What is your profession?
A. I'm a full-time County Commissioner now have been since I was elected and sworn in 2017. Prior to that, I served on the CCISD school board and also on the Corpus Christi City Council. During that time, I worked full-time for the State of Texas and I was a supervisor there with the Department of Family and Protective Services, so I served for 15 years there until I was elected, and so I completed my time with the state at the end of 2016.
What made you choose to go into public service?
Just growing up, my mother and father were very active volunteering and just being a part of our community for my sister and I and I think I just saw that just growing up in different organizations with our church and sports groups and scouting and other groups — I just saw my parents giving back and they weren't into politics. They would vote every election, but they made it a point to be very active in doing their civic duty and so, I think that just kind of helped set a great example for me and then when I started working for the state, I just found the job and a great calling there. When I first ran for city council and got elected, I just found that I really enjoyed. serving the people and serving in policy and budget-making matters and decisions, and so that's been a calling for me for years now.
What relevant experience would you say you have?
I think being here, having worked through the budget and all the items that we've had come up. My first year in office, we dealt with Hurricane Harvey and the aftermath of that, and now, of course, through COVID. Those have been really two major times in the last three years where county government has been essential, and I think we need people with experience to be able to have the right perspective and good balance of what the community needs as far as (not just) the amount of resources we put in the the services, but the amount of services that are offered. That has really been, I think, a test based on the leadership I already had, but definitely these last few years have been quite a challenge for Nueces County in general. That's why I'm running again, because I believe that we need leadership with good decision-making. I have a record of that. I want to continue to serve the people of Precinct 3. I do that with honor and I do that with a great amount of joy. I really do love serving the people.
How have your life experiences prepared you continuing this position?
When I was in 5th grade, we had — then — the mayor Luthor Jones come speak to our class and talk about civic involvement and just about being the mayor and it was at that time that I knew that I wanted to be some sort of public servant. It was just kind of that passion being in the back of my head all those years that I knew that — I mean — I never thought I would be here as a commissioner, but that I would be able to serve the people. That was a big influence on me, and other elected officials as well.
Cazalas and Berlanga and other names like that - -they're so important to me, growing up and knowing who they were. Even at 10, 11, 12 years old. I've always been keenly aware of the community and our leaders, and so that's what really got me started into politics. I ran for city council when I was 18, and didn't win. I came in second out of three candidates, but I said, you know what? I going to come back and run for council again when I'm prepared, when I'm finished with college and I have a job and just be a better part of this community and so I ran in 2005 against an incumbent and we won. The saying goes, "and the rest is history," but every election has been a challenge and a battle, but we worked hard and the people know us and myself and my family, my spouse, we're very active in our community and so people just know that we're a family of service and so, that's really what is guiding me and I think that helps prepare me to seek a second term.
What some issues you continue to manage if reelected?
When I first ran three years ago, I had three or four really big issues. The first, to me, was the issues of colonias. These underdeveloped, underserved communities, neighborhoods in our county. We have a big population of that in Precinct 3. It's a huge problem beyond just being able to fix it in a year or few years. It's an ongoing issues that we're going to have to work to build up infrastructure to help improve those neighborhoods. And that's — I can guarantee you, most of my time has been put into working on that. But that's been a goal to work on improving these neighborhoods, and will continue to be a goal if re-elected. Another issue that I have is just — having come from different levels of serving a government — really get the idea of working with our local governments, our cities and our school boards. To help bring better government together. The taxpayers just pay the money. They don't really sometimes realize where the money goes. By being someone that's trying to bring in these different groups to be more efficient with our tax dollars. It think that the community can understand and see that, so that's been a big part of mine, is working with all of the communities. I represent communities all the way from Corpus Christi, all the way to Agua Dulce and every community in between. That, to me, has been a big part of just being efficient with our tax dollars, so that's another goal of mine that's just an ongoing philosophy that I've had for all the years that I've been serving. And of course, roads. Even though we don't control the roads in the city of Corpus Christi and they're working on that. We have a lot of roads. The county roads in the county that need to be fixed. We have a lot of issues with flooding and drainage, and so, those all kind of go together. You build your roads, you can alleviate flooding, but that's been a big issue that we've been tackling, working on for the last three years and that will continue to be another push of mine.
