New Texas number plates arrive

Longtime Taylor County Tax Assessor-Collector Lavena Cheek likes to keep a Reporter-News clipping from 1957 on her desk.

The clipping shows a smiling Cheek (then a clerk) holding up that year’s new number plate with the caption "Come and get ’em." Back then, they were six digits.

On Wednesday, a still smiling Cheek was happy to announce the arrival of the seven-digit number plates the Texas Department of Transportation is now distributing.

Seven digits are now necessary because the state has gone through all the unique combinations of six-digit numbers and letters after more than 31 million pairs.

The number plates also have a new look — a hilly landscape below the classic, azure blue sky every Texan knows by heart, with the familiar phrase "The Lone Star State" remaining at the bottom.

The previous background most are acquainted with depicted oil rigs, a horse-mounted cowboy sauntering about a prairie under a nighttime sky, and a NASA space shuttle in the upper left-hand corner. The new number plates also no longer have raised digits, but rather are flat and slightly lighter weight, features that make them cheaper for the state of Texas to manufacture.

Cheek, Taylor County’s tax assessor-collector since 1985, has seen plenty of different number plates through the years. The new design was voted on by Texans on the Texas Department of Transportation’s Web site.

Cheek was glad to see the new design win with 455,878 votes. The second most popular design garnered a mere 294,106.

"I voted for it," she said with a grin.

It was presented to the Transportation Commission in February. The other proposed designs can still be viewed on the Department of Transportation’s Web site.

When asked if she thought back in 1957 she would still be working with Taylor County to see seven-digit number plates, Cheek exclaimed, "Why, no!"

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