By MIKE EDDLEMAN
Close to 50 gathered for the first Liberty Hill Chamber of Commerce Lunch & Learn of 2018 to hear area candidates make their pitch for votes in the March 6 primary.
Chamber of Commerce President Rick Hall was pleased with the turnout and the opportunity for the Chamber to bring candidates to Liberty Hill.
“With our area growing, we have new people coming in all the time and this gives them the opportunity to meet our candidates,” he said. “I was really pleased with the turnout we had from our citizens and Chamber members here around Liberty Hill. Every time we have a political forum like this we always have really great turnout.”
Eleven candidates, from seven different races up and down the ballot, took time to address the lunch-time gathering.
Most candidates, recognizing the Chamber of Commerce crowd, talked of their support for and experience in business, while also trying to address bigger picture issues in their particular race.
Mike Sweeney, who is challenging incumbent John Carter in the Republican District 31 U.S. House race, was focused on his business experience, but also issues such as term limits.
“It is time to get rid of lifetime appointments that go on and on and on with incumbents,” he said. “We are challenged every day to deal with that. We do not have resources to compete with that.”
On the Democratic side of the District 31 race, Christine Mann – a family-practice physician and a resident of Summerlyn subdivision just outside Liberty Hill – championed single payer healthcare, and her own small business experience.
“I still remember what it was like to run a small business,” she said. “I remember working all day seeing patients, then having to spend hours at night to do accounts payable, payroll and those other tasks. I remember those years being frustrating and challenging, and I want to be on the side of small business because I’ve been there.”
One of Mann’s opponents, Mike Clark, talked about what he believes is most important to Liberty Hill – growth and the issues that come with it.
“It’s really what happens locally that matters to you the most,” he said. “For liberty Hill it’s infrastructure. We’re talking growth, we’re talking water. We need to be smart about our water.”
One candidate, Democrat Brian Cronin, was in attendance from the Texas Senate District 5 race. He talked of his own experience growing up with the ups and downs of a family business.
“It taught me two things,” he said. “One, is there is value in hard work and making sure you get back on your feet and do what’s right for your family. But also that government can help people in their community. Now, as an adult, I feel I have a debt to pay.”
Candidates facing off in the Pct. 2 Justice of the Peace race, incumbent Edna Staudt and challenger Bronson Tucker talked about the important work of the court.
“There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing a young person change,” Staudt said. “There are so many different programs possible for young people. Children are very important to me and we deal with a lot of kids.”
Tucker applauded the work of the court under Staudt, saying he hoped to build on that.
“I want to take that foundation and I want to improve on it,” he said. “My goal is to make this justice court the best justice court in the state of Texas. We need to work on public safety. Right now, law enforcement isn’t feeling like they can trust the process.”
Hoping to be elected to continue her career work with children, Brandy Hallford, shared why she is seeking the County Court at Law #1 position.
“I’ve really dedicated my career to representing children in child protective service cases,” she said. “I’m often in Liberty Hill visiting those children because Liberty Hill has a pretty good population of people who foster our children.”
Liberty Hill resident Bart Turek, a candidate for Pct. 2 County Commissioner, made his case based on his career in service and law enforcement and a focus on asking how to get entities working together.
“How can we improve relationships, not just between constituents, but between cities?” he asked. “How can we stay ahead of the growth we all see every day, because we’re not going to be able to stop it.”
Precinct 2 Commissioner Cynthia Long made her case for re-election with a track record of responsible growth and balance.
“The property tax rate in Williamson County today is almost four cents lower than when I took office,” she said. “I am holding the line on that government growth and sometimes that means saying no.”
One of two Republican candidates for County Judge – Frank Leffingwell – and Republican candidate for county treasurer and incumbent Scott Heselmeyer, rounded out the list of speakers.
Leffingwell said as county judge he would focus on consensus building to manage growth carefully.
“We’re growing fast, which means we have to watch our resources,” he said. “It also means that we need to find ways to build consensus and come to an agreement quickly because we have so many challenges to meet in a very short period of time.”
Appointed treasurer last February, Heselmeyer said his office created an increased return on investment with new procedures in place over the last 10 months.
“It comes from planning and knowing when throughout the year we’re going to spend the money so that we can plan our investments accordingly,” he said.
The Democrats not in attendance at the Chamber forum were, for U.S. Representative District 31 Kent Lester and Mary Jennings “MJ” Hegar; State Senator, District 5 Glenn “Grumpy” Williams and Meg Walsh; State Representative District 20 Stephen M. Wyman; County Judge Blane Conklin; Judge, County Court-at-Law No.1 Don Morehart; County Clerk Jessica Tiedt; County Treasurer Omar Kadir; County Commissioner Pct.2 Kasey Redus; and Justice of the Peace Pct.2 Jonasu Wagstaff.
The Republicans not in attendance were, for U.S. Representative District 31 John Carter; State Senator, District 5 Charles Schwertner and Harold Ramm; State Representative District 20 Terry M. Wilson; County Judge Bill Gravell; Judge, County Court-at-Law No.1 Warren Oliver “Wow” Waterman; Judge, County Court-at-Law No.2 Laura Barker; Judge, County Court-at-Law No.3 Doug Arnold; Judge, County Court-at-Law No.4 John B. McMaster; District Clerk Lisa David; County Clerk Nancy E. Rister; and County Treasurer Lee Ann Seitsinger.