El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar said Wednesday that she plans to
seek re-election next year to finish some of the work started during her
Escobar, 43, stated her intention to seek a second term as county judge during her State of the County presentation, attended by many elected officials, government officials, and business and community leaders at the Camino Real Hotel in Downtown El Paso.
"I love the job; I love my community," Escobar said after
the presentation, "and I would like to finish the transformative work we started during my first four-year term. I was encouraged by constituents and other county officials to run again. We need a few more years to complete the reforms for a more transparent and efficient county government."
Escobar, who was a county commissioner before she was elected county judge in 2010, said the county is in good financial shape after weathering the 2011 recession, which led to deep budget cuts, employee furloughs and reductions.
She said her main goals for county government included reforming county management through changes in purchasing and the mental- health systems, beefing up the Ethics Commission, improving services collaborations
with city and other local governments, and more visible advocacy for El Pasoans.
"Reform has been the primary focus of my work, and I have worked hard to make sure that El Paso's voice is heard on issues of importance to El Paso," Escobar said.
County Commissioner Vincent Perez, who attended Wednesday's presentation, said, "(Escobar) inherited a county government that was mired in corruption and in which decisions were based on politics instead of policy. She's been a good leader and is a very skilled administrator. She's trying to take the county to the next level, and I have found her easy to work with."
Escobar has received several awards for leadership in government, including being honored as the Rio Grande Council of Governments' 2010 Elected Official of the Year. The audience on Wednesday applauded her when she said, "The way we fix problems is to be honest."
Rick Melendrez, immediate past chairman of the El Paso County Democratic Party, said it's not too soon for prospective candidates to make their intentions known.
"The horses start lining up for the races in September, generally around the time of the Labor Day events," Melendrez said. "I've heard in political circles that we might see many sitting elected officials challenged in the March Democratic primary, and that there may be more than one county judge candidate. It still remains to be seen who actually registers for the primary election."
Escobar also made a pitch for a full-time county manager or administrator to help the County Commissioners Court run the daily business of county government and she also punctuated that the county is in good shape financially after weathering a difficult period stemming from the 2011 recession, which affected the private and public sectors.
Due to limitations set by the Texas Constitution, the county cannot have a strong manager type of government like the city's. Also, unlike the city, although the commissioners vote on property tax rates and a general county budget, each elected official virtually runs his or her department independent of the Commissioners Court.
Escobar said the proposed manager or assistant would help to facilitate some matters that don't require the attention of the entire Commissioners Court. A presentation for the proposal could take place by mid-July, she said.
County Commissioner Sergio Lewis, who also heard the State of the County presentation, said, "I am open to the idea of a county manager-type role if it does not lead to another layer of bureaucracy. Because of the way county government is structured, it would not be a good idea to have someone in place who would only have a say over 20 percent of county government. Independently elected officials make up the other 80 percent of our county government."
Perez also said he could support "an assistant to the Commissioners Court" to help carry out commissioners' policies, if it doesn't create additional bureaucracies.
Diana Washington Valdez may be reached at email@example.com; 546-6140.
(c)2013 the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas)
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Distributed by MCT Information Services
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