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Burnet County commissioner candidates see growth as greatest challenge

Chad Collier, Joe Rosser, Homer Will, Cord Woerner, and Caleb Carrasco

The five candidates running for the Republican nomination in the March 5 primary for Burnet County Precinct 3 commissioner were at the county’s Republican Party forum on Feb. 8. Candidate Chad Collier (left) takes the mic for his introduction alongside candidates Joe Rosser, Homer Will, Cord Woerner, and Caleb Carrasco. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

Republican candidates for local, state, and federal races pitched their platforms to Burnet County residents during a forum on Feb. 8. While state and federal hopefuls only gave brief introductions, candidates in local races participated in a structured question-and-answer session that showcased their positions on key issues and comprehension of the responsibilities of their desired office.

Five candidates for Precinct 3 county commissioner, two for 33rd & 424th district attorney, three for county tax-assessor collector, and two for Precinct 2 county constable participated in the forum portion of the event hosted by the Burnet County Republican Party and sponsored by the Burnet and Bertram chambers of commerce.

The March 5 GOP primary will decide who takes office in January 2025 in the local races due to a lack of Democratic challengers for the general election in November. Early voting runs Feb. 20-March 1.

DailyTrib.com will be splitting coverage of the forum into a series of stories based on each race. This one covers the Precinct 3 commissioner race. 

The five candidates seeking the seat of outgoing Commissioner Billy Wall all shared their extensive backgrounds in service, business, and administration. Each was asked the same five questions and given one minute to respond. 

The common thread of the commissioner forum was the inevitable growth coming to Burnet County and how it should be handled.

The candidates introduced themselves and answered questions in the order of how their names will appear on the March 5 ballot.

Commissioners are responsible for maintaining the infrastructure within their given precinct, approving the county budget, voting on county policy changes, setting the county tax rate, and conducting the general business of county government.

INTRODUCTIONS

Chad Collier

Collier has lived in Burnet County for over 30 years. He attended Bertram Elementary School, graduated from Burnet High School, and grew up doing ranch work for his rural neighbors. He has owned and operated a telecommunications construction business, Collier Services, in Bertram for the past 24 years.

He defined himself as a businessman and cited his experience in managing people and projects and setting long-term plans for the future.

Joe Rosser

Rosser cited 30 years of working in government on the state, county, and municipal levels in various positions. He noted experience in drafting policy, setting budgets, and hiring personnel. He moved to Burnet County in 2017.

He said this was the only promise he would make as an elected official: “I will represent you on the Commissioners Court with open, honest, and ethical behavior.”

Homer Will

Will has worked with Burnet County for the past 14 years as the foreman for Precinct 4. He cited his 30 years of experience in operations management and road and bridge development as well as his service as a Central Texas Groundwater Conservation District director as assets to the Precinct 3 commissioner position. He also noted that he was not much of a public speaker.

“I would like the opportunity to bring my skill and knowledge as Precinct 3 commissioner,” he said.

Cord Woerner

Woerner was born and raised in Burnet County and touts 33 years in education, 27 of which were spent in administration. He noted much of his experience was with the Marble Falls Independent School District as athletic director. He cited growth in the county as the greatest opportunity and challenge facing the Commissioners Court.

“The growth is not gonna stop, so we’ve got to find a way to blend that with the history we’ve got here in Burnet County and keep that small-town atmosphere,” he said.

Caleb Carrasco

Carrasco moved his successful barbershop and apparel business, Mad Hatters Provisions, to Burnet from Georgetown in 2021. He has 23 years of experience in the hospitality industry and told the audience he wanted to extend his service to the Commissioners Court.

“What I want to do here is continue to serve,” he said. “It’s in my heart.”

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

QUESTION 1: How will you work with county government and industry to ensure that industrial growth does not impact our natural resources or the quality of life for our citizens?

Collier: “We’re gonna have to work with those developers and the people that want to come here. The growth is inevitable, it’s coming.

“Now for resources, water is going to be that issue. It’s basically going to be working with the landowners and the land developers and making sure that we’re all on the same page. And that’s something I’ve done before.”

Rosser: “I think the first and foremost thing that we need to do is that any developer that wishes to come to Burnet County should have a comprehensive plan. That plan should include water.”

Rosser implied that inviting technology companies that have less of an immediate environmental impact could be an alternative to more impactful industries.

