The Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce held their monthly luncheon, Friday, at the Brownwood Country Club. Every seat was filled to hear local candidates provide information on their positions and answer questions, submitted prior to the event.
Interim Director Ray Tipton and Membership Director Missi Malone conducted the Chamber business, before Chamber Ambassador President Daniel Hutson took the microphone to introduce the candidate.
Hutson first brought the contenders for the two commissioners court races to the podium. Joel Kelton, incumbent, and challenger Adron Beck are in the race for the Precinct 2 seat. Both men provided the audience with background and biographical information they thought pertinent to the position. David Carroll is challenging incumbent Larry Traweek in Precinct 4. Carroll discussed his history and accomplishments as a past commissioner. Traweek was not present.
The three candidates were asked about their position on utilizing an outside, independent agency to audit the county's records and each acknowledged their approval of the suggestion.
When asked if the county should be more involved in attracting new business to the area, Kelton suggested the county's involvement could be with ensuring the infrastructure was maintained in a manner that would support new business. Carroll was supportive of the notion, but expressed his desire to extend any benefits to new and existing businesses that added employment opportunities. Beck was also supportive of utilizing means available to the commissioners to attract new business, for responsible growth.
The final question posed to the candidates concerned county funding of the museums. Each of them approved of providing funding and Kelton acknowledged the current commissioners court had recently assisted with roof repairs on one of the buildings.
County Court at Law Judge Frank Griffin and his challenger, Asst. District Attorney Sam Moss, discussed their credentials and experience for the bench. Griffin drew a distinction between the criminal and family law cases that come through the court, addressing recent concerns on the speed with which the cases proceed through the system, defining the former as "Judge driven" and the latter as "attorney driven." He added that he is the only candidate with family law experience.
Moss noted his own experience, with 12 years in the criminal justice system. He added that he has ideas to implement programs to aid in the beautification of the county and to reduce crime rates, helping to make the county more attractive to potential new business and industry.
Moss and Griffin were asked their opinions on the biggest challenge to the County Court at Law. Griffin answered it was the same issues facing the community; providing opportunities for families to resolve their issues before they get to the courts. Moss's response was "lack of progress." He said that issues change over time and the court needs to look toward the future, in order to progress.
Candidates for Brown County Judge, currently occupied by Ray West, also discussed their qualifications and backgrounds.
West said the position is more than just leading the commissioners court, noting that juvenile and guardianship cases are heard by the County Judge, in Brown County. West stated he is a "professional judge" which has been recognized by state officials, resulting in his appointments to various state committees, including the Juvenile Justice Commission and the Guardianship Advisory Board.
Challenger Dennis Graham, who currently serves on the Brown County Water Improvement District board, said "I'm not running against anyone. I'm running for the citizens." He said he intends to be a full-time judge and noted his successful history in business as being a benefit to county government. He added that a priority would be to determine the costs of obtaining an updated survey of the county, which would enable the BCWID to expand its district lines and allow more Brown County citizens to vote on water board issues. He proposes leaving the final decision to the voters, once the costs are determined.
Challenger Ronnie Lappe, an attorney and former Justice of the Peace, acknowledged Graham's reminder that the position does not require an attorney, but said many matters before the County Judge do require knowledge of criminal and probate law. Lappe said he supports having an outside audit of the county's business records and says he will be more involved in the day to day affairs of the county, communicating with county employees.
Early voting is currently underway for these and other county and state primary elections, however, all local races are confined to the Republican primary ballot, as no Democrat candidates have filed. Early voting ends February 28, but polling places will reopen March 4, the day of the Primary elections.