Friends and fellow residents of Kyle and Hays County,
As November 6th approaches, I would like to share my perspective with you on the local political races affecting our area.
Perhaps you’re thinking, “I need another political opinion like I need a root canal,” and who could blame you? Political discourse can be quite divisive. Or, as my dad always puts it, “Ask two people about politics and you’ll get three opinions.”
That said, many of you speak to me frequently about your desire to be more up-to-speed on local politics. It just so happens there are six local races where I feel my opinion may be of value.
Let me make two very important prefacing points: First, I do not judge candidates for local office primarily on party affiliation. I am more concerned with whether or not the candidate has knowledge and wisdom on the issues affecting our area. I care about the candidates’ views on our roads, our tax rates, our growth patterns, our natural resources, our indebtedness, and our quality of life. I do not primarily care about a candidate’s views on Donald Trump. I want to know: Do the candidates work well with others? Are they forward-thinking? Are they qualified? Are they focused on local issues?
Second, by endorsing a candidate, I am not casting aspersions on their opponent. I’m simply stating my choice given the current offering and I respect those who hold different views. Reasonable people can disagree. Truth be told, campaigning for political office requires tremendous sacrifice both for incumbents and challengers. I commend all who step forward for the public to judge — no matter what happens this November.
Hays County Judge – Will Conley
I have known Will Conley for three years, first as the Precinct 3 County Commissioner (serving western San Marcos and Wimberley), then as Chairman of CAMPO. In both roles, Will demonstrated a resolve for solving tough problems. On three occasions in particular, I personally worked with Will to solve problems for the City of Kyle.
First, Will lead the effort to establish a county-wide co-located dispatch center. When the system goes live, Kyle dispatch will no longer re-route calls to Hays County dispatch for Fire/EMS responses after taking the call and dispatching police. It will all happen simultaneously. The new operation will reduce 911 response times and increase operational efficiencies so that Kyle dispatch can grow while simultaneously improving service. During the months-long negotiation, Will repeatedly met with the council and staff to ensure an equitable agreement.
Second, I worked with Will and others on the 2016 Hays County road bond. Even though Kyle was not in Will’s precinct, he (along with others) made a concentrated effort to meet with members of the Kyle City Council so that our desires could be heard and prioritized. Through these discussions, among other things, $1.5 million was included in the bond to engineer plans to move the train switching station away from Center Street.
And third, as chair of CAMPO, Chairman Conley (along with Commissioner Jones) worked with our staff for months to finalize the plans and apply for a $15 million appropriation to once-and-for-all eliminate trains from stopping when they travel through Kyle. The money represents the largest single appropriation ever received in Kyle. It could not have been possible without the local and regional leadership of Will Conley.
Will is a problem-solver, plain and simple. With thirteen years of experience on the Commissioners’ court, his knowledge of the challenges and opportunities in Hays County are unmatched. Moreover, he works very well with others to achieve regional solutions, so much so that he has served in multiple high-profile leadership positions for organizations like CAMPO and CAPCOG and the GSMP. I’ve witnessed Will’s leadership personally on many occasions and firmly believe he will make an excellent County Judge.
County Commissioner, PCT 2 – Mark Jones
I still remember the day I met Commissioner Mark Jones (who represents most of western Kyle, also Buda and NE Hays County). I was filming my first “Our Kyle” video about the Texas Pie Company — back before I was involved in local politics. Mark was dressed in blue-jeans and a cowboy hat. I fumbled my way through our table-interview, which I’m sure showed him just how little I knew of Kyle’s history at the time – especially compared to Mark who moved here when he was three-years-old. Still, he treated me with the utmost respect and inspired me to keep going, keep learning, and get involved. Looking back, I realize now I was probably the only person in the restaurant who didn’t know Mark.
Commissioner Jones has been an active member of the Kyle/Buda community for decades, serving on boards and committees too numerous to count (including two terms on the HCISD school board). But Mark’s service goes beyond the dais. When I call him with questions about government-related items, he always makes time. Of course, I’m not unique. Mark is well-known for how well he listens and engages with our community. He has become an inspirational figure to hundreds — perhaps thousands — of men, women, and children across Hays County.
Additionally, Mark gets up very early every morning to operate the traffic signal at the intersection of FM 967 and FM 1626 during this season of construction and delays. The widening of 1626 north to the new SW Toll 45 in Austin is a project Mark holds dear and helped fund. His sacrifice operating the signal every day reminds us all that he also experiences the growing pains caused by construction.
Commissioner Jones focuses on infrastructure, the future, and on people. I could not recommend him higher in his re-election bid.