What are some things the county is doing well well right now and should continue or expand?
We're being very resources with the community's tax dollars that they put in through property tax. We've been very conscious of the need this year to have a smaller, more resourceful budget now more than ever. And so we've done that over the three years that I've been here and so, we're trying to do more with less. When you look at the county's budget, we have one-tenth of the size of the city of Corpus Christi, yet we have 60,000 more residents that we're responsible for. And so, I think that puts into perspective that we take our budgets very seriously. I think our partnerships have been an excellent example of what we're doing county-wide. When you look at needs on the island from the island from hurricane Harvey, even some of the restoration dealing with hurricane Hanna. Look at the COVID response. When we look at just overall partnerships — before, if you lived at Nueces County 10, 20 years ago or more, you saw us very compartmentalized. Everybody, all the cities operated and worked separately, the county kind of separate. It was just this, I think a different day in age where everyone was kind of a bit more tight-fisted and wanting to kind of keep control or the influence that they had. But I think, in this day in age, you see a lot of partnerships, a lot of willingness to work together and realizing that we can't do this alone. And once again, I think it goes back to one of the issues that I advocate for. The community wants the taxing entities that they have to be resourceful, and that's only going to happen if you work together, and we've been doing that. You let your guard down, you let your title down. It's not about who you are or what you think you can do, it's about what you do in the end for the community, and I think that people see more coordination, a better value for the dollars that are put in to fix roads or to have a jail and a court system or law enforcement, healthcare, and all the other items that we have to be responsible for. All those responses that we've had and especially people see within this last year, I think, are something that we're doing well. We can always improve, but we're working hard to be that ultimate resource for the community, knowing that we represent 360,000 people here in this entire county, and that's our goal, that's our responsibility regardless of boundaries of cities or school districts or special districts, it's all about one big county, and our success, economically, is very important as well.
Q. What is your profession? Are you retired?
I am retired from the Nueces County Appraisal District.
Q. How have your life experiences prepared you for this position?
I have been — the major part of my professional career — was in the appraisal of property. Both real and personal for our tax purposes. Before that, I worked for a small port industry. That's where I learned about managing the tax burden.
Q. What problems would you address on your first day in office?
Moderation of public funds would be a nice way to put it. I want our funds to be at the highest and best use for the benefit of the people of the county. The most important short-term thing is, we need to prepare for, if not a new courthouse, great expansion. We need to be buying land near the proximity of the courthouse that there is now. We need to be getting our house in order so to speak so that we can sell bonds to build. I'm old enough to remember when we built what they call "new" courthouse. It was beautiful. But now, it's overrun. Storage everywhere. The jail is outdated. We're going to need a new jail. We're going to need a vastly-expanded courthouse to meet the need of the people in the 21st century. We're still paying off debts — we can't plan for the future while we're paying off the past.
What do you see as long-term issues which need to be addressed throughout your time in office?
We owe $1,209,994,835 and we owe over $35(,000)-$36,000 worth of interest outstanding. This year, we had to pay $13,132,327 and that is an exorbitant amount. That's why Standard & Poor's raised our credit rate. We owe too much money. That's one thing. The main thing that's driven me low all these many years is the state property tax code became effective in 1982, and it did wonders. It made one appraisal where all the taxing jurisdictions in the county. No more city, school, college. It's all one appraisal. And all the jurisdiction does is set the tax rate. The main reason I'm running is section 26.04 out of the state property tax code, having to do with how the effective tax rate is decided, and it expressly relieves the taxing jurisdictions of new property tax values. That means the taxes are accessed — they are collected — but they do not go into the budget.
Q. What is Nueces County doing well right now that needs to be expanded further?
The county, they meet the needs of the citizenry to their uttermost. The courts. The clerks. The jail personnel. The Sheriff's department. They work to the uttermost to meet their needs, to meet the needs of the people. There's nothing wrong with that. No flies on that anywhere.