Three candidates have filed in the Republican Primary for Bell County Commissioner, precinct two: Tim Brown, incumbent, Brit Owen and Bobby Whitson.
We asked each of them for a short biography and to answer the following questions:
Question 1: Why are you seeking election now? What qualities do you have that make you the best choice for the position? (150 words or less)
Question 2: What do you see as the greatest challenge facing the Bell Co Commissioners in the next 10 years? How do you plan to address it through the commissioners court, if elected? (150 words)
Question 3: Faced with budget cuts or a tax increase, which would you prefer? If budget cuts, which departments? (100 words).
Precinct 2 Commissioner Tim Brown is currently serving in his sixth term on the Commissioners Court. Prior to taking office, he was an independent designer, builder and land use planner. He holds Bachelor of Environmental Design and Master of Science in Land Development degrees from Texas A&M University. Since taking office in 1995, he has been instrumental in strategic planning, project development and management for major capital projects for the county.
He is active in intergovernmental affairs and state policy development in several areas affecting local governments. He was appointed by Gov. George Bush the Texas Courthouse Preservation working group and to the Texas Historical Commission Oversight Committee for the Texas Courthouse Preservation Grant Program. He is recognized state wide as a leader in transportation policy. He was a charter member and two-time President of NASCO, the nation’s premier corridor coalition. He chaired the TransTexas Corridor Citizens Advisory Committee, the TTC-35 Advisory Committee and the I-35 Advisory Committee for the State of Texas under Gov. Rick Perry. The plan developed by the latter committee served as a blueprint for major system improvements currently under construction.
He currently serves on the Board of Directors and Policy Committee of the Texas Conference of Urban Counties. He is a Past-President and current board member of the Central Texas Council of Governments. He is Past-President and current member of the Killeen-Temple Metropolitan Planning Organization. He is member of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of the Hill Country Community Action association.
He serves on the Brazos G Regional Water Planning Group. He also leads the Edwards Aquifer Adaptive Management Coalition managing research directed toward groundwater and critical habitat protection in southern Bell County.
Tim and his wife, Lana, have two grown children.
Question 1: I’m seeking a final term because we have some unfinished goals. I’m in the lead on several ongoing initiatives that are vital to our region. Our collaborative research on our part of the Edwards aquifer is critical to Salado for several reasons, and that project is pretty much my baby. I have several regional transportation goals in the early planning stages. I’m restarting an effort to develop a regional flood control plan and we’re rewriting our subdivision ordinances to place greater emphasis on storm water management. These are all complex undertakings and I want to see significant progress on all of them before I retire.
I have the technical expertise and experience to deal with these kinds of initiatives and a proven ability to move complex projects like these forward.
Question 2: Quite simply, the demands of growth will drive everything. Our single biggest challenge will be to meet those demands and, at the same time, contain costs. The issues are not new – just bigger and more complicated. Counties are service providers and a growing population equals more consumers of those services – roads, public safety, criminal justice, etc. Our challenge is compounded by the fact that in recent years the state has passed an ever-increasing share of program responsibilities down to local governments without funding assistance.
There are no easy solutions but we will continue do what we have done with proven success – be proactive and creative in developing projects, finding ways to increase efficiency, and managing the business of the county with tight-fisted frugality.
Question 3: Given that simple choice, we’d probably do both. But it’s really not a matter of preference. Our duties and responsibilities are mandated by state law and we’ll do what we must to meet our constitutional responsibilities. Since we’ve pretty much set the benchmark for efficiency already, there really isn’t much to cut without getting into to the basic services across the board. Austerity measures would first hit non-essential departments like Information Technologies and the Bell County Museum, and secondary efforts like our help centers, meals-on-wheels, the extension service, groundwater research, etc. After that, the effects would be felt in the quality of our roads, and response times for public safety, case completion rates for the courts, etc. That said, my goal is to keep fighting to get the job done with the resources we’ve got.
Brit Owen is a sixth generation Bell County. “My family roots run deep into the very heart of Bell County,” he said.
After graduating from Southwest Texas State University, he began a teaching career in the field of Agricultural Education. He taught High School Agriculture in Texas public schools for 13 years. He is heavily involved in the Bell County Community to include the following:
• 15 years Salado Education Foundation Member
• 15 years Small Business Owner
• 17 years Bell County Youth Fair – Past President and Board Member
• 20 years Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo – Bell County GO TEXAN Committee – Past Ambassador and Member – Currently serving as the Assistant District Director for District 5, which works in conjunction with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to bring scholarships back to Bell County Youth
After teaching, he embarked on a career in the Insurance Business. Over the years, he has successfully grown a substantial size book of business in the area. Managing employees and customer needs on a daily basis. “I attribute my success to attention to detail, quality staff, and a self -motivated desire to succeed with a work ethic like no other,” he said.
“I will be open minded and resourceful in searching for long term solutions,” he said, “that are not only cost effective, but spawn economic growth for business and industry as well as providing a stable market for our local family owned business’ and entrepreneurships. Our country prospers when the local business owners are successful!”
Question 1: The Differences Are Evident! I am following my servants heart. My strengths are that I am an approachable man with many years of diversified experience in education, community service, and as a business owner. My continued support and involvement with local youth groups, educational seminars, and many other civic organizations have kept me familiar with the local needs and concerns. I will bring a level headed, common sense approach, to the Commissioners Court. We must be very conservative in spending, while working hard to prioritize projects and programs that would allow for both logical flow and reasonable outcomes to reach desired achievements. I believe as public servants we all should hold ourselves to a higher standard with our actions speaking louder than our words. My Christian beliefs and values will continue to be at the forefront of my thoughts and drive to serve my constituents.
