Compare the Upshur County Commissioner candidates

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EDITOR’S NOTE: All candidates running for Upshur County Commissioner Pct. 1 and Pct. 3 were asked to participate in the following questions-and-answers so voters can compare the candidates side-by-side. Some candidates chose not to participate in this free forum. 

 

RICHARD SMITH

Precinct 3

Q – Briefly tell us about your educational and/or business background and how that experience and expertise will help you in representing Upshur County on the Commissioner’s Court.  

A – I graduated Gilmer High School in 1984, and attended University of Texas at Tyler from 1989-1995, majoring in Business Marketing and Industrial Technology. 

I have worked in the Heavy Equipment business for the last 24 years and spent 6 years as a manager for a major heavy equipment dealership. I oversaw a budget yearly between 4.5-6 million dollars, and a staff of 8-12 employees. I have a full understanding how budgeting and forecasting revenues work. Part of my job was to oversee and approve all expenditures, I also worked  with other departments to adjust and set their budgets each year. The experience from these companies, that I worked for, will prepare me to know how  the county budget operates, with  incoming revenues and expenditures. I can and will work dilligently with the county departments to make sure the county is using taxpayer’s money wisely and efficiently. The last 12 years I have been an account manager in the heavy equipment business. The experience  I will bring, can be an asset to the county road and bridge department. Making  decisions for the right equipment with the correct financing, leasing or renting option is just a another one of my many qualifications. 

Being a part of several organizations and committees, has given me vast experience and knowledge to help this county thrive. 

Q – The County faces an uncertain financial future with unfunded-state mandates and shrinking financial assistance from the state and federal governments in the form of grants, loans and aid which could place a larger financial burden on the backs of local tax payers.  How do you think the County can address the many immediate needs while not over-taxing local property owners?

A – Grants that can be utilized to help subsidize some of the departments in the county, and I want to fully use all resources the county has to help with the tax burden. It is my strong belief the county budget needs to be worked on through out the fiscal year, not just at budget time. It is an important part of county government and needs the utmost attention. We need an economic development plan for the whole county to market Upshur County. An economic plan will attract businesses to this county. It is important to have a vision that includes an immediate impact plan, a 5 year plan, 10 year plan, and a 20 year plan. I feel working  with the commissioners and  creating a committee within their precincts is very important. The committee  should include, community leaders, business leaders, financial officials, and school administrators from all of Upshur County. 

Q – Roads – everyone drives them every day and most people have something negative to say about Upshur County Roads. How will you address the need to improve the Upshur County road system?

A – If elected, I want to work with our road administrator on a regular basis to address the needs of our county roads. As I have been campaigning, I have come across some unsatisified citizens with our road issues. My experience with account management and sales in the heavy equipment business, can be beneficial to the citizens of this county.

Q – Why should Upshur County residents cast their vote for you? What sets you apart from your opponents?

A – I am a Conservative Republian with the same true concerns about the future of our county. I do not believe that raising taxes is the answer. There are other means to raising revenue for this county.  My vast experience in the business world, which includes  working with State and Federal agencies, has given me added experience to be qualified for Upshur County Commissioner.

If elected, I will be a strong leader. I will make decisions with the utmost integrity. I will strive to keep Upshur county a great place to live, not only today, but for generation in the future.

DAPHNE GRIMES

Precinct 3

Q –  Briefly tell us about your educational and/or business background and how that experience and expertise will help you in representing Upshur County on the Commissioner’s Court.

A – As a practicing Certified Public Accountant with over 20 years serving Upshur County residents, I can assure the voters, that I will be “Financially Responsible to them!” Not only has my CPA practice been an ongoing business in Upshur County since 1997, my husband and I have owned a Resale Shop in Gilmer as well as run a family cattle farm. My personal and business experiences cover every aspect that the voters experience in dealing with the government. The experience as serving on boards of various non-profits in Gilmer, has allowed me to meet a variety of people in the community that are doing what they can to support the people of Upshur County.

