Candidate profiles: Victoria County Judge
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Victoria County voters will have a choice in the Nov. 2 general election race for county judge between a seasoned incumbent and an outsider with differing views.
County Judge Don Pozzi, the Democrat, is being challenged by businessman Matt Ocker, a Republican.
Pozzi, who has been in office eight years, said he offers experience, wisdom and knowledge of county government.
"I have also developed contacts with local, state and federal officials, which bring an awareness and assistance to our community and our issues," he said. "Additionally, I have knowledge of the law and budget preparations."
Ocker said he's an outsider and he believes that would be a good thing for the county's taxpayers.
"My views of government and the supremacy of the individual citizen have not been skewed by years within the system," he said. "Personal friendships will in no way affect how I conduct the business of the county because, honestly, I don't have a personal friendship with the folks that populate various boards or that do significant business with Victoria County."
Pozzi said the recently adopted county budget for 2011 has its strong and weak points.
The budget reflects a balanced spending plan, while ensuring a safeguard for the reserve fund set aside for emergencies, he said.
"For the second straight year, the tax rate is below the effective tax rate, recognizing the difficult economic times our community is continuing to face," he said.
There is also a reduction of $1.847 million in expenditures, while maintaining a level of service the community requires and deserves, he said. Pozzi said it also transfers money to the airport enterprise fund to allow for future reimbursement to the general fund, recognizing the economic engine an airport creates for a community.
Several departments requested additional personnel in their continuing effort to meet unfunded mandates and statutory requirements, Pozzi said. "Unfortunately the commissioners court was unable to fund these requests."
The 2011 budget also does not include funding for additional patrol cars for the sheriff's office, he said. Health insurance costs also continue to rise due to large claims and the county was unable to fund the increases, forcing it to increase employee contributions, Pozzi said.
Ocker said the new budget shows a more realistic reflection of revenues than other recent budgets, budgeted expenditures decreased by roughly $900,000 from 2010 and the property tax rate is less than the effective rate.
But he said while the budget is balanced, it still includes $12.3 million in debt that must be covered. He said the budgeted expenditures exceed budgeted revenues and there is a 58-percent increase in debt service compared to 2010.
He also said there was a combined decrease of $328,382 for the sheriff's office and juvenile inmate contracts from actual 2009 numbers. But the budget assumes an increase of $361,210 for combined fines and forfeitures compared to actual 2009 numbers, which is not a good way to raise income, Ocker said.
"Why are we making an assumption more people are going to be in violation of the law?" he asked.
The budget also calls for laying off 19 employees, some of which had planned to retire anyway.
Pozzi said all of the departments affected by the reduction of force have assured the commissioners court they will make every effort to continue providing the highest level of service to the community.
Although there were three positions not budgeted at the sheriff's office, those positions were not law enforcement personnel, Pozzi said. The commissioners court expects to reinstate those positions when it's financially possible, he said.
Ocker took a more reserved position on the lost jobs.
"Only time will tell," he said. "I would hope that there is a significant negative impact to service, because if not, then we had 19 people on the payroll that should not have been."
Birthplace: Norfolk, Va.
Occupation: Production tester
Experience: 12 years in the oil field, three years in electrical distribution and eight years farming
Family: Two daughters, Hayden, 10, and Madison, 6.
Education: 1995 graduate of Victoria High School, 57 semester hours at The Victoria College.
Occupation: County judge
Experience: Eight years as county judge, practiced civil and criminal law for 33 years prior to being elected
Family: Was married to the late Gaye Gilster Lee. They had four children, Jeff Pozzi, Jonathan Pozzi, Mary Kathryn LeMaster and Walt Lee
Education: 1961 graduate of St. Joseph High School, 1965 graduate of St. Mary's University with a bachelor of arts in economics, 1968 graduate of St. Mary's University with a law degree