we are going to block every street. He will have no exits.”