Sandra “Sandie” Kindt had an epiphany of sorts in 2009, thanks to a five-minute rant on television.
That’s when Rich Santelli, who is credited by most as being the catalyst behind the Tea Party movement, appeared on a CNBC television program and railed about the ineffectiveness of government, specifically a mortgage bailout program proposed by the Obama Administration.
Among Santelli’s statements was that this country needed “people who could carry the water rather than drink the water.”
Kindt decided she needed to carry more water.
“Everybody was buzzing about it (Santini’s interview),” she said. “I didn’t know anything about it. I had no idea about the Tea Party. And that’s when I started looking and trying to see what was going on.
“I don’t jump into something. I research. So that’s when I read The Federalist Papers, Road to Serfdom and George Washington’s biography. I realized that I and a lot of us had dropped the ball. We have people who are leading us without any input from us.”
That road has taken Kindt, who retired in 2014 after 25 years as an air traffic controller, to chair the Washington County Republican organization since 2016.
As a former federal employee, Kindt said she “saw the waste and abuse there.”
“I raised my family and went to work,” she said. “I didn’t think much about government and what was going on. Now look at me. I realized I had to do something.”
After a period during which Kindt said “horrible things (were being said) about the Tea Party, I started thinking, ‘Okay, this isn’t going anywhere.’ So I joined the GOP. There are a lot of people in our community that are very conservative and care about each other. That’s what I thought we all did.”
The Tea Party, she said, has for the most part “morphed” into a segment of the Republican Party.
“Not the alt right (alternative right), just the conservative type. We don’t think the government should be policing gender or race or anything like that,” said Kindt. “That’s up to God. But don’t reach into my pocket for your cause. I’ll pay for the causes I want to pay for. You pay for yours.”
Watching over aircraft
Kindt, who grew up in the small community of Sonora, Texas, never felt the need to get a college degree, instead applying with the Federal Aviation Administration with a high school diploma in hand and being hired in 1989. There, she met husband Lynwood, who had joined the FAA and been working as an air traffic controller several years earlier.
“I decided that was something I could do. You have to think outside the box spatially. I absolutely enjoyed the work. I did not deal with management well,” she said.
When she retired, Kindt was watching over air traffic from Houston to New Orleans to the Gulf of Mexico from a non-descript building near Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport.
“It’s a windowless building with rows and rows of radar screens,” she said. “You really don’t know it’s there.”
The Kindts bought property here in 1998 and moved here in 1999 to what she called “as far away from work as we could get and still be in the country.”
“We drove every day, 87 miles one way,” said Kindt.
Kindt said that during her 25-year career as an aircraft controller, she never saw an unidentified flying object.
“But I’ve heard the pilots talking about them,” she said with a laugh. “I just kept my mouth shut. I don’t want to speculate.”
Entering the political arena
Kindt said that when she was approached by county GOP officials about serving as party chairperson, the first thing she did was ask Helen Hink, who had been serving in that position, if she would help in the transition.
“She’s stayed there by my side the whole time as a mentor,” Kindt said. “I’ve had a lot of good mentors.”
She also credited party vice chairman Jimbo Hafner with being a huge help.
“You ask him to do something and he’s on it,” said Kindt.
She said she has learned much about the political process, including the importance of local involvement.
“The precinct convention is where the ideas come from. If you don’t go to your precinct convention, your ideas will never get forwarded to county, to state, to national,” said Kindt. “That’s where it (the party platform) comes from.”
As county chairperson, Kindt is responsible for organizing county conventions and managing party activities throughout the year.
“Every time, I learn something new,” she said. “There’s good and bad in all parties. There’s good and bad in the Republican Party, but more good and it’s more closely aligned to my ideals.”
Kindt said she has learned much about the political game and how to help people.
In one case, the grandmother of a young girl with a debilitating illness was experiencing a brick wall in dealing with Health and Human Services. The snafu would have kept her from getting assistance for six years because she had been placed on a wrong list. The problem was resolved, but not until after a concerted effort.
“I told her, ‘You make these calls, you write emails to these people. Talk to them and keep talking,’” said Kindt. “The average person doesn’t know that. I didn’t know that. I had to learn it.
“But that’s how our system is supposed to work. They represent us. And these people had no idea what to do. They were at the mercy of the department.
“They don’t know unless they’re told. If you get enough representatives cracking the whip and opening doors and looking in, that’s when the department will change. But not until.
“It’s almost like you have to hammer them on the head. And you shouldn’t have to do that. That’s not the way the system should be working.”
Current state of affairs
Kindt said that she believes President Donald Trump has been good for America.
“I don’t agree with some of the things Trump ‘tweets.’ But his deregulation of things ... I love that,” she said. “I love that businesses are booming. People don’t want to talk about that.”
Kindt also said she is “very pleased” with the state of Texas’ government.
“I think that a lot of that is due to the fact that people are waking up,” she said.
Kindt said she is concerned about a lack of common decency between members of different political parties.
“I don’t like the divide. I don’t like the ugliness,” she said. “There’s never a place for that. There’s no reason why we have to be ugly. We should be saying, ‘Here’s an idea. Let’s discuss it.’ It’s a very simple thing.”
Kindt said she has sat down with the Rev. Kenneth Moerbe, president of the county’s Democratic Club, for discussions on how to help people.
“He and I see things differently, but at least he and I can talk,” she said. “We’re decent to each other. We’re not going to agree on some things, but I’ve told him, ‘If there’s a project that I can work with you on to help the city, I’m there. And I’ll get as many Republicans there as I can.’
“He definitely cares about people and he cares about the city.
“I’m not trying to convert anyone. I’m trying to live my life without having somebody shove it in my face. I don’t understand why other people don’t. Once I found out where I was and what was going on, for me to stick my head back in the sand, I would have been dishonest with myself.”
Kindt is a firm believer that government must be held accountable.
“I want the government to remember who they work for and to assume that every dollar they spend is coming out of their family’s budget,” she said. “And they’d better think twice about it. There’s so many unnecessary projects going on that the government is spending money on.
“I understand taking care of bridges and roads and security and infrastructure. I have no problem with that. But think about what if it’s coming out of your family budget.”
Kindt said local organizations should play a large role in helping others in the community, saying Faith Mission, Bread Partners and even the Friendship Quilt Guild of which she is a member are good examples.
“All those things together is what we need to focus on,” she said. Not, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s person’s gay.’ Really? There’s bigger things to worry about.”
Kindt has been a member of the quilt guild since 2011, enticed to join by a friend. Now, she’s a regular at the weekly day-long quilting sessions held at the Church of Christ here.
“I’m such a novice, but every time you do another project you learn something,” she said. “But it’s a lot of fun.”
Kindt said she gives her quilts away to family members and other organizations like Hospice Brazos Valley’s office here.
“I like giving them to Hospice,” she said. “They’re just happy to have them, and they don’t mind if it’s a little off.
“It’s part of my learning process.”
Odds are that Kindt will never stop learning.