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Victoria County Commissioner Precinct 1 Democratic Primary

May 19, 2012 at 12:19 a.m.

Kenny Spann

Editor's Note: Early voting is May 14-25 for the May 29 general election. To help our readers learn more about candidates in the contested races, we will publish responses to the League of Women Voters questionnaire. Candidates Kenny Spann, Chris Rivera, Kenneth Wells, Gabriel Soliz, Danny Garcia and Annie Ramos respond today.

• NAME: Kenny Spann

• AGE: 55

• OCCUPATION: Commissioner

Background and Qualifications:

Three plus years as a Commissioner and fourteen years as a City of Victoria Inspector, a combination of experience and public interaction giving me the ability to work directly with people of all areas. As a Commissioner I have experience objectively listening and responding to requests from residents.

Why are you seeking this office?

I am humbled at the opportunity to continue to serve. There is more work to do to enhance the quality of living for us now and lessen the financial burden on future generations.

During my first years, I concentrated on meeting immediate needs such as proper disposal of solid waste, recycling, and road improvements. Currently my focus, in addition to road projects, is on expanding the recycling opportunities and in assisting residents in Placedo and Bloomington to secure grants for water and sewer improvements.

We have made a good running start on issues in Precinct 1; let's keep building together.

What is your vision for our county and what steps would you take to get us there?

My vision for our county is a committed response to quality services; quality services that are delivered in a timely manner by officials and employees. We are public servants who must be willing to accept responsibility.

Steps to get us to innovation and quality services start with listening and take notes of what our customers the public are saying. We also have to be willing to learn from our mistakes. People have a right to expect better government service. We should deliver.

What challenges does our county face and how would you address them?

Counties face mandates from federal and state government for increases in programs and services, while at the same time federal and state support to local government is declining and they face demands from taxpayers to keep taxes low.

We face this challenge by making sure our voice is heard at the state and federal level. We also face this challenge by making every effort to keep the tax rate low.

What opportunities do you see for the County to increase revenues and reduce expenses?

Victoria County, for many years now, has partnered with the city of Victoria to provide joint services such as fire, EMS, public health and emergency management. This partnership has worked well and has resulted in decreasing expenses. We should continue discussions with our partners for innovative ideas on how to expand this partnership.

And we should also be facilitating regional partnerships by including neighboring counties in problem-solving approaches. Some possible partnerships include emergency services, response and recovery and interoperability of radio communications.

• NAME: Chris Rivera

• AGE: 59

• OCCUPATION: Former commissioner

Background and Qualifications:

Graduate of Texas A&I in Kingsville, TX a degree of Business Administration and the Texas Association of Counties Curriculum 2000 for Texas County Commissioner's. I have worked for the U.S. Department of Commerce, Victoria County, and the Boys and Girls Club of Victoria. I operated my own Real Estate business.

Why you are seeking this office?

I have served as a justice of the peace and county commissioner. I bring a sound, common sense approach that is based on experience and leadership. I have good communication skills and have served on many boards and community organizations. I bring proven experience and education to manage county government while looking out for the interest of the taxpayer. I have completed the Texas Curriculum 2000 education for county commissioners, and I am ready to serve. I enjoy the challenge of this office, and my door is open to the community, and I remain committed to doing the best job.

What is your vision for our county and what steps would you take to get us there?

Victoria County should be a place where people can raise a family in a safe neighborhood, where people can work and send their children to college. We are a pro-business county and continue trying to locate companies in Victoria. While the county tax rate remains low, it needs to remain that way to continue to attract companies. To maintain current standards and continue progressing, it is imperative to work jointly with other government agencies. As commissioner, I will maintain regular contact and communications with the many other government agencies and personnel. Working together, we can reach that vision.

What challenges does our county face and how would you address them?

As federal and state governments continue to cut back on funds, counties are faced with unfunded mandates. I have the experience and proven leadership to meet the challenges of the future and to serve as your voice on commissioners' court. I will be an effective commissioner, readily available to hear and discuss individual concerns and those of the entire community. I can make knowledgeable decisions in a conservative manner with our county's best interest. I remain dedicated to serving our citizens while ensuring the county continues to be fiscally responsible and accountable.

What opportunities do you see for the County to increase revenues and reduce expenses?

