Athens Review, Athens, Texas

October 15, 2012

‘Pancakes and politics’

Office aspirants mix breakfast, with speeches at St. Stephen’s

Rich Flowers
The Athens Review

Athens — The talk wasn’t all about donkeys and elephants at the “Pancakes and Politics” political forum at St. Stephen’s Anglican Church in Athens, Saturday.

County Judge Richard Sanders was present to explain that the The Texas Agricultural Code states that the freeholders of a county, or area within a county, may petition Commissioners Court for an election, determining if horses, mules, jacks, jennies, donkeys, hogs, sheep or goats are to be permitted to run at-large.

Sanders explained that  about 60 years ago, the county voted to become “closed range” for all but hogs, sheep and goats. That status means that the owner of the livestock is not required to fence in his animals. The onus is on the property owner to put a fence around his property, if he wants to keep the hogs, sheep and goats away.

Democrat Rick Simmons, running for Constable Precinct 5, said his experience makes him a good choice for the job.  Simmons, 53, said he has 26 years of community service, with many of those as a police officer.

Simmons said he has maintained a good relationship with the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office. He is facing incumbent Republican Brad Miers in the general election.

“When I started this thing, I was told that it is a Republican stronghold, and I really shouldn’t go any further with it,” Simmons said. “But we hit the ground running, and I think I’ve got my boy scared, because he knows we’re serious.”

Simmons said law enforcement needs to have a good rapport with the public, because their input is valuable in watching for suspicious activities.

“You’ve got to have the people help you see things. You’ve got to meet us half-way.”

Precinct 1 County Commissioner Candidate David McGlaun is running for the vacant seat left by Joe Hall, who’s retiring at the end of the current term.

McGlaun told the audience that he has been a heavy-equipment operator for the precinct for the past five years. He worked for Central Plains Construction for six years as a heavy-equipment operator in highway construction. In 1990, he moved to a position with BFI, the world’s largest waste-management company, where he built all weather roads, and disposal sites while maintaining compliance with Texas Commission on Environmental Quality standards.

Democratic Sheriff candidate Bill Burton spoke on behalf of his bid to unseat Republican Ray Nutt. Burton said he has no animosity toward Nutt, but thinks it’s time for new leadership in the office. Burton said his varied experience, including a stint as Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace, qualifies him for the job.

Nutt was represented by Maj. Botie Hillhouse, who disagreed with a published claim, cited by Burton that the county was at one time “methamphetamine capital” of Texas.

Hillhouse, who was with the sheriff’s department at the time, said the county got the “meth-capital” designation, because it received a grant, and created a drug enforcement unit.

The county was required to document the drug enforcement activities of the unit, and turned in reports of several meth-lab raids. Because the county was documenting more drug arrests, the statistics created the appearance that the county’s drug problem was worse than in other counties of the state, Hillhouse said.