Q –  The County faces an uncertain financial future with unfunded-state mandates and shrinking financial assistance from the state and federal governments in the form of grants, loans and aid which could place a larger financial burden on the backs of local tax payers. How do you think the County can address the many immediate needs while not over-taxing local property owners?

A – The gloom and doom attitude of saying the county faces an uncertain financial future, is not the way I like to look at any financial situation. There will always be fluctuations in tax revenues, grants and aid. Some years will be better than others and what not; however, we need plan for those fluctuations. Ultimately, the bottom line is the county needs to pay its bills and pay its employees. The county needs to make sure they are getting all the sales revenue that is owed to it. Some candidates speak of bringing in new businesses to increase the property tax revenue which is a great idea in itself and that should be a long term goal; but in the meantime we need to encourage our citizens to utilize the local businesses and not go into the next county over to purchase items that can be purchased here. We have businesses here that provide most of our needs. When you buy local, you help the local economy.

Q –  Roads – everyone drives them every day and most people have something negative to say about Upshur County Roads. How will you address the need to improve the Upshur County road system?

A – Ask any citizen of a county in Texas and that is on the top of the list of complaints. I lived the City of Houston, and I can assure you that citizens of Harris County complain about the roads too. There is no way you are going to make everyone happy. The voters took the responsibility of the road system away from the commissioners. I have not studied the road system’s budget, but I will definitely look into seeing if we can increase the funding for the road system.

Q –  Why should Upshur County residents cast their vote for you? What sets you apart from your opponents?

A – This is the hardest of any of the questions to answer. I have never been one to “brag” about myself. So, I need to look at this not as bragging but as listing my assets. I am an organizer. I am a behind the scenes type of person. I will stand up for what is right. I look for hard facts. I will not make a promise I am not 100% sure I can keep. Once I set my sights on righting a wrong, I will not let up until it is complete. I believe the Employees of Upshur County deserve a “Living Wage!”

MIKE ASHLEY

Precinct 3

Q – Briefly tell us about your educational and/or business background and how that experience and expertise will help you in representing Upshur County on the Commissioner’s Court.

A – Graduated Union Grove 1976. Attended LeTourneau’s welding program, accomplished numerous training and additional technical schools during my forty year career with Texas Utilities. Strong business background with over thirty years managing JMJ Farms. I am committed to the task at hand with strong leadership skills, the ability to think critically and problem solve as demonstrated through my forty year career. I believe these fundamental skill sets have prepared me to effectively represent Upshur County.

• Q – The County faces an uncertain financial future with unfunded-state mandates and shrinking financial assistance from the state and federal governments in the form of grants, loans and aid which could place a larger financial burden on the backs of local tax payers.  How do you think the County can address the many immediate needs while not over-taxing local property owners?

A – The County should address these needs by ensuring that we are getting what we’ve paid for by looking into previous investments and making any cuts necessary to the budget at hand. We need to make for certain that we are getting the best deal when making financial decisions and try to attract new businesses that will bring revenue to the County.

Q –  Roads – everyone drives them every day and most people have something negative to say about Upshur County Roads. How will you address the need to improve the Upshur County road system?

A – I will address the need to improve County road systems by ensuring heavy truck are taking the shortest routes off county roads onto state highways. Also, I will develop road plans where the biggest needs are met first.

Q –  Why should Upshur County residents cast their vote for you? What sets you apart from your opponents?

A – As a full time commissioner, I plan to be proactive in my community and devote time into investing how money is being spent in order to develop better solutions. I will not be out-worked. I will be out and about, fully available and dedicated to my neighbors. I look forward to serving my precinct to create a better future for our community.

KENT ABERNATHY

Precinct 3

Q – Briefly tell us about your educational and/or business background and how that experience and expertise will help you in representing Upshur County on the Commissioner’s Court.  

