The race to represent Refugio County’s Precinct 1 on the county’s commissioners court is one that has been marked by loss.
Last year, longtime Commissioner Ann Lopez died of a sudden heart attack, leaving her seat open and the community in mourning. Then, in July, after Val Ortega had won the Democratic nomination for the seat, he too, died, from COVID-19, which has killed more than 200,000 Americans.
As voters begin casting their ballots to pick the next commissioner, they will choose between Democrat George Hernandez and Republican Roy Payne. Whoever is elected will represent both precincts 1 and 1A, which covers a large stretch of southeastern Refugio County and part of Woodsboro.
In Texas, county commissioners are responsible for maintaining the roads and bridges within their precincts and for passing the county’s budget and tax rate.
Payne, of Woodsboro, said he was running for the position because he was looking for a way to serve his community and his home county. Payne, 61, works as the annex supervisor for the sheriff’s office. In that position, he helped coordinate the office’s response to Hurricane Harvey, when it was receiving supplies and donations from throughout the state. Prior to that, Payne spent 17 years working for the Texas Department of Transportation.
“Well, I want to help the citizens of my precinct,” Payne said.”I really think a lot of people know me and see me and they want someone that’s out in the public working everyday.”
Hernandez was appointed to finish the rest of Lopez’s term by County Judge Robert Blaschke. Hernandez, 72, hadn’t planned on running for office, but after his friend Ortega died he decided to seek a full term in the position. Hernandez has been on the Woodsboro school board and served as the mayor of Woodsboro, and previously worked as the jail administrator for Refugio County.
Hernandez said he planned to focus on the county’s drainage, roads, and water systems if he were to be elected.