Sales tax revenues will increase with the growth of Victoria due to Caterpillar hiring 1,100 people to work and the increase in oil field activity. This is a time when experience in working with budgets and preparing for the future is greatly needed. I bring a proven record of experience and knowledge and will remain committed to doing the best job possible. With this new revenue we must invest for the future and be prepared for emergencies. Costs are increasing and experience is needed for keeping the tax rate low. My budget will be based on needs and not wants.

• NAME: Kenneth Wells

• AGE: 46

• OCCUPATION: Victoria County Sheriff's Office deputy

Background and Qualifications:

In 14 years at the Sheriff's Office I have earned several certifications which include: Advanced Peace Officer, D.A.R.E. Instructor, G.R.E.A.T. Instructor, TCLEOSE Instructor, Project Lifesaver State Instructor, and Certified Crime Prevention Specialist. I've lived and worked here throughout my life, and where I choose to raise my three sons.

Why you are seeking this office?

I believe Precinct 1 is ready for a new direction, and I am the one to lead it. I have the passion, work ethic and drive that is needed to be a proactive commissioner, with a fresh vision on where our precinct should be and the energy to get us there. The knowledge and experience I have gained in working for and serving the public thus far is the strongest asset I have to give. Most importantly, I have a sincere and genuine desire that has only grown stronger over the years, to serve the people of my community.

What is your vision for our county and what steps would you take to get us there?

The vision is simple, trust with transparency. There are three items I will focus on improving. Eliminate graffiti: This will be the single, most important change to our precinct. Increase awareness of public safety: I have learned there are tips and tools we can use to make homes and businesses as safe as possible. Create jobs: With the first two objectives in place, this will lead to new business opportunities. Our precinct has vacant buildings that will give individuals a chance at becoming small business owners. I will establish the first Precinct 1 website in Victoria to create transparency.

What challenges does our county face and how would you address them?

The challenge is to regain the trust of the people in the Office of Commissioner of Precinct 1. First and foremost, I will actively listening to the concerns and ideas of the people. I will work together with others to come up with manageable solutions for the betterment of the community. I will see to it that the right solutions are made effective. I will seek grants to develop and support new projects for our precinct. I want to give Precinct 1 a commissioner that is visible to the community yet transparent when it comes to my duties.

What opportunities do you see for the County to increase revenues and reduce expenses?

With the previously stated three priorities implemented, it will bolster the county's economy and will continue to ensure that Victoria remains the crossroads and perhaps the city of choice for people to live. I will tap into the fountain of youth and seek them out for fresh new ideas. Victoria has the benefit of having two institutions of higher education. Empowering our college students with the opportunity to come up with innovative ideas and seeing them come to fruition would create a partnership that would not only enhance our community, but would help Victoria identify its leaders of the future.

• NAME: Gabriel Soliz

• AGE: 39

• OCCUPATION: notary public/city councilman

Background and Qualifications:

After earning my Associates degree from Victoria College where I was Student Government President, I studied Political Science at St Edwards University in Austin. I interned and worked at the State Capital during the 74th and 75th Legislative Session. I am currently District 2 representative on the Victoria City Council.

Why you are seeking this office?

I want to fix the last 16 years of poor leadership and ignored needs of the citizens. Since my time at Victoria College, I noticed a sense of entitlement from Precinct 1 leaders that drove citizens away from participating in the local government process. My time on Victoria City Council is the real difference between me and the other candidates. I have stepped up and fought for the people and I want to continue fighting for them by bringing lasting improvements for the next 20 years. I have the knowledge, the experience and plan all for the betterment of Precinct 1.

What is your vision for our county and what steps would you take to get us there?

I envision an employment explosion in our local industries such as petrochemical, oil & gas, heavy manufacturing and commercial construction. Therefore, I see a great need to build up our infrastructure from conversion of gravel roads to streets, to greater capacity of our commercial routes and rights-of-way. I also see the growth of the smaller surrounding townships due to their lower tax rates and cost of living. Therefore I would empower Bloomington by incorporating it into a city. The greater effect of a two-city county would allow the opportunity to lower the countywide tax rate if possible.

What challenges does our county face and how would you address them?

The greatest challenge to Victoria is our growing poor, elderly and minority populations. The result is a shrinking skilled workforce and an even smaller pool of specialists in training. This leads to an overburdened working tax base and/or restricted community growth. Another constant challenge to Victoria is maintaining a healthy natural environment during our expansion and development periods. A four-part solution would be to maintain a strong infrastructure and service - only budget to keep costs down, create a 381-agreement policy for future business growth, ensure state assistance services are reaching Victorians accordingly and work with TCEQ countywide all year around.

