Victoria County commissioners race between Burns, Herrerra heats up
Oct. 19, 2012 at 5:19 a.m.
Updated Oct. 20, 2012 at 5:20 a.m.
Citizens Medical Center and road maintenance are major points in the Precinct 3 Commissioner race.
Republican incumbent Gary Burns hopes to defend his seat from Democratic challenger Rey Herrera, a sheriff's deputy.
The GOP incumbent for Precinct 3 Commissioner said his goals and motivations haven't changed since the first time he sought the office: Gary Burns wants to make the community better.
Although commissioners are historically known as the keeper and maintainer of county-owned roads, Burns said those responsibilities are out of date.
His focus is on economic development, building public-private partnerships and increasing higher education opportunities in the community.
"Anything that affects this county, commissioners should be aware of it and a part of it," Burns said. Be "involved in the community and see what's going on ... know the problems."
One of the most contentious issues following the county is the potential sale of Citizens Medical Center. Burns said the final decision will depend on what the consultants, who have the big picture, come up with.
"It's like a business - you have to evaluate each decision to see if there's a better way to operate," Burns said. "You don't want to wake up 10 years from now and have nothing in the reserves and a liability instead of an asset."
He said the hospital is not up for sale, and the bottom line is that residents' needs will continue to be met.
He said he has learned to be "more realistic" in his planning, and is able to apply what's really needed versus what's only wanted.
"We're very well off financially, but that doesn't mean we have to spend it just because we have it," Burns said.
Burns describes himself as a fiscal conservative.
"I voted to go down on taxes and got beat every time," Burns said, adding that, "we need to be able to keep our costs down."
The county and each precinct needs to pull together for countywide projects, he said.
Looking forward, the county's biggest challenges will be to keep up with infrastructure as the area grows, make formal plans for real estate development at the airport and a long-term plan for road and bridge projects.
"Unless you have a definite goal and plan, we'd fall back to the old mindset," Burns said.
Burns said supporting the sheriff's office is another focus. He wants to see more investment in adding personnel and vehicles in response to the county's population and economic growth.
"Victoria is blessed," Burns said. "We're in a boom time. I want to hang onto the train to see where it goes."
The Democratic contender for Precinct 3 Commissioner said he wants to bring Hispanic representation to the county.
Rey Herrera, a 63-year-old sheriff's deputy and school resource officer, said he has the experience and leadership for the office.
Herrera retired from Alcoa with 36 years of experience and in 2006 became a fully certified peace officer.
"We have a large Hispanic population," Herrera said. We need more diversity in government."
One of the major issues in this election is the potential to sell the county-owned Citizens Medical Center and the existing lawsuit the hospital is in.
Herrera said he has been unsatisfied with the answers from current elected officials.
"They're supposed to be up-front and let everyone know," he said.
Herrera said the lawsuit is a loss to taxpayers, and that the money should be going back into the hospital.
"I would look at all the options," he said. "Is there really money going back in? Is it necessary for a county to own a hospital?"
If elected, Herrera said he would emphasis maintaining the roads and bridges, working with Victoria Economic Development Corp. to make the county attractive to businesses and making the neighborhoods safer by supporting law enforcement agencies.
"This is an ideal place for a business to come in and invest in our community," Herrera said. "We've got to look at ways to fund what we're committed to."
However, you have to live within your budget, he said.
He said almost every county road is in need of repair. Patching and postponing is not the answer, he said, but a planning board that includes a timeline of projects would help organize repairs.
Herrera also said overgrown ditches have become an open invitation for trash dumping in Precinct 3.
By keeping those ditches maintained, the precinct can, in time, save tax dollars.
"Everybody wants a safe community and a safe neighborhood," Herrera said. "A lot of what's happening on our borders is coming through our highways."
He said he wants to see more neighborhood patrolling.