Question 2: The main issues that are impacting Bell County the most presently stem from the rapid growth rate that has become a standard occurrence for our County. And the projections for continued growth is evident that we have only just begun to see the very beginning of the total growth we should expect to see. With this growth, we are being made even more aware of the ongoing issues that impact any area of this State. Those issues are: Sustainable water supply, increased violent crime rate, continued stress on an aging infrastructure system, roads and bridges, communication systems, water and sewer treatment facilities, and continued stress on the property owner taxes with property values continuing to increase.
Our immediate concern will be to manage this growth in a positive manner that preserves our quality of life and stimulates positive economic growth. We must get creative in our thinking and collaborate more with our cities and state government as well as public and private interest in our efforts to direct and encourage prosperity for all the citizens of Bell County. If we look around, its not hard to find the areas that are on the right track. Dealing with State Mandates and other public services that we all want and deserve will also be an ongoing struggle that will require a very broad view point and creative strategies to implement workable measures and procedures that allow for the continued support of those services.
Question 3: We must educate the public if a tax increase is warranted and therefore gain voter approval before beginning any projects or tax increases. A large majority of the county budget is consumed in funding State mandated programs. That leaves very little discretionary spending.
We need to examine all departments and work collectively to identify areas that need improvement. And when you have new person’s looking at the departments, often times you will discover things over looked or ways and means to be more effective therefore allowing for the departments to run more efficiently in turn saving tax payer dollars.
Bobby Whitson, age 43, has lived his entire life in Precinct 2.
Growing up in rural Bell County taught me to appreciate the value of our people, natural resources, and military presence.
is a graduate of Texas A&M University and the Southwestern Graduate School of Banking at Southern Methodist University. He has 20 years of executive management in banking in Killeen and Harker Heights. He is the President/CEO of Greater Central Texas Federal Credit Union in Killeen.
He has held positions as a Mortgage Lender, Commercial/Construction/Development Lender, Compliance Officer, Human Resources Officer, Marke ting Officer, Executive VP, and President. He is also an independently licensed Mortgage Loan Originator (NMLS# 469502) and Licensed Auctioneer (TXLIC# 15023).
Whitson serves as a fireman for Salado Fire and Rescue, the Secretary for Central Texas Council of Governments’ Development District of Central Texas, the President of the Killeen/Ft. Hood USO Advisory Board, Past President of the Harker Heights Rotary Club, member of the Village of Salado Public Safety, Economic Development, and Pace Park Advisory Committees, Advisor for the Southwestern Graduate School of Banking at SMU, and volunteers for many other organizations to include Keep Salado Beautiful, Salado and Harker Heights Chambers of Commerce, Salado High School Athletic Boosters, and Ducks Unlimited.
Whitson says that his professional and personal experiences have proven his ability to operate a private business, financial cooperative, and community oriented activities efficiently and effectively. “These same skills,” he says “in leadership, human resource management, financial analysis, budgeting, economic development, public safety, regulatory compliance, natural resource management, and communication are all integral to a County Commissioner’s responsibilities.”
Whitson and his wife of 21 years, Deanna, have two children, Madison and Bo, who are Seniors at Salado High school and are simultaneously earning their Associates Degrees at the Texas Bioscience Institute in Temple.
In my 20 year professional career, I have been active in our community as a Commercial/Residential/Agricultural Lender, Compliance Officer and, currently, President/CEO of Greater Central Texas Federal Credit Union. I have participated in various civic/non-profit organizations, and municipal committees on veterans affairs, water resources, parks and recreation, economic development, and public safety. These activities have honed my skill in these areas and are necessary skills needed to manage a county government, but an official’s technical expertise is useless to residents if that official ignores their needs. That is why my leadership and communication skills, accessibility, and love of this community, used in conjunction with my technical expertise makes me the best candidate and is also why I am running now. It is time we have a Commissioner who listens to us and is attentive to our needs rather than habitually absent from our community until election season.
Question 2: What do you see as the greatest challenge facing the Bell Co Commissioners in the next 10 years? How do you plan to address it through the commissioners court, if elected?
Growth. Ensuring water availability, maintaining public safety, improving an aged road and bridge system and attracting quality commercial development are all major concerns related to growth. While the Commissioners Court may not be able to directly control all aspects of any of these issues, it is vitally important that growth be mitigated by a concerted effort of Federal, State, County, and Local Government to foster economic development targeted at businesses that attract quality jobs and diversify our economy. Without water, adequately trained and equipped Law Enforcement/Fire/EMS, and suitable roads, businesses cannot grow and we will become more dependent on residential properties to carry the burden. As Commissioner, I will continue to use the healthy relationships that I have fostered in our community to facilitate cooperation between government officials, economic development corporations, chambers of commerce, and Fort Hood to collaborate on worthwhile business development opportunities. Question 3: Faced with budget cuts or a tax increase, which would you prefer? If budget cuts, which departments?
Budget cuts, but in Bell County, taxable market value has increased 19.3% from $18.3 Billion in 2014 to $22.7 Billion in 2017 resulting in increased revenue of 12.7% while only increasing our population by 8.1%. This means more money is available per capita every year so neither tax increases nor budgets cuts are necessary. This is why public safety, adequate transportation infrastructure and quality economic development is essential to add market value (increasing ad valorem tax revenue) and create jobs (increasing sales tax revenue) so that neither budget cuts nor tax rate increases are necessary.