GATESVILLE — Coryell County has a high-energy, success-oriented, community-focused military wife — times three — serving on its economic development board.
Marty Smith, Mary Beth Harrell and Barbara Burrow bring different talents, styles and backgrounds to the board, but all three got to Texas by the same route — the U.S. Army.
Smith met her husband in college while he was in the National Guard. When he went on active duty, the Army took Smith from the cotton fields of Missouri to the sands of Saudi Arabia.
After serving around the world for 32 years, the couple retired and settled on a ranch near Pidcoke in 2000. Smith served seven years as president of the Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce and was elected to a vacant seat on the Cove City Council in November.
“We are going to go like gangbusters,” Smith said of the women on the board. “We are going to get a lot accomplished.”
A New York native, Harrell came to Killeen when her husband was stationed at Fort Hood. Since his retirement from the Army, the couple settled in Coryell County. Both their sons — warrant officers like their dad — are serving on active duty.
A former prosecutor in Nolanville and Temple, Harrell practices law in Bell and Coryell counties as head of her own law firm with offices in Killeen and Gatesville.
Harrell ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2006, challenging incumbent John Carter in the 31st Congressional District of Texas.
Active in many civic organizations, Harrell also founded two nonprofit organizations: St. Francis Animal Sanctuary for dog rescue and Assisi Animal Refuge for capture, spay/neuter, release of feral cats.
She produced and hosted a television talk show, “Insight,” on KNCT in 2007.
Burrow came to Texas as a child in the 1960s when her father was stationed at Fort Hood. She grew up in Harker Heights and graduated from Killeen High School in the last class before Ellison High School opened in 1978.
As a student at Central Texas College, Burrow watched small businesses spring up along the recently opened U.S. Highway 190 and said she became fascinated with the potential rewards and challenges of business ownership.
In 2003, Burrow and her husband, a retired Army warrant officer, moved to Gatesville and bought an old building with the dream of opening a restaurant.
In the 10 years it took to realize that dream, Burrow was elected to the Gatesville City Council, campaigned to legalize alcohol sales in the city and became active on economic development boards for the city and county.
The women serve on the board with Dick Van Dyke, Fred Chavez, Sam Golden and Eric Kietzer.
Van Dyke, board president, said the women are “a great element” providing balance for the group.
Chavez said the women’s ties to Fort Hood give the board credibility with the military community, the most powerful economic force in the region.
“The Army is the county’s largest employer,” Chavez said. “It is the 800-pound gorilla next door.”
The women bring a fresh perspective and attention to detail that will keep their male colleagues on their toes, Chavez said.
“They are not afraid to ask questions. They are not shy,” he said. “They are strong, smart and savvy. We are going to have to get new boots and do some running to keep up with them.”