Redus challenges Long for Pct. 2 Commissioner
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
Republican Cynthia Long is being challenged by Democrat Kasey Redus, a first-time candidate, in the Williamson County Pct. 2 Commissioner race.
Long defeated Republican candidate Bart Turek in the March primary. Redus was unopposed in the primary.
Precinct 2 covers the western edge of the county, including all of Liberty Hill and unincorporated areas north of the city and west of US 183. It also includes most of Leander and Cedar Park.
Cynthia Long is wrapping up her third term as Pct. 2 Commissioner in Williamson County, and while she’s seen the county through a dozen years of growth, she believes she is not done with her service to the community.
In her primary race, Long said she felt called to serve the community, and her campaign and message has not wavered since then.
“When I campaign I campaign hard and run hard every time,” she said. “I really haven’t let up much. It is a great opportunity to continue to get out and meet with folks and hear from them on what their thoughts are on county government.”
She may be facing a Democrat now as opposed to another Republican candidate, but Long said not much changes from the primary to November.
“You are reaching out to a broader audience,” Long said. “If you are running in either a Democrat or Republican primary, that’s a certain audience and the general election is a much broader one. But I think those priorities, quite frankly, are priorities for Republicans and Democrats. The priorities aren’t necessarily partisan, they’re what people are saying is important.”
Going on nearly eight months of regular campaigning gives Long a good opportunity to hear from voters and connect on issues important to them, she said.
“The thing I keep hearing from them is the things we have been focusing on, and that’s public safety, keeping our taxes low and to keep building great roads, parks and trails,” Long said. “There’s a thing that we continue to say is that maintaining the quality of life that makes Williamson County the place where people want to live work and play. Those three priorities are what help us do that.”
The county wrapped up a turbulent budget process in August, and while it was not always easy, Long said she is proud of the final product.
“If you look back at some of the key things we were able to do in that budget, we added more law enforcement, we added more prosecutors, we increased the funding for roads and for some of the other key priorities in the county, and we did all that and also lowered the tax rate,” she said.
Long is also pleased the county is investing in the long-term integrity and security of it’s elections.
“The other big thing is we dedicated almost $4.5 million for new voting machines that will have a paper audit trail,” she said. “That’s really critical as we go forward. The goal is that we would go through the procurement process and have those in place by what is likely to be a Constitutional election in November of 2019.”
If it seems like the Commissioners Court is always talking about road projects, it is because Long, and others on the court, have made it a priority and focus.
“I want to continue the good work we’ve been doing toward implementing our transportation plan,” she said. “A plan is only as good as the implementation of that plan and I don’t want anyone looking back 50 years from now to say ‘They had a great plan, but they just didn’t implement it,’” she said. “That is the tough part, and working with the taxpayers, if they continue to keep saying yes go forward, we want to do that.”
The decision of voters in the past is how Long knows that transportation progress is important in the county.
“The taxpayers, in three separate bond elections, have approved transportation bonds and have said yes, we don’t want to sit back and want to move forward,” she said. “We’re doing that both with the money voters approved through bond elections, as well as through the regular budget process and setting that money aside.”
It can be a slow process, but Long said it is important to move forward at every opportunity.
“That’s what we’re trying to do is preserve the right of way, and where we have funding, go ahead and build maybe two lanes of what might be the ultimate roadway,” she said.
The coming River Ranch Park is something else Long wants the opportunity to continue working on into another term.
“As it relates specifically to Liberty Hill I’m really excited that we should begin construction at River Ranch Park later this year, with the hopes of a grand opening next year, and that is a real gem in our park system,” she said. “That’s a real key priority.”
The desire to continue serving all of Pct. 2 is her primary message, reminding voters that it takes hard work to make Williamson County the place everyone wants to be.
“Williamson County is an amazing place to live and that didn’t happen by accident,” she said. “We have been diligent in planning, I’ve worked hard to keep taxes low but to fund the necessary priorities of government and I want to continue to do that.”
Kasey Redus is a small business owner in Cedar Park, and an admitted political newcomer, but she doesn’t see that inexperience in public office as a disadvantage.
“I didn’t grow up speaking Spanish, and I’m fluent,” she said. “I didn’t know how to teach until I became a teacher. I didn’t know how to run a business until I owned a business. When I dive in, I dive in head first and that’s what I did when I started running. I filed on the filing date and all I’ve done is research, go to court meetings, study and learn.”
Redus has owned a Primrose School in Cedar Park for seven years, and before that spent many years teaching.
“My heart has always been drawn to at-risk children,” she said. “I was a special education teacher at residential treatment centers for children that were emotionally disturbed. I did that for about seven years until I had my own children.”
The experience running a business puts her in a good position to serve the voters of Williamson County, she said.
“I have been able to maintain a really successful, well-run business and so all that experience puts me in position to want to give back,” Redus said. “By nature I have compassion for people who were not given what I was given. I am also a very logical person and I budget well.
I do the budget, I do the books and I manage the team, so being able to budget well and see when to use money, where and at what time of the year is important.”
The tax burden is something Redus is concerned with, but knows there has to be a balance between cutting taxes and providing needed services.
“I’m one of the people that looks at the tax rate, goes to the meetings and is still mad about it, but I understand it,” she said, adding there are areas the county could save in. “We’re looking at almost $1 million on lawsuits to defend our Commissioners Court and that’s a lot of money that could be saved.”
She bristles at the idea that as a Democrat she might not be concerned with spending and debt.
“I believe in and I like capitalism,” she said. “Just because one is a Democrat doesn’t mean they throw money around. I’m very fiscally responsible with my budget.”
The top challenge for the next Commissioners Court is ensuring good communication and working relationships within the county.
“I listen. I don’t assume I have an answer, ever,” Redus said. “I believe many people in government are not listening right now. I like to find expert advice and apply it to what I’m doing, and I think that would be great on Commissioners Court. The court has very contentious relationships with the department heads and I think that does a disservice to our county.”
Support for first responders is a key part of her plan should she win the election, and that begins with the Mobile Outreach Team (MOT), which she said has been hampered by cuts from the court.
“It is a fantastic program we have and it has done wonders for people’s lives and it has also saved a ton of money by not putting people in jail or emergency rooms when they just need a mental health counselor,” Redus said. “The court voted to strip this department down and I will fight to bring it back to the levels we saw a couple years ago, and more if necessary.”
Investing the time and energy to learn about services throughout the county, Redus has taken a class with Leander Fire Department, attended the Sheriff’s academy, and rode out with the MOT.
Requests for more personnel among first responders is more about the ability to be as responsive as necessary than about just wanting more staff, according to Redus.
“The issue with public safety is that for instance, if there is a DUI incident, at least two deputies have to be out there in the middle of the night,” she said. “If there’s a wreck, then at least two have to be there, so they’re stretched thin and if anything else happens it is a problem. The patrol areas are so large at night with one person to over such a vast space. We could probably look at statistics and add some deputies.”
When looking at transportation trouble, Redus said better public transportation infrastructure and enhanced partnerships with surrounding cities and counties is the first step.
“With the growth we are experiencing in Williamson County, we need to plan ahead as well as consider all modes of transportation,” she said. “This requires working well with all our partners across the Central Texas Region. Regardless of how one feels about Travis County, they are our neighbors and we have to work with them as well as five other counties in the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. We need a new county representative on this transportation policy board.”