Roughly 10 minutes before the monthly Bryan city council meeting is scheduled to start, Paul Madison is seated in his chair, in front of a nameplate that bears his name.
Short conversations with other council members start up from time to time, but for the most part, Madison sits still with his eyes fixed straight ahead.
"Sometimes the regular session will last as long as 10 or 11 o'clock at night. The day is really not a simple day. It's actually pretty long for us," Madison said.
The meeting begins promptly at the scheduled time, and the six council members slowly make their way through the agenda items, voicing individual concerns over some items, while letting audience members voice frustrations over others.
The routine is nothing new to Madison -- he's served as a council member for eight years. And as any seasoned veteran would, Madison listens to each subject carefully as if hearing it for the first time, even though he's already done research on the subject many hours before the meeting.
"He's probably as prepared, or better prepared than any council member. If you ask him about that night's agenda at hand, he could probably dictate to you what one, two, there and all the way up to the end of the agenda dictates," said council member and mayor pro-tem Jason Bienski.
But Madison's meticulous preparation for the meetings isn't out of habit as much as from necessity.
"About two years ago, we discovered a tumor had developed on my cranium, and it had been there for about 10 years. And because of the length of time it had been there, when it was removed, it created quite a situation for me - the optic nerve was severed. So as far as my eyes are concerned, they're fine, but it's just the nerves that connect the brain to the eyes that has been severed," Madison said.
Because of the tumor, Madison lost sight completely in his left eye, and can see only shadows approximately six inches from his face in the right eye. The tumor also damaged part of his right ear drum, requiring him to now wear a hearing aid.
But that didn't stop Madison from serving his city. Madison pushed forward, and found ways to adapt so that he could perform the duties that his position required.
"The good thing is with the enhancement of the computer, there's a program that enables the computer to talk to me, and I talk back to the computer. So as material is given to me, I'll have a dialogue with my computer," Madison said.
Aside from the special computer program, Madison attempts to go about his job like any other council member. He still meets with residents from his district, and makes regular public appearances. He serves on city committees, and other organizations in the community. And he does it all with only a little help from family or friends.
"I feel as though I don't need special attention. My family has been tremendous in regards to mobility in moving from point a to point b. And the staff is tremendous. Everybody just jumps in. With that type of support, it really makes it easy to do what I do," Madison said.
Bienski said the council members try not to give Madison any special treatment because of his disability, especially when it comes to issues that they may not agree on. But Madison's constant dedication to his job and his passion for the issues that affect his constituents have earned him the respect of the council.
"He gives 110 percent of his effort, and he tries and strives harder than most of us to achieve what we all achieve. And he's given forth a much higher effort in my opinion because of the situation that life has dealt with him. It may be a challenge to others, but it's not a challenge to Paul. And he's made the best of the situation," Bienski said.
As the council meeting nears the end, Madison pushes his chair back from the council bench, and starts to stand on his own. Bienski slides in behind him, and directs him down the hall to the elevators. They'll be going into a closed door executive session meeting, one Madison is assuredly prepared for. Just like he'll be prepared for the next council meeting. And the one after that.
Because Madison is determined to serve his city and its residents to the best of his ability, no matter how good -- or poor -- his vision is.
"I want everyone to know if you have a disability, that disability shouldn't be something that should hold you back or keep you from doing anything. I believe that if one perseveres and if one believes in himself or herself, that they can accomplish anything," Madison said
More Info About Paul Madison
-- Madison has served eight years as a city council member. His district seat is up for election in 2010.
-- Madison has six children: Precious, Prentiss, Paula, Patrice, Paul Jr., and Pamela.
-- Madison attended E.A. Kemp High School (which was later combined with Stephen F. Austin to create Bryan High), as well as Texas A&M, Prairie View, Blinn (Brenham) and Texas Southern University.
-- Madison owns "Madison Metals" on Highway 21, a scrap metal business his father started in 1932.
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