News Column

Brownsville Elections Head Ortiz Plans to Retire Soon

Nov. 6, 2012

Emma Perez-Trevino

Cameron County (Texas) Election Administrator and Voter Registrar Roger Ortiz said Monday that his impending departure from the office would have no effect on today's elections.

"I enjoy what I do," Ortiz said Monday, adding that he has one of the best jobs, but will retire for personal reasons.

Ortiz, who is conducting the general election and elections for other entities today, tendered a letter of resignation effective Jan. 7 after 10 years on the post.

Ortiz clarified the letter Monday, saying that he is retiring. Today's elections will be the last that he conducts.

Ortiz, who prior to heading the election department was the county's building maintenance superintendent for four years, submitted his letter of resignation to election officials and Cameron County Commissioners Court on Nov. 1.

"I remain forever grateful for the invaluable experiences I enjoyed as a county employee," Ortiz wrote. "Now, I must turn my attention to my family and myself," he stated, extending his wish to officials for continued success.

Ortiz became the election administrator and voter registrar in Oct. 2002 following Robert Mendoza's tenure.

Ortiz said Monday that he is retiring for personal reasons and that he was not pressured into resigning amid recent criticism regarding the electoral process particularly centered on mail-in votes.

Cameron County Judge Carlos H. Cascos chairs the Cameron County Election Commission, composed also of the county clerk, tax assessor-collector, and county chairs of the Democratic Party and Republican Party, said that Ortiz's retirement did not come as a surprise, as Ortiz had talked to Cascos in mid-September about possibly retiring to spend more time with family.

"I'm glad that he felt an obligation to see it through the general election and the other elections that the county is conducting," Cascos said, describing Ortiz's tenure as "some-times a rocky road," and "sometimes not as rocky."

"The election in 2010 was very difficult," Cascos said of that year's county judge's election, which was mired in counting discrepancies. Cascos also pointed to some issues about the amount of time it sometimes took to complete the counts and controversy relative to mail-in votes.

"I wish him well," Cascos said, adding that he would be calling for a meeting of the election commission in about a week to begin the search process.

Cameron County Democratic Party Chair-woman Sylvia Garza Perez said that he wishes Ortiz the best, noting that her experiences with Ortiz have been very positive and that he has been very supportive. "I have not had any issues with Mr. Ortiz," Garza Perez said, adding that there has been open communication between both. "He's done a good job," she said.

Cameron County Re-publican Party Chairman Frank J. Morris said Ortiz's departure will leave, "big Shoes to fill for continuing honest elections in Cameron County and in the control and performance of his office."

Morris said that Ortiz has always been fair and a gentleman in his treatment of people. "He strove to conduct our elections in a professional manner," Morris added.

Morris said he has served on the Cameron County Election Commission since the time that Ortiz was selected as election administrator, and that Ortiz inherited a dis-organized department amid questions regarding the conduct of elections also.

"Presently, his department is bringing into operations the state of the art in electronic voting systems with more still to be done to expand it," Morris said, adding that Ortiz is professional and respected as demonstrated by his peers who elected him as a leader of the Texas Elections Administrators Association.

"I certainly wish him the best in his retirement. I doubt his announcement will change the way he conducts this election," the Republican chairman added.

Cameron County Libertarian Party Vice-Chair Ben Neece said that Ortiz's successor should be someone, "who has no ties to either party or is dominated by either party."

Neece also said that the Libertarian Party would like to have representation on the Cameron County Election Commission.

"We would be a good addition," Neece said, adding that the Libertarian Party would bring a different perspective to the table. Cascos, who said including other parties on the commission would likely require a legislative change, said he would not be opposed, adding that the commission should be "all inclusive."

Source: (c)2012 The Brownsville Herald (Brownsville, Texas) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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