A – Graduated from Gladewater High in 1976. Attended Kilgore Jr. College and then to UT Tyler-received BS Degree in Technology-1984.

I started my work career at the age of 16 at Holiday Plates in Gladewater and then to Gregg Auto Parts in Gladewater where I worked for a man from Gilmer named Mike Poole. This was my first taste of the auto business. I had several other jobs from that time til 1988 when I joined Texas Eastman and was there til December 1997. During those years, in 1995, I was able to become a partner in McKaig Chevrolet Buick and worked every day there until April 2017. During those years, I was able to wear many hats and the last 10 as the Dealer Operator. Today- I am still consulting and have no day to day responsibilities that will leave me with all my time to devote to county business as it should.

The last 4 decades of Life and Business Experience has molded me into who I am today. During these years- I have met some of the most successful people in every field imaginable in life that I can lean on for information or advice when needed. In the forums-I have said that I have over 1700 contacts in my phone that I have built over the years and I am surely going to use some of them to help make Upshur County a County we ALL can be proud to say we Live! My Business Experiences include being involved with some of the same issues that face our county:Budgets,  Maintaining Assets,  Taxes,  Tax Appraisals, IT Systems and Contracts, Group Health Insurance and Cost, Maintenance of Vehicles, and retaining Great Employees.

 I feel that I am the only candidate with the Experience to handle the tough job ahead for OUR COUNTY to move forward-I WILL EARN YOUR VOTE!

Q – The County faces an uncertain financial future with unfunded-state mandates and shrinking financial assistance from the state and federal governments in the form of grants, loans and aid which could place a larger financial burden on the backs of local tax payers.  How do you think the County can address the many immediate needs while not over-taxing local property owners? 

A – The keyword here in the question is Uncertain nobody is knowledgeable of what really is going to happen. If elected, my first action would be to contact some State and Federal Leaders and get all the info I could possibly get my hands on. The next step would be to address this with the court and come up with a plan(if not already done) to have a employee or even a professional grant writer help the County get us every Penny we can possible get in Aid, loans, and Grants that make Economical Sense for Upshur County . It is time for US(Upshur County ) to start thinking outside the box. We have to have clear Communication with our citizens and Transparency on all decisions that are made that affect them! On the Topic of Economic Development and Transparency  from myself- this is where I stand. I think we need Economic Development for our long term future here in Upshur County. You have to “Begin with the End in Mind” and there has been no Transparency of how that will be funded (probably tax increase as always is) and then given tax abatements to the companies awarded contracts. There has been no plan put forth by a candidate promoting Economic Development and how it’s going to fix the County’s tax problem to build us better roads. From an overall County view point- How will Gilmer, Gladewater, Big Sandy, Ore City , Pritchett, Latch, Shady Grove, East Mountain, West Mountain , and all other communities benefit from his plan.

Q – Roads – everyone drives them every day and most people have something negative to say about Upshur County Roads. How will you address the need to improve the Upshur County road system?

A – This is the hottest topic going and well should be since it is the largest budget item. Without the knowledge of what all is in the works now as far as the plan and worklist, I am going to address like we are at the start of one. My plan would be for Road and Bridge Engineer/ Commissoner make an Inventory list of all their roads and which ones are in need of work that needs to be done. Sit down in workshop  and look over plan and determine which roads are safety issues, School Bus Routes, Minor repairs, Major repairs, etc. 

Then, you come up with a plan to start attacking the problem of fixing the 700 plus miles of road. Come up with a 5 and 10 year plan for maintaining the roads throughout the County. Make sure there is a list of all roads that need repairing and all involved have the list. Keep the list updated with repairs done, changes, and adds to the list. Without jeopardizing safety- I think that the budget dollars ought to be allocated across the Precinct fairly.

Q – Why should Upshur County residents cast their vote for you? What sets you apart from your opponents? 