What opportunities do you see for the County to increase revenues and reduce expenses?

It is not the responsibility of the county to just "increase revenue." County government is not a business. It is a service. It should be run with a service, not a business mindset. Just like the idea of separation of church and state, we must recognize the necessary separation of business and state. Revenue and expense options must be relative to services, infrastructure and indebtedness demands. I do believe government should plan for growth or reduction and communicate to the citizens that plan. Government should neither give nor take one dime more than necessary.

• NAME: Danny Garcia

• AGE: 50

• OCCUPATION: Retired

Background and Qualifications:

Worked for TXDOT 31 years as a Transportation Specialist. During which time, I helped develop and implement a statewide training program for engineers and inspectors; as well as managing the infrastructure for our highways and bridges. Former member of the Bloomington I.S.D. school board.

Why you are seeking this office?

I have dedicated my entire adult life building my resume to gain experience and knowledge to have all the qualifications to be the best commissioner Precinct 1 has ever had. I retired this past year and am now ready to take on the task of running for this office. I care about the advancement of this community that I have called home my entire life. I have a sincere desire to build a better future for our families. I am fortunate enough to have gained the experience and expertise that it takes to help us succeed.

What is your vision for our county and what steps would you take to get us there?To ensure that our county is operating as efficiently as possible with the tax dollars available, while providing quality government services at the lowest possible cost.

That all government entities of our county come together and work toward the advancement of our community to provide a better place for us to live and raise our families.

Residents' input is of upmost importance. I will strive to always be accessible and available, conduct town hall meetings to assure that every voice is heard.

What challenges does our county face and how would you address them?

Growth: Work with other agencies and organizations establishing lines of communication so that we are able to provide infrastructure as well as services needed to continue growth.

Flooding issues within the city: Review the hydraulic design currently in place and work with city government to make changes needed.

Maintaining rural county roads: Seek grants and work with TXDOT to secure materials.

Trash on highways: Trash comes from both city and county, SH185 and 87 are state highways. So all agencies should work together to enforce policies already in place.

What opportunities do you see for the County to increase revenues and reduce expenses?

The port of Victoria and Caterpillar are providing many opportunities for continued growth in our county. I will work hard to establish good relationships as well as continuing the ones already in place.

I will work with grant writers and all government agencies ensuring that anything that is available will not be missed.

I will seek opportunities to merge any services that are currently doubled while still providing top service to the taxpayers.

Increasing our revenue base will always be high on my list of priorities. I will continue to promote and invite businesses here to consider Victoria County.

• NAME: Annie Ramos

• AGE: 64

• OCCUPATION: Former justice of the peace

Background and Qualifications:

With 30 years, experience in County Government, I have worked on Budget Worksheets as a Judge. I know the budget concept of the County and they deal with millions of dollars. Legislature sets the laws for commissioners to follow and I am familiar in that area, too.

Why you are seeking this office?

I resigned as justice of the peace because I was limited by Canon Law in helping my constituents and individuals that needed help in certain areas. As a commissioner, I will be able to help the county in different avenues and help built a better future for this community. I will have more contact with individuals and will get to hear their concerns about mosquitoes, ditches, roads and any other complains they bring to my attention. My main focus will be Bloomington and Placedo. These communities have been neglected for too long. The justice of the peace courts need attention, too.

What is your vision for our county and what steps would you take to get us there?

My vision for Victoria County Precinct 1 is to fix water lines in Bloomington and Placedo, put sidewalks, new roads and playgrounds for the children. Bring in more business to these communities. I would have to bring in engineers to look, access and give us their ideas as to how it needs to be done. Next step is to find government grants to help with the expense. Do a presentation to commissioners' court and pray that they approve the projects. I know it will take years for all this to come together but that's one of my visions.

What challenges does our county face and how would you address them?

Victoria County is growing fast and it will have many challenges, that I do know. I will not know until I meet those challenges face-to-face in what kind of decisions I will make. With my experience as a justice of the peace, I had to resolve many unexpected issues and as a county commissioner, I will do the same.

What opportunities do you see for the County to increase revenues and reduce expenses?

As for the revenue increase and reducing expenditures, that is one area I am looking forward in viewing the whole picture of the departments and their budgets. I will have to study the budget in order to answer your question correctly. I don't know at this time.

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