Granbury resident Melanie Graft is a soft-spoken mother of three and self-proclaimed “country girl.” But don’t let her demeanor fool you: When it comes to defending freedom of speech, conservative principles, and her kids, she’s a force to be reckoned with.

Currently a precinct chair for Hood County GOP and member of the Hood County Library Advisory Board (LAB), Graft is an active member of the Granbury community in a variety of capacities—with political activism as her niche.

Graft and her husband moved in 2004 from Euless to the town just southwest of Fort Worth, where they now live with their 14-year-old and 11-year-old sons and 8-year-old daughter. “We didn’t like the landscape,” Graft said of living in the DFW metroplex. “I’m more of a country girl … I like wide-open spaces.” She noted the town has since grown over the years, however, making those wide-open spaces they once sought harder to come by.

While Graft calls Texas home, her father’s military career took their family to California and Wisconsin when she was younger, with most of her childhood spent in Milwaukee and the small town of Cedarburg. As an adult, Graft became a flight attendant and met her husband, a pilot. “I told my grandmother I would never, ever marry a pilot because they’re too arrogant,” Graft said jokingly. “She said to never say ‘never.’”

It’s also likely Graft never thought she’d be as active in politics as she is today. But that changed four years ago during a library visit when her then-4-year-old daughter picked up This Day in June, a book about a gay pride celebration that includes an illustration of two men kissing along with “facts about LGBT history and culture.”

Graft explained that she didn’t feel the book was age-appropriate after her daughter started asking her questions about the illustrations in the book. She took her concerns to the librarian on duty who then, unexpectedly, relayed those concerns to the LAB and commissioners court. Before Graft knew it, the situation escalated into what was made to look like a highly politicized battle. Graft was met with pushback from the library board and her concerns falsely labeled as an attack against the LGBT community by local media. “I objected not because I’m anti-gay,” said Graft, “but rather because I’m the parent and the public library doesn’t have the right to make parenting decisions for me.”

That’s when she says “a small spark became a flame.”

Graft began seeking opportunities to get involved in local government. She joined the LAB (which she notes was not an easy task), became a precinct chair for Hood County GOP, and volunteers with the local party by block walking, helping with events, and serving in various roles during elections. She is also a Texas Torchbearer and was recognized at Empower Texans’ Conservative Leaders Gala in 2018.

Graft’s latest political battle dealt with the application process to join the LAB as well as the board’s rules for public speaking.

In support of a proposal by Hood County Commissioner Dave Eagle to implement a uniform application process for all county boards, including the library board, Graft testified at the commissioners court meeting. She described the LAB’s application process as cumbersome and implied it has discouraged members of the community from applying. “Our existing LAB does not represent our community,” Graft stated. “We have gone from a one-pager application to a six-page application. It is not anonymous nor does it protect an applicant’s personal information.”

She also expressed concerns about “the attempt to stifle free speech” with a form proposed by the board that necessitates a member of the public give a three-day notice prior to attending a meeting.

The form requires they include what organization they represent (if any), what issue they want to address, and their stance on the issue. Once those forms are received, LAB members would vote whether to take up the issue. Graft explained to the court these proposed policies would violate the First Amendment and Equal Protection Clause, as well as the Open Meetings Act.

Led by Eagle, the commissioners court figured out a way to streamline all Hood County board applications leading to what Graft calls “a small victory in the battle for transparency.”

While much of her time is spent fighting political battles and volunteering for the local Republican Party, Graft also enjoys serving at her church and spends several days a week homeschooling their three children as part of a co-op program with a local private school. Her hobbies include traveling, running, yoga, target shooting, and hiking.

When asked why she devotes time and energy to political activism, she responds without hesitation: “I’m fighting for [my children’s] future …for the economy, freedom of speech. I want to be a role model for them … so when I’m long gone, they won’t be afraid to speak up.”

She says the hardest part of political engagement is getting started. “It is going to take getting out of our comfort zones and becoming active to be the change we want to see … if not for ourselves, we do it for our children and all the generations that come after.”

Lauren Melear

Lauren Melear leads the West Texas Bureau of Texas Scorecard. When not working, Lauren enjoys spending time with her husband and their dog, as well as cooking, working out, traveling to the hill country, and cheering on the fightin' Texas Aggies.