Striving to preserve Texas’ reputation as a liberty and freedom-loving state, Baytown resident Byron Schirmbeck has devoted countless hours to preserving constitutional principles at the local and state levels.
Born in Fort Polk, Louisiana, Schirmbeck has lived in Baytown for 40 years and is currently working in fleet sales. But apart from his day job, he’s a well-known political activist and the state coordinator for Texas Campaign for Liberty, a 501(c)4 nonprofit established in 2008 to promote principles of individual liberty, constitutional government, and free markets through education, issue advocacy, and grassroots mobilization.
As a precursor to his official role in Campaign for Liberty, however, Schirmbeck began taking an interest in politics locally. In 2008, a friend invited him to a San Jacinto Tea Party meeting—a movement that was just taking off at the national level. Simultaneously, Baytown City Council implemented red-light cameras at intersections, where they reportedly illegally shortened the length of yellow lights, leading to increased ticket revenue.
An article on the issue states, “Schirmbeck caught the city using an illegally short yellow time of 3.1 seconds at Garth and Baker. Once exposed, the city increased the yellow to 4.5 seconds. As revenue dropped, however, the city quietly shortened that yellow to just 4.0 seconds.”
In 2011, after an effort to get the city to refund ticket costs failed, a group of residents led by Schirmbeck circulated a petition to place a measure on the ballot that, if passed, would force the city to ban its photo enforcement program. Under the campaign name “Trash Your Ticket,” the group collected far more signatures than required and voters overwhelmingly supported the measure at the ballot box.
According to Schirmbeck, it generated the largest turnout for a local election in Baytown history.
While the red-light camera fight was taking place in Baytown and other cities across the state, it was also taking place at the capitol. “We’ve been working every session for the last three sessions on a statewide ban,” Schirmbeck said. This legislative session alone, he traveled to Austin numerous times to visit with legislators and testify on bills, including House Bill 1631 by State Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R–Bedford) which bans red-light cameras statewide.
After years of failed attempts, HB 1631 successfully passed the legislature this year and was sent to the governor’s desk on May 21, demonstrating the payoff of persistence and the power of citizens’ voices.
Schirmbeck views the bill’s passage as a major victory, but he still had some qualms with the text. “I’m encouraged that we got something through. But I was disappointed that they essentially created sanctuary cities for red-light cameras and allowed some of the contracts to continue,” Schirmbeck stated. “We’ll just see how many cities will comply and when the lawsuits will start.”
Aside from the red-light camera effort, Schirmbeck’s political activism extends to other issues, including constitutional carry, school bonds, and local elections. His efforts were recognized last December, when he was awarded a Conservative Leaders Award at Empower Texans’ 2018 gala.
“My experience with the red-light camera program showed me that government can be abusive, greedy, and corrupt. It also showed me that the most important fights are at the local level, where you can be the most effective,” he stated.
When asked what he wants to see happen through his involvement, he responded, “I want to see Texas start living up to its reputation as a liberty and freedom-loving state.”
When not working or fighting political battles, Schirmbeck enjoys collecting militaria, reading history books, duck hunting, and fishing.