September 21, 2013
By Chris Bartlett

Austin Keith, president of Pinkie’s Inc., wants to keep West Texas values represented in the state legislature, announcing Saturday morning his intention to run for the 81st District seat currently held by Rep. Tryon Lewis R-Odessa.

Keith made his announcement to a packed house Saturday morning at the Presidential Archives and John Ben Shepperd Leadership Library, 4919 E. University Blvd.

“My primary goal is to preserve and improve the quality of life here in West Texas,” Keith said after being introduced by interim curator of the archives James Cotton. “Faith and family are important to me and a key part of West Texas values.”

Keith said his top two priorities are water and infrastructure, especially the state of roads in the area. He said that water is the key to everything, and there must be prudent stewards of the finite resources of the world.

Keith said though he has talked extensively with Lewis, who announced Friday he would not seek reelection, over the last few months, they did not collaborate in making their announcements so near to each other.

“When he announced he was going to fulfill his term and retire, I decided it was time for me to step up,” Keith said.

He said the area has been blessed economically, and he would like to see some money go toward infrastructure while interest rates are low.

Education in the area is something Keith said he would like to see improved and expanded. As he named off institutions of higher learning, like Odessa College and the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, he said it is important that the area produces educated workers.

Odessan Tom Passmore said he is in-line with Keith’s plan to focus on resource conservation.

“I think historically we’ve always been behind the 8-ball on that,” Passmore said in the lobby of the Presidential Archives. “We haven’t been proactive on things like that in the past.”

Passmore continued it did not matter if someone was part of the Republican Party, the Democratic Party or the all-night party because Keith was “a man about the issues” and was not going to put partisanship over progress.

“I think you gotta go in with an open mind — do what’s best for the country,” Keith said. “We need to start moving forward.”

Odessan Joe Hurt said he is very optimistic about Keith’s decision to run because of the work he has seen Keith do locally.

“He’s a good business leader,” Hurt said. “He’s been a leader in all the associations he’s been involved in and instrumental in starting up community Bible studies.”

Hurt said, for him, it is important that political leaders have strong ties to faith and he sees that in Keith.

Hurt said he believes God is in control, but that God needs workers, especially in government.

Keith said he hopes to help the people in the area.

“We all hang in the same tree here in West Texas,” Keith said with a smile on his face. “Albeit a small tree — maybe a mesquite bush.”

Contact Chris Bartlett at 432-333-7782, email at, or on Twitter at @OAChrisBartlett

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