By Lora-Marie Bernard
In a move that Judge Mark Henry said “was not surprising,” the Galveston County commissioners voted unanimously to rename the West County Annex Building in honor of Eddie Janek, a long-serving commissioner and county resident.
During a special meeting on Sept. 5, an emotional 90-year-old Janek told commissioners that he never thought a building would be named after him. The West County Annex is at 11730 State Hwy. 6 in Santa Fe.
Almost 80 years ago, Janek arrived in Galveston County by train. He said he was “scared to death.” “I’d never been in a city before and it was so exciting to see the lights and everything,” he said about his arrival. “Here I am 75 years later to have a building named after me. It is beyond my belief. All my kinfolks will be thinking it is a joke.”
Commissioner Joe Guisti brought the idea of renaming the building to the court. He said the measure was long overdue. “When I first would run, people would ask me, ‘How are you going to do it?’ he said. “I said, ‘I’m going to be like Eddie Janek. I’m not going to have appointments.’
Instead, Guisti said learned from Janek to ask for an address, then drive over to the constituents’ homes and talk to them about how he would solve the problem.
Commissioner Darrel Apffel said he credited Janek with his political career. Apffel remembered going to church as a boy with his father and Janek. After church, they’d stop at a coffee house and then travel around Galveston County. “I just want you to know that you have been instrumental in my life,” Apffel said. “You’ve been a friend, a confidante, a mentor from those days forward and all the way up to 2011 when I was appointed by this commissioners’ court to the Justice of the Peace office.”
He said that renaming the annex building would provide community context, or a persona, to the building that has none.
Apffel also connected Janek’s years as a caregiver to his wife Doris, who was stricken with Alzheimer’s disease, with his years of service to the county. He said Janek gave Doris dignity in her last days just like he did to residents after Hurricane Ike. “If I can be half the man and commissioner you were, I’d consider myself successful,” he said.
Janek said he wished his wife could have seen this day. “It is really a shame that my wife, who helped me campaign so hard, for the commissioner’s spot and that she isn’t here anymore,” he said. “But she’s up there looking down.”
He said the renaming the building was a great honor. “It’s fantastic,” he said. “I’m gonna cry now.” ?