“Growth is inevitable, but we can keep a cap on who we invite here as far as business and development goes.”

Will: “Definitely growth is the major problem we’ve got in Burnet right now. We have to come up with a game plan to try to organize better roads to get people in and out in a safe manner.”

Will also noted his service on the Central Texas Groundwater Conservation District Board of Directors and that the district could be the strongest tool for regulating development based on water restrictions.

Woerner: “Realistically, what I foresee is visiting with folks.”

Woerner cited the recently passed Texas House Bill 3697, which limits a county’s ability to put restrictions on the development of subdivisions beyond what the state allows. He said that the county might have to work with state officials to ensure that state policy does not “hamstring” local regulations.

Carrasco: “We’re the first people that constituents should be able to go to for the improvement of their quality of life.

“What I would do myself is learn, get at the table, and learn from the people that are dealing with these issues already.”

QUESTION 2: How will you work with the county government and law enforcement to ensure that our citizens are protected from crime and overreach from the federal government?

Rosser: “I think our job would be to give (the sheriff) the resources he needs, the equipment he needs to keep Burnet (County) a safe place to live and raise a family.”

Rosser also said he did not see a strong necessity to guard against federal government overreach, as that is not a large issue in Burnet County. He did acknowledge that federal overreach is a problem for counties along the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas.

Will kept his response short and noted that he regularly works with the Burnet County Sheriff’s Office as the Precinct 4 foreman.

“I do believe in the sheriff’s department, and we need to keep (Burnet County) safe.”

Woerner: “The support of the Sheriff’s Office is primary to (protecting Burnet County residents from crime).”

Woerner also said he’d like to build relationships and support networks between other law enforcement agencies and schools within the county to get everyone on the same page.

“People start understanding what other ones do (when they communicate), and that’s when things start working a lot better together with law enforcement, in my experience.”

Carrasco: “Safety is the biggest thing on (the Commissioners Court’s) agenda. I feel very comfortable with those two (Sheriff Calvin Boyd and Chief Deputy Alan Trevino) leading the way and safety in their hands. Our job is to give them the tools they need to continue that.”

Collier: “This is probably one of the safest counties that we have (in Texas).”

“Let (the Sheriff’s Office) tell us (what it needs). We’ll try and get the resources for them so they can do a better job and keep Burnet County in general, all of us, safe.”

QUESTION 3: What will you do to ensure that citizens residing in your area have adequate emergency services, including fire and medical?

Will: “As a first responder, I do believe we need our fire department and our medical deal. I’ve been out on scenes where 10 to 15 minutes is a long time to get EMS out there. I would definitely work toward helping EMS, to do whatever it takes to get the proper facilities set up in our rural areas.”

Woerner: “I know and I’m sure that there are probably some areas that may not be covered as well as they need to be. I really think the citizens of those areas probably know that better than we do.

“Basically, (the residents) would be the ones who would be bringing (the formation of an Emergency Services District) to an election to be voted on so that we would know what they needed.”

Woerner was referring to the process of how an emergency services district is formed. Residents within a given geographic area in the county can call for a vote to form an ESD, which then collects taxes to provide emergency services to the residents within the district.

“When they raise that concern, we would research that and help them bring that election on and guide them in the process.”

Carrasco: “This is something that we’d have to look at and look at the future growth of development and see what areas in particular are going to need another fire or EMS (service).”

“If the citizens want something closer to them, it needs to come from them and they can vote on that.”

Collier said he spoke with local fire chiefs and came to the conclusion that safer roads and access to water to fight fires would be major factors in providing better emergency services to residents in rural areas.

“We’ve gotta have safer roads. With these developments coming in, we need to make sure that they have water available to some of the (more remote locations).”

Rosser said he’d be willing to hear out residents who want better access to emergency services, but he also said he and other rural residents make certain sacrifices by living outside of cities.

“I can’t get pizza delivered out where I am, and sometimes I have to wait for an ambulance.”

QUESTION 4: What will you do to reduce the amount of current debt of the Burnet County government and bring fiscal responsibility to the county?

Woerner: “I can’t tell you what specific things that need to be cut or shouldn’t be cut.

“You still have to look at a way to cut out the fat, but there are certain things like law enforcement and so forth that we have to have. I would have to look at that line by line to be able to tell you what we need to do.”

