Trump Train Ditches Convoys, Picks Up Steam in New Braunfels City Politics
The New Braunfels Trump Train no longer rolls through the city every week in flag-festooned trucks, but its members are picking up steam in city politics.
In January, Democrat Colette Nies, a Presbyterian chaplain and socio-ecological theologian who is a doctoral candidate in Land, Food, Ethics and Faith Formation, seemed like a shoo-in for a two-year term on the New Braunfels Housing Authority Board of Commissioners.
Two weeks ago, she received a letter from New Braunfels Mayor Rusty Brockman informing her that he chose another candidate, Rolando Haus’ Cinderella Brown, to fill that position.
Nies said she was not surprised.
The mayor appeared poised to announce her appointment at a Jan. 25 city council meeting. The position does not require council approval and was on the consent agenda only as a courtesy.
At the last minute, Brockman withdrew Nies’ name from consideration with little explanation other than he and several city council members said they received phone calls and emails from residents opposing her selection.
Those residents turned out to be several dozen members of the far-right Trump Train. Eight of them planned to speak out against Nies’ character but were angered after city attorney Valeria Acevedo explained that Robert’s Rules of Order restricted them to comments about the actual motion before the council, which was to delay Nies’ appointment until the Feb. 22 meeting.
Trump Train founder Steve Ceh promised council members they would return on Feb. 22. Six of his followers did, with five members arguing Nies should not be appointed to the housing authority because she is a “terrorist” who works for Living Blue in Comal County’s Facebook/Twitter pages. Nineteen years ago, Nies served a year’s probation for misdemeanor possession of a single marijuana joint, which also put her in the crosshairs of a group that publicly promotes family Christian values.
Members of the Trump Train especially hate Living Blue, which routinely criticized — and continues to challenge — the group, which made international headlines after running the Biden Bus off of I-35 between New Braunfels and San Marcos last October. Videos of that incident were prominently featured during the February impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.
Living Blue in Texas issued a public-service announcement denying that Nies has any association with their group. Living Blue in Comal County also confirmed Nies is not involved with their social media outreach.
But it was criticism by Trump Train founder Steve Ceh and his supporters that apparently caused Brockman to rethink Nies’ candidacy as well as the decision-making process for city board positions, a move that caught other city council members off guard.
Brockman surprised everyone on Feb. 22 when he announced he would restart the application process for the housing authority position despite receiving a petition signed by 950 of Nies’ supporters.
“This has nothing to do with politics,” he said. “…I want to make it perfectly clear that political persuasion has nothing to do with the decision.”
Nies thinks it has everything to do with politics.
She said she fully supports Brown but is disappointed in the mayor’s decision to politicize a volunteer board position.
In an email to MyCanyonLake.com on April 11, Nies, a former candidate for Comal County Pct. 3 commissioner, said Brockman has “affirmed the behavior of a handful of people who have continually chosen libel and slander. The precedent Mayor Brockman set has resulted in parts of city council meetings deteriorating into a bully pulpit.”
“At the local level, nonpartisan positions are imperative because they provide leadership for all of us, not a select population. We are living in a time where people’s gifts and strengths for service of the public good need to be encouraged. Valuing those that donate their time to advocate for sustainable growth and the health of our citizens and resources supersedes party affiliation. As the elected vice-chair of the Heritage Commission, I will continue to serve, as I have done on other city boards, for the last six years. My hope moving forward is that the mayor will strive toward upholding our bi-partisanship legacy of cooperation to solve issues that affect the wide array of perspectives and situations of the people who live here.”
MyCanyonLake.com reached out to Brockman for comment but did not hear back.
Meanwhile, Trump Train member Kevin Robles is running to replace incumbent Harry Bowers for New Braunfels City Council District 3 in the May 1 election. Trump Train member Lawrence Spradley is squaring off against Joy Harvey for New Braunfels City Council District 4.
Over the last several months, the Trump Train has reinvented itself as the Hill Country Patriots.
Speaking on condition of anonymity out of fear of ‘cancel culture,’ several of the Hill Country Patriots who were close to Ceh describe themselves as a group of like-minded individuals who want to continue the close friendships they formed while driving around town, honking horns, waving flags and yelling out their support for former President Trump.
Ceh lost his job as a boiler-mechanic field supervisor with The Brandt Companies after he was photographed on the terrace of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 just before the armed insurrection.
Organizers of the Patriots say he now serves as pastor of Solomon’s Porch, a church he founded after leaving the Trump Train.
They said Ceh’s more interested in filling seats and conducting daily Bible study classes than he is in replacing Brockman as mayor.
Sources say he lost interest in a possible mayoral run after learning the mayor’s office is a non-paying position.
T-shirts emblazoned “Steve Ceh for Mayor”/”Ceh what?” remain folded on shelves.
But Ceh’s legacy lives on.
Speaking against Nies at the Feb. 22 meeting, New Braunfels resident Timothy Davis warned Brockman against supporting a candidate like Nies, who he said doesn’t represent New Braunfels’ values.
“We are a conservative town,” he said. “We have lots and lots of support, and we are going to be loud. We’re going to keep speaking.”
Nies isn’t going anywhere either.
She serves on the Congregational Care Committee for the New Braunfels Presbyterian Church. The committee is responsible for the care and support of the homebound and hospitalized. She also raises money for a community garden to address food insecurity.
“My Christian call to promote justice in the world is grounded in compassion and empathy,” she said. “Pursuing political action to orient policies that bring about healing must be anchored in honesty and grace, not only of ourselves but for others as well.”