A – I feel that I am the best qualified candidate due to the fact that I have a lot of experience in  most of the same issues facing OUR county every day. When I started to consider to run over 2 years ago- I talked to friends and Business Owners in Gladewater, Big Sandy, Pritchett, and Gilmer, and they all told me we want this County to move forward. Why can’t we be like other County’s around us and have things they have. My answer to them- We Can! The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same things over and over again and expect different results. It is time to do some things differently! I will be YOUR COMMISSIONER for Pct.3 and represent all of Upshur County. My vow to the Citizens of Upshur County is that I will serve you with Integrity, Honesty, and Transparency to provide you with the services expected through the use of County resources and be held Accountable to the fine citizens of Upshur County.

JIM BARDWELL

Precinct 1

Q – Briefly tell us about your educational and/or business background and how that experience and expertise will help you in representing Upshur County on the Commissioner’s Court.  

A – I graduated from Longview High School and attended Kilgore College and East Texas State University (now Texas A&M at Commerce). I have spent 45 years in the newspaper industry, running numerous newspapers and printing plants in East Texas for large newspaper chains and have been responsible for multi-million-dollar budgets, overseeing delivery fleets, scheduling weekly deliveries, ordering millions of dollars annually in printing plant supplies and equipment, while also managing a large number of employees at various locations. In addition to newspapers, I have worked in my family’s residential and commercial construction business and even worked as a county employee at the Gregg County Pct. 1 Barn where I drove dump trucks, resurfaced oil roads in the summer heat and picked up trash along the roadway when I was 18.

Q – The County faces an uncertain financial future with unfunded-state mandates and shrinking financial assistance from the state and federal governments in the form of grants, loans and aid which could place a larger financial burden on the backs of local taxpayers.  How do you think the County can address the many immediate needs while not over-taxing local property owners?

A – You can only cut budgets so much before you hit bone. We need to work to bring more economic growth to Upshur County. Our county is surrounded by prospering economic development groups, while we have none. We have the land, we have the workforce, we have the water and power. We just need the leadership to reach out for that brass ring. We need to seek government grants for every eligible department in the county, so we can keep services from declining and keep our good employees from taking their talents elsewhere. We need a 5-year, 10-year, 15-year and a 20-year plan so we chart a successful economic course.

Q – Roads – everyone drives them every day and most people have something negative to say about Upshur County Roads. How will you address the need to improve the Upshur County road system?

A – Everyone wants lower taxes and better roads.

The county’s road and bridge budget makes up about 20% of the overall $13.8 million budget – $2.9 million, while about 100% of the complaints are about roads. There are 714 miles of county roads – give or take a few miles. There are ditches on both sides that need to be maintained – so that makes us responsible for 1,428 miles. That’s like driving from here to El Paso and back.

We can fix the roads – I will stretch that road and bridge budget as far as it can be stretched and we will prioritize all road repairs, so every problem road gets addressed. I will also follow up on every road complaint in Precinct 1, because the residents deserve to be involved in the process and given a timeline as to when their road will be repaired.

Q – Why should Upshur County residents cast their vote for you? What sets you apart from your opponents?

A – I’ve said this from the start – I’m not running for the county health insurance and I plan to opt out of it once I take office. That will save the county about $8,400 per year. 

So, in my first four years as your commissioner that will save our taxpayers about $33,600. If we save money there, that can open up unused funds for other needs – like fixing potholes or giving county employees much needed raises. I don’t intend to be a financial burden on the taxpayers.

I am not a career politician and I haven’t lived off the taxpayer. I have created jobs, I have created budgets, I have helped businesses grow. I want to expand the county’s free dump day from 2 times a year to at least 4 times a year. I also want to see us start a monthly recycling problem in Pct. 1 and hopefully for the whole county. 

We have been doing it in Gladewater for years and it costs the city nothing – that’s right – nothing. 

I believe I’m the person to get the job done – please vote for Jim Bardwell in the March 3 Republican Primary! 

 

 

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