Athens Review, Athens, Texas

October 31, 2012

Final faceoff for office at Cain Center

County candidates angle for votes in November 6 General Elections in Tuesday forum

Rich Flowers
The Athens Review

Athens — Political candidates on the ballot in Henderson County stepped to the plate one more time at Cain Center Tuesday, during the final political forum before the Nov. 6 General Election. The forum was sponsored by the Henderson County AgriLife Leadership Advisory Board.

The forum, held after about 10,000 early votes had been cast in the county, was broadcasted over KCKL/KLVQ radio, to get the word out to citizens yet to go to the polls.

Each candidate was allowed four minutes to state his qualifications for seeking the office, followed by a question-and-answer period. At the close of the discourse, each candidate in a contested race was allowed an additional minute for a final statement.

Henderson County Sheriff’s candidates spent the longest time on stage. Incumbent Republican Ray Nutt, and challenger Democrat Bill Burton, both cited their experience as preparing them for the job. But their experience comes from different career paths. 

Nutt’s law enforcement career began in the 1960s, with stints as a Texas Department of Public Safety officer, a Texas Ranger, Henderson County District Attorney’s Office investigator and beginning in 2009, Sheriff.

“I’ve never run for another office,” Nutt said. “I don’t ever intend to run for another.  Being sheriff of this county is my career and it’s a 24-hour-a-day career.”

Nutt said the person in the sheriff’s office often has to make life-or-death decisions, as do the ones working under him.

“We take it seriously. We had a situation today where we had to make a decision on how to deal with it,” Nutt said concerning a potentially-suicidal subject call from the Cross Roads area. “It could have went bad or good. With the decisions we made, everything went fine.”

Nutt said he made promises to the citizens when elected in 2008. He said he would reduce response time, make narcotics enforcement a priority, and make the office more professional. Nutt said he has kept those promises.

Burton says he has experience and qualifications on every level in the criminal-justice system, including corrections, judicial process and law enforcement.

He said he respects Nutt and the men who occupied the office before him, but believes its time for a change in how things are done. He favors more attention to helping drug offenders get off narcotics, and become contributing members of society.

“We need a new approach. We want to arrest drug dealers, and those who use drugs,” Burton said. “Some of those people in our jail are only in there for about three months. Often they’re only in there for three months, get out and do the same thing.”

Burton believes that the county can help those in jail with care, if they have psycological problems, or ways to get an education, if they dropped out of school. Those programs might keep the offenders from returning to jail, once released.

Scotty Thomas, the Republican candidate, running for County Commissioner Precinct 1, said he has lived in Henderson County for over 30 years. His father was a county commissioner.

Thomas is a former member of the Cross Roads School Board. The office was always in the back of his mind until he retired from Atmos energy, Thomas said.

Democratic Precinct 1 Candidate David McGlaun was not present, because he was picking up a son in Mississippi who is in the military service. Democratic Chairman Marsha Head spoke in his behalf. McGlaun graduated Athens High School in 1984. He has 28 years of road-construction experience, and has been working for Precinct 1 for five years.

He believes that his knowledge of the roads can save the county a lot of money. He advocates seal-coating county roads to save money, and lengthen the life of the pavement.

Linda Mrosko, who is running for the 5th District U.S. Representatives seat, said she is a working person who makes an average salary, and can identify with the average person.

She said incumbent Republican Jeb Hensarling favors cutting money from the budget that was formerly in important programs.

Republican incumbent Tax Assessor Collector Milburn Chaney said he has served for more than 20 years, and has been at the forefront in computerizing the office.

His challenger, Brian Barker, was not present.

Republican Incumbent Precinct 5 Constable Brad Miers said his years of law-enforcement experience prepared him for the job. He is married, and has two kids, and is a member of First Baptist church in Malakoff.

He believes his many years of law enforcement experience, and working with the police department will make him the right candidate for the job. Miers said that for the past year, his office has been assuming responsibilities created by the county’s closing of the Precinct 6 constable’s office.

Democratic challenger Rick Simmons has been in law enforcement for 25 years, and is currently a Sergeant with the Tool Police Department.

If Simmons is elected, he promises to stay in close contact with the community.