Ashley Hernandez and Jane Bernal

Republican candidate Ashley Hernandez, left, and Democratic candidate Jane Bernal, right, will face each other in the November election for Victoria County tax assessor-collector.

Two Victoria natives will face off Nov. 3 in the race to become the county’s next tax assessor-collector.

Republican candidate Ashley Hernandez, 35, who works in the tax office as assistant chief deputy of the motor vehicle department, said during a debate hosted by the Victoria Advocate and the Victoria Chamber of Commerce this week that to her, experience “trumps everything.”

While working in the office for the past 13-and-a-half years, she said she’s seen how things operate, knows what needs to be done and knows what needs to change.

“I have the experience, know-how and the ability to lead this office into the future,” Hernandez said.

Democratic candidate Jane Bernal, 62, said the administrative management experience she brings to the table makes her the best candidate for the job. Bernal worked for Victoria County for more than a decade as an assistant chief court clerk with the justice of the peace court, and worked for 26 years with both Victoria and Bloomington school districts, she said.

“To me, being in an office and running an office, being an administrator is vital for this position,” she said.

The winner of the election will replace longtime tax assessor-collector Rena Scherer, who began her tenure with the county in 1993.

To bring integrity, accountability and transparency to the office, Bernal said she would have an “open door policy” if elected for the job.

That policy would extend to both the staff and customers alike, she said, so there is clear communication and everyone is on the same page. As the county’s tax assessor-collector, Bernal said she would acknowledge the successes of the office and be upfront about any issues that arise.

Hernandez said she’d lead the office on the foundation she knows it to be built on — one that already has a staff that prioritizes being knowledgeable, being efficient and creating a welcome environment for customers.

“I’m sure not too many people are happy when they want to come into our office, so our job is to be welcoming, make sure that we process their transactions correctly,” she said. “We keep everything as simple as possible.”

Both candidates said they would look to implement changes within the office to make it more accessible to customers, which could include extending the hours the office is open. Additionally, Hernandez said she would look into partnering with a different location, such as H-E-B, to add another place for people to go to purchase their registrations.

Bernal said she would look into creating a mobile app for the tax office that customers can use to download files and schedule appointments, like some other Texas counties have. She would do whatever she could to make the office “a lot better for the customer,” she said, including keeping the office open during lunch.

“If it wasn’t for the taxpayers, we wouldn’t have a job,” Bernal said.

Hernandez has been endorsed by Scherer, something the candidate said “is an honor.” Bernal, however, said it’s important for the public to understand that the job includes continued education, trainings and webinars, which is “a big responsibility, and not something that you just learn as a clerk in the office.”

Bernal said she has a proven track record of earning certifications that go beyond the day-to-day duties of her jobs. When she worked for the county as a criminal and civil clerk, for example, she said she received levels 1, 2, 3 and master clerk certifications, which, she said, only a handful of clerks in Texas have achieved.

Hernandez said she already takes advantage of conferences and trainings when she can, and looks forward to the continued education that comes with the job.

“I am ready to take on that responsibility,” she said.

Early voting for the Nov. 3 election begins Tuesday.

Morgan Theophil covers local government for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at 361-580-6511, mtheophil@vicad.com or on Twitter

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