Carrasco: “There is always frivolous spending. This is the taxpayers’ money. They should have the right to be able to sit and say what they want to spend it on. I would just be the conduit through which they speak.”

Collier: “We’ll look at the budget, see what’s in there. I don’t have any plans to cut anything. Let’s go, let’s look, let’s try to find the money.

“As far as the debt, that’s part of running a business. You get so much money coming in, you get so much going out. Let’s make it even out without cutting any of the programs and look for other avenues to get money so that we don’t have to cut anything.”

Rosser: “I guarantee you I can look at the budget, look at these departments, and conduct audits on county divisions, and we would find extra money somewhere.”

“When you talk about you can’t cut things, yeah, there are things. The first and foremost thing you do is stick to your budget. The second issue you look at is fraud, waste, and abuse.”

Will: “In my past background as an operating manager, I definitely know how to work a budget. I think all of the county departments I work with have done a very good job of managing their budgets.”

QUESTION 5: What is your opinion of the current state of Burnet County government?

Carrasco: “There are some great people in this room. What I want to do is learn from these people.

“These people were elected for a reason. I’m up here because I’m excited. I believe Burnet (County) has a great opportunity. I have five kids, my business is here, I’m putting everything in here, I’m going all in. I feel very confident in the future of Burnet (County).”

Collier: “(The state of county government) is good. There are definitely some changes that we can make. There’s great people working here. That’s the reason everybody wants to come here.

“Having said that, we’re going to have to, as a Commissioners Court, go in and fight for those changes and fight for what’s best. For me, personally, it’s Precinct 3. That’s what I’m fighting for. But in another way, I’m going to look out for the whole county as well.”

Rosser: “Well, I’m not here to butter anybody’s biscuit, so here is what I’m going to say: There’s no secret that, the last few years, Burnet County has had some legal and ethical issues going on.

“I promise you guys that I will serve ethically, openly, and honestly, and I’ll always have fair dealings. I think that is what we need on the Commissioners Court at this time.”

Will: “I think the county is moving forward and has done an excellent job with different areas to keep it going forward.”

Woerner: “Yeah, there’s been some bumps in the road. There’s a lot of things that get thrown out there; there’s a lot of things that get thrown at (the commissioners); there’s a lot of things that need to be evaluated; there’s a lot of things that they are locked into that a lot of people maybe don’t know they are locked into; and there are some things that could be done different.

“I’ve got no issues with the way the (county) government is going right now, but there’s always things you can look at and improve.”

CONCLUSIONS

Collier: “I would like for you to take a second and think about who you’d want to be your next commissioner for Precinct 3. With that, I’d like to reiterate, I’m a business owner — still am — for 24 years. I’ve run men in multiple capacities.

“I’m constantly having to look forward into the future with planning multiple years down the road. We’ve all seen the growth over the last several years. It’s only going to get worse or better depending on how you look at it. People are moving in. We can’t stop that.

“There’s going to be businesses coming in; we’re going to need them. The tax revenues are going to go up, which is going to help us all.”

Rosser: “I’ve drafted budgets, I’ve drafted policies and procedures, I’ve hired people. I’m running to better roads, protect our water systems, protect our way of life. All of the gentlemen up here agree that this is a great place to live. I agree it’s a great place to live. I’m running to preserve that way of life.

“The only promise I make to you is that I will do that with openness, honesty, and integrity.”

Will: “If I have the opportunity to be your commissioner, I will do the best that I possibly can. I do know road work, I do know about safety, about roads, and I’m asking for the opportunity to have a chance to be your commissioner.”

Woerner: “The reality is, the more and more I’m seeing over the last several months, we’re getting more community input, we’re getting more people input. Basically, we’re here for you guys and we want to listen to you, and I think that’s growing.

“I’m as qualified as anybody is. I feel like it’s time to use some of the skills I’ve learned over the last 30 years, and I think it fits this role just right, actually.”

Carrasco: “I’m somebody that is always going to ask questions.

“I’ll leave you with this: If we ever get into a situation with the county that we don’t know what to do, let’s look at what scripture says, and I almost guarantee that the problem is already solved for us if we go with that mindset.

“I’m always going to use that as my guiding way to direct this county.”

dakota@thepicayune.com

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