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ELECTION 2020: Nueces County Commissioner Pct. 1

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Posted at 2:47 AM, Oct 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-19 11:24:15-04

BILL KELLY

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Age: 61

What is your profession? Are you retired?

I'm not retired by any stretch of the imagination. I'm an attorney. My practice is primarily in family law, in fact I'm board-certified in family law. About a decade ago, maybe a little longer, I grew concerned about the way we resolved family law cases. It's very adversarial, and a new approach was being promoted to mediate cases and try and get people to resolve their differences, decide what they were going to do with their kids between themselves as opposed to having a stranger or judge decide what was going to happen to their child or their property. So I embraced that, because I felt as though that was a much better way for family issues to be resolved. Today, I actually do more mediations than I do litigation, although my litigation practice has evolved into more complex family law cases, larger estates, that sort of thing.

How have your life experiences prepared you for this position?

I was on the city council for eight years and I've been on the Calallen school board — I'm in my eighth year — so I've got a lot of experience building consensus on governing bodies. I've had to do that for the last 16 years. Also, my experience as a mediator has made me particularly adept at building consensus. In fact, that's essentially what the job is — to build a consensus between two people who are very adverse to one another. I do think I'm uniquely qualified for being a county commissioner. I have spent the bulk of my professional career building consensus and working, quite frankly, for the betterment of families. That has always been my focus.

Is there any other relevant experience you would bring to office?

As an attorney, I do a lot of public speaking. But if you want to dig even deeper, you go back to my upbringing, my father was employed by a large petrochemical company. My mother was a social worker who worked for Catholic social services. They instilled in me, a very strong work ethic, but also a strong social conscience. That's where my passion for public service comes from. Both my parents promoted that. They promoted education. Through my mother in particular, I think I've developed a compassion for my fellow citizens and I have brought that with me into my public career and my professional career.

What problems would you address on your first day in office?

The obvious situation right now with the County facing COVID(-19) like the rest of the country, and not just the health concerns, but what our response has done to the economy. I think that there are a lot of families that are hurting — either from being touched by the health crisis or losing their jobs, income being cut and that sort of thing. I think, primarily, I would be looking at how the county is continuing to maintain a priority of keeping people safe, but at the same time, doing what we can to promote the growth of our economy. One thing in the eight years I was on the city council we promoted and were very successful at, and I think that that time on the council demonstrated the importance of promoting economic growth. The other thing that we have to be concerned about, and we've been blessed so far in Nueces County, is that there has been civil unrest throughout the nation and so far, our community, those that are compelled to speak out about civil rights have done so, I think, in a very appropriate manner. They're exercising their constitutional right to free speech, and they're raising very valid points, but at the same time, without destroying other peoples' property, without hurting other people, so we've been blessed in Nueces County, but I do think that we need to be vigilant, and we need to take a lesson from what's going on in the rest of the country and what we're doing right, we need to continue. I think part of that is community policing, and there've been outreach programs in the police department dating at least as far back as when I was on council. It was something that I felt very passionate about. The idea was to have someone in all of our neighborhoods, it would be like the cop on the beat who knows everybody in the community, knows what's going on, and the community knows them. When you get into patrolling in your police cars, you can get away from that. Now, I know that the police department is the city's prerogative, but we have the sheriff's department, so we have a role to play there as well.

What do you see as long-term issues which need to be addressed throughout your time in office?

Considering the crisis, this is the reason that experience is so crucial at this point. One, budget management is going to be a huge issue. We could reasonably expect that property values are going to drop as a result of the dip in the economy and that is going to negatively impact the county's revenue, which, obviously will impact the services that the county can provide, so, having done 16 public budgets, I think is crucial in the coming years as we address this and if you look at long-term goals, particularly for the county, I think drainage cannot be overemphasized. It was a crisis in District 1 when I was on the city council. We had neighborhoods that flooded. I could remember one neighborhood in particular, the Douglas neighborhood. We had to send fire trucks in to get people out of their homes and so drainage is something — we fixed that problem, by the way — it was shockingly silly problems like clogged culverts, a ditch that was stopped 10 feet from completion. Things like that. And so, I've got some experience in that, but we are never going to resolve the long-term drainage issue in this county unless we have a county-wide solution. The immediate crisis though, is managing the budget in an environment of falling public revenue.

What is local government doing well right now that you would want to continue or expand?

You're never going to please everybody, but I think that, in general, management of the health crisis has been good. Clearly, that's going to be a top priority — how we deal with the health crisis and cause the least amount of damage to the economy. I think that the commissioners have done a good job on that. I think that my perspective would be a positive addition to what they've been doing so far.

ROBERT HERNANDEZ

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Age: 70

What is your profession? Are you retired?

I retired from Nueces County after 22 years of service. I began with Nueces County in building maintenance and worked my way into the purchasing department. Under the Shamsie administration, I helped to streamline the purchasing process and develop better methods for acquiring and maintaining products which resulted in noticeable savings and a more efficient procedure. During my time with Nueces County, like many county employees, I always worked a part-time job as well. I have been a small business owner, and I know the value of a dollar.

What relevant experience can you bring to office?

I bring to the table something money can’t buy. Twenty-two years of hands-on experience working in and learning about Nueces County government from the inside. I bring straight talk and common sense. I not only watched but had to live with the decisions made by Nueces County commissioners. I watched the spending, the contracts which were awarded, and the projects that were approved. I watched the employee benefits get passed over year after year while unnecessary projects took priority. I have worked hard all my life never asking or expecting anything to be handed to me. I have seen the wasteful spending, the repeated unnecessary projects, the deterioration of county owned property, and the lack of prioritization of county employee salaries and benefits. My experience is from the school of hard knocks.

How have your life experiences prepared you for this position?

As stated previously, living and breathing Nueces County government and politics for 22 years gives a person hands on experience. I am no stranger to hard work and long hours. The other experience I have comes from raising my family and living in Precinct 1 for over 30 years. My two sons attended school in the Tuloso-Midway School District. My younger grandchildren currently attend school in the Calallen School District while my oldest grandson serves his country in the Army reserves and works on the base as a civilian police officer. The tax rate, school ratings, local business survival, drainage concerns, road conditions, growth and development are issues which I have cared about because my family is here. Precinct 1 has always been and will always be my home. Our families thrive when our community thrives. I live my life humbly and honestly with a strong faith.

What problems would you address on your first day in office?

There are no problems which can be fixed in one day. I feel the priority on the first day has to be communicating with the other commissioners and meeting with the auditor to get a handle on the current budget and upcoming projects. While I have always kept up with county issues and watched the county commissioner’s meetings, I know there is a lot to be gained from sitting down and talking about issues. There is no room for partisan politics in county government.

What do you see as long-term issues which need to be addressed throughout your time in office?

The long-term issues facing Precinct 1 would be drainage and county road repairs. The long-term issues facing Nueces County as a whole would be lowering taxes, cutting programs and projects which increase spending but add no value to the county, and equalizing pay for Nueces County employees. We have to be diligent in our spending and prioritize programs which actually offer a return or benefit to Nueces County.

What is local government doing well right now that needs to be expanded further?

Local government is taking the initiative during the COVID-19 pandemic to upgrade the technology in the courthouse. Departments have needed technological upgrades for years and the issue has been forced with virtual meetings and the need to work remotely. Investing in technology is a necessary part of growth for this county.