GOP primary candidates for Victoria County Judge

Editor's note: To help voters learn more about the candidates, the Advocate is printing profiles provided by the League of Women Voters in contested races in the March 4 Democratic and Republican parties' primaries. Sunday's profile spotlights candidates for the Republican Party nomination for Victoria county judge. The winner will face Democratic Party candidate Ron Reyna in the Nov. 4 general election.

Don Pozzi

Background and qualifications:

I am a lifelong resident of Victoria County. My children and grandchildren live here also. I am a Vietnam veteran. I have a B.A. in economics and a law degree. I practiced law here for 33 years prior to being elected county judge. I love this country, and I love this county.

Why are you seeking this office?

I have held the office of County Judge for 3 terms. I am proud of our accomplishments and I want to continue that service to Victoria County. This job is about experience, leadership, honesty and integrity. I have tried to live by those principles. Regardless of what my detractors may say and think I will continue my fiscally conservative approach to County government. I will continue to have a balanced budget and see to it that your tax rate does not rise by continuing to use that same conservative approach. I respectfully request your vote in the March Republican Primary.

What are three goals you would set for your term and how would you propose to achieve them?

A. To continue the fiscally conservative approach to county government that we have maintained these past 11 years in order to continue to provide the services our citizens expect and deserve.

B. To continue our progress on economic development to grow our tax base so that we can continue to operate under the same, if not decreased, tax rate we have had for 11 years.

C. To continue our progress at Victoria Regional Airport to upgrade our commercial airline service to better serve business and industry and our entire community with larger planes, timely flights and better service in general.

What are ways the commissioners court could improve operations and/or save money? (for example consolidate road and bridge department serving all 4 precincts)

We do very well dealing with the duties and responsibilities of commissioners court. We have an interlocal agreement with the city sharing in the following services: Fire and EMS, Emergency Management, health department, library, communications, overpass contracts and other things that save the taxpayers thousands, if not millions, of dollars a year. Our Commissioners already share manpower and equipment for the county road crew. We are constantly looking for ways to reduce the burdens on our taxpayers.

What challenges does the commissioners court face and any ideas you have to resolve them?

The biggest challenge is keeping up with the growth in our community and the conditions of our county roads. Under the CETRZ (County Energy Transportation Reinvestment Zones) program, we will be receiving $619,000 to be divided among the precincts, which is not nearly enough. We will have additional infrastructure needs as always and will address these needs as we are able without any additional burden to the taxpayer.

How can unfunded mandates from the state and federal levels be handled?

We constantly battle the Legislature on the issue of unfunded and underfunded mandates every session, particularly in the area of indigent defense costs. We have established a pretrial service department to reduce these costs. We need a constitutional amendment prohibiting such mandates.

Ben Zeller

Background and qualifications:

• Lifelong Republican and eighth-generation Texan

• BBA in business

• MBA

State Republican Executive Committee member representing 21 counties• Senior loan officer

• Strong business background in finance, administration and budgeting

• Adjunct business instructor at VC

• Married to Jamie Williamson Zeller, a former VISD teacher. Year-old daughter.

• Active member of Christ Presbyterian Church.

Why you are seeking this office?

I'm running for Victoria County Judge to bring a new vision and new leadership to Victoria County. Voters deserve a choice in this election, and the opportunity to elect a Republican County Judge for the first time in over 100 years. I have the energy, work ethic, and drive to be an effective County Judge and give the hard-working taxpayers of our county the kind of conservative leadership they deserve. I'll use my background in business to cut taxes and put the brakes on government growth.

What are three goals you would set for your term and how would you propose to achieve them?

  1. Cut taxes: The only real way to cut taxes is to actually cut taxes. In this campaign, you'll hear politicians boast of keeping a "stable" tax rate, but if all you are doing is keeping a stable rate while property appraisals rise rapidly, that means actual tax bills are going through the roof. I'll make tax relief a priority in Victoria County.
  2. Eliminate waste: County budget spending has increased 70 percent under the incumbent.
  3. Encourage local opportunity: I want Victoria County to begin keeping more of its own college graduates and young entrepreneurs instead of watching them leave.

What are ways Commissioners Court could improve operations and/or save money? (for example consolidate road and bridge department serving all 4 precincts)

The best way to save money is to not start spending it in the first place. The property taxes we pay = tax rate X the appraised value. When property appraisals rise (like they do nearly every year), the tax rate should be lowered to offset this appraisal increase. When this doesn't happen, politicians think they have license to spend the additional money. I don't believe taxpayers should be penalized just because their homes may arbitrarily rise in value. The county judge sets the priorities and the precedent on commissioners court, and fighting for county taxpayers will be my priority.

What challenges does the commissioners court face and any ideas you have on how to resolve?

Water - Water availability and management is a challenge facing our county and state. We must stay vigilant in protecting our ground and surface water and make sure Victoria's water rights are protected.

Public safety - I'll work with our law enforcement community to ensure it has the tools it need to keep us secure.

Economic growth - We need an educated and skilled workforce in Victoria so business and industry will consider coming here. Our ability to attract new business is limited by the high percentage of our graduates who leave, and we should encourage local businesses to grow and create jobs.

How can unfunded mandates from the state and federal levels be handled?

These mandates should be eliminated to the greatest extent possible. I'll work closely with our state and national representatives to reduce or eliminate the impact of unfunded mandates on Victoria County.