County Commissioner, PCT 4
As a small business owner, Walt’s political views on local issues mirror my own. He believes in local control. He believes in passing conservative budgets that focus on infrastructure and public safety. He believes in planning for the future. I discussed these issues with Walt extensively during the March primary, and even helped him block walk in Hometown Kyle. I believe in his platform. If elected, he will make a great commissioner.
Omar Baca and I crossed paths several years ago. He was working with his neighborhood (Blanco Vista) to protest a proposed truck stop development in south Kyle. Omar’s opinions slightly differed from mine, but I gained tremendous respect for him by the way he interacted with the community throughout the process. He told me he believed in “win wins.” He fought for a better outcome, not simply against something. In the end, the truck stop was not defeated. Rather, council negotiated a developer agreement to replace the truck stop proposal with something better. I call that a win-win. I am thankful for Omar’s role in this civic process. Were he to prevail in November, I believe he would be a unique, positive voice on the Commissioner’s Court.
Justice of the Peace, PCT 2 – Beth Smith
Judge Beth Smith has been the Justice of the Peace in Kyle for nineteen years. I can say this about the Judge: after all these years serving, Beth still works extremely hard and she takes her job seriously. “My job is my life,” she says on her website. Anyone who knows Beth will say her story checks out.
Her “official” duties as JP are only part of what make Judge Smith an invaluable member of the community. Beth is active throughout the greater Kyle area and has served and volunteered in many capacities through the years. It would not be difficult to spot her at a Rotary event, or a Chamber of Commerce event, or a VFW function, or one of a myriad of functions related to being a Justice of the Peace.
Personally, I have gained respect for Judge Smith through the years because of how she handles the times when we disagree. On a few occasions, Beth disagreed with me in my handling of a situation. In each instance she provided an opportunity for us to discuss those matters in person. She treated me with respect, she listened to my perspective, she offered me hers, and then we moved forward. I am thankful for her willingness to engage in this capacity and, as such, I have grown to highly value her counsel.
For these reasons and more Judge Smith has my full support this November.
Kyle City Council, District 5 – Rick Koch
I often say that local elections should be more important to and more closely followed by local residents than national ones. The race for Kyle City Council, District 5 (city-wide), is no different.
In the case of Planning & Zoning Commission Chairman Rick Koch, I have observed this man devote countless hours in recent years to studying the issues affecting Kyle. He is diligent in his preparation, knowledgeable on the issues, and has developed a reputation as being a fair-minded leader. In fact, after his first year on P&Z, Rick’s fellow commissioners elected him to serve as board chair, a post he holds to this day. In my view, this speaks volumes of both his work ethic and his ability to collaborate well with others.
The best thing I can say about Rick is that he’s interested in the work itself. He loves the grind of preparing for a meeting. It’s not about notoriety or status. To Rick, the job is about making sure that each decision the city faces is properly researched and vetted through the community. He believes in working to improve our commute into and out of town. He believes that attracting businesses are vital to our city’s long-term future. And he believes in the power of conservative investments designed to improve the city’s quality of life.
I am honored to support his candidacy for city council.
State Rep, HD 45 – Ken Strange
Texas House District 45 covers Hays and Blanco Counties. I decided to include the election on this list because of how impressed I’ve been with Ken Strange. The more I get to know him, the more I believe he is absolutely the representative we need in Austin.
Ken is drawing strong bipartisan support throughout Hays and Blanco precisely because of his impressive local resume. He has been and remains focused on the issues that matter to the community. In fact, the two predecessors to HD 45 – Democrat Patrick Rose and Republican Jason Isaac – jointly endorsed Ken in this compelling letter.
I barely know where to begin with the list of reasons to vote for Ken, regardless of your party affiliation.
- Ten Years serving as a Wimberley School Board Trustee
- Director of Wimberley EMS
- Veteran of the U. S. Air Force
- Twice named Wimberley Community Volunteer and Citizen of the Year
- Takes a strong stance in support of Public Education
- Developed new school safety protocols in Wimberly that have been widely praised and modeled by other districts throughout Texas
- Worked closely with the community and others to protect Hays County groundwater from unregulated commercial pumping
Patrick Rose and Jason Isaac said it best. “Ken will fight for what matters: supporting public education, protecting our groundwater, improving our roads and highways, making our schools and communities safer, creating local jobs, and finding ways to reduce the burden on property taxpayers. These are not partisan issues, they are community issues, and they matter a great deal to our future quality of life. In this important election, please join us in putting our community’s interests ahead of special interests, and vote for Ken Strange for State Representative.”