State Senate District 24 candidates answered questions from the audience at the Burnet County Republican Women’s meeting Thursday, Jan. 13, in Burnet. They are Raul Reyes (left), Pete Flores, and Lamar Lewis. Staff photo by Suzanne Freeman
Two candidates for Burnet County clerk voiced different opinions on the feasibility of opening a satellite office in the Burnet County Courthouse annex in Marble Falls and on its operating hours.
Candidates Vicinta Stafford and Sara Ann Luther answered questions from those attending the Burnet County Republican Women’s meeting and candidate forum in the Reed Building in Burnet on Thursday, Jan. 13. The two hope to replace County Clerk Janet Parker, who is retiring after 32 years in office.
Forum attendees also heard from three March 1 primary candidates for the open seat in Texas Senate District 24.
Vying for the Republican nomination to represent the 19 counties in the newly redrawn district are Raul Reyes of Medina County, Lamar Lewis of Bell County, and Pete Flores of Atascosa County. The three politely attempted to be the most conservative at the table as they fielded questions.
All three voiced support for the Republican Party platform with an emphasis on border security, election integrity, and abortion. Their different backgrounds set them apart.
Reyes immediately distinguished himself as an independent person who would not be part of the establishment, and, although he did not name Flores, he continually downplayed his opponent’s experience as a former senator in 2018-20.
“If I had been a senator before, I would have taken care of that three or four years ago,” Reyes said when asked about support for a cost-of-living raise for retired teachers. “You’ve got to send someone up there who will fight for that.”
Flores pointed out that he authored Senate Bill 12 in the 86th Legislature that gave teachers a 13th paycheck every year.
“Before you can give a cost-of-living raise, you have to be sure the fund is actuarially sound,” he said. “That’s in the (state) constitution. I will make sure that we protect that. I support a cost-of-living increase for teachers.”
Lamar Lewis, a retired teacher and coach, pointed out that retired teachers have not had an increase in benefits in 20 years.
“There are some things you can do, real simple, systemic things, fiscally sound ways to do this,” he said. “Right now, you have six plans you can choose from. Why not have a seventh one that says you can take less money now, when you don’t need it, so you can get more later when prices have gone up and you will need it more. That would be a great way to take care of future teachers.”
The first bone of contention between the two candidates for county clerk came from an audience question about opening a satellite office in Burnet County’s south annex in Marble Falls.
A southern office would require at least two people on staff, which would cost the county about $170,00 total in salaries, Stafford said. They also would need office equipment, she said. The money would have to come out of a tight county budget.
“We would all love an office to be in Marble Falls,” Stafford said. “But the reality behind that is that we currently have seven employees besides the clerk in the Burnet office. We have one employee not even paid out of the county budget. For us to begin speaking of having an office in Marble Falls, we have to have the money.”
Luther responded that having an office in Marble Falls was a priority for her.
“It’s not just a talking point, it’s a goal,” she said. “It’s something I intend to see happen.”
They also sparred in a friendly manner over a question about office hours in the courthouse. A question pointed out that the office sometimes closes for lunch and then at 4 p.m. for the day.
Stafford said closing for lunch was a rare occurrence and only happens when someone on staff is celebrating a birthday and they all go to lunch together. Luther said she would make sure someone is always in the office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each working day.
Stafford also pointed out that the office has to close at 4 p.m. to give staff time from 4-5 p.m. to file work that comes in during the day as per state law. Luther said it was something she would look into if elected.
Experience is the final difference, the two pointed out. Stafford is the chief deputy county clerk and has worked under County Clerk Janet Parker for the past eight years. Parker is retiring after 32 years and has endorsed Stafford to replace her.
“I am very, very knowledgable about every aspect of this office,” Stafford said. “I am involved in all aspects of the technological advances in our office, and I am honored that Janet is trusting me with her endorsement. County clerk is not a position that someone can just step into. It is complex and extremely challenging at times to know the processes.”
Luther cited her 30 years’ professional experience, including as a corrections officer, deputy county treasurer, and head of the human resources department for the county.
“While I don’t have eight years’ experience in the Burnet County Clerk’s Office, I do have 30 years of experience in varied settings, and I do have Burnet County experience as human resources director for the last three and a half years,” she said. “If elected, I will spend the time so I also know the laws. Will I have eight years of application experience? No, but I’m not a stupid girl. I have always risen to a leadership position because I am capable.”
Both vowed to serve the residents of Burnet County.
“I will be dedicated to the office, but more important, I will be dedicated to serving the citizens of Burnet County because that’s the point,” Luther said in conclusion.
Stafford pointed out that she serves as a leader for several other organizations in the county as well as in her job as deputy county clerk.
“I am a proven leader and a fighter. It’s in my nature,” she said. “I am 100 percent dedicated to everything that happens in our office.”
Burnet County Republicans are planning at least two more political forums, including a free, public event featuring all local candidates at 6 p.m. Jan. 27 in the Burnet Community Center, 401 E. Jackson St.
County court-at-law and state representative candidates will go through the same question-and-answer process during a luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Feb. 10 in the Reed Building, 402 E. Jackson St. in Burnet. The event is during the Burnet County Republic Women’s February meeting. A small admission is charged for the lunch.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled Vincinta Stafford’s first name as Vincinte. It has been corrected. DailyTrib.com apologizes for the error.
CORRECTION: The original version of this story reported that former state Sen. Pete Flores served in the Texas Senate in 1986. He actually served as the senator in Senate District 19 in the 86th Legislature from 2018-2020. He was elected in a special election in 2018 but lost the seat to a Democrat in 2020. His home in Pleasanton was redrawn into Senate District 24 during the third special session of the Legislature in 2021. He seeks the seat being vacated by Sen. Dawn Buckingham, who is making a statewide bid for land commissioner.