A critical job needs superb candidates
June 20, 2013, 7:35 pm by Roy Bode
Although she gave no specifics, various political candidates have complained privately of intimidation by operatives threatening to use money and mud against those unwilling to follow their direction, and much of the back-and-forth in last year’s Republican primary elections would have made a buzzard retch.
Against that history, it is tremendously important rank and file voters understand what is at stake in filling the void Klaeger will leave and do everything possible to encourage serious, well-credentialed candidates to run for an office that is critically important to the future of the Highland Lakes.
Not until the past few years has the pace and scope of growth in our area made the County Judge’s office absolutely, inarguably the single most important in local government. Today, successfully managing challenges posed by burgeoning development and the need for interagency coordination with neighboring counties and state agencies requires an able leader with substantial and credible management experience and political savvy.
Klaeger’s successor must be someone who understands the difference in public service and public sinecure. As a tireless student of water management, criminal justice, finance and other issues that intersect at the county courthouse, she devoted unending hours to understanding their most arcane details and political pressure points and directly engaging the state’s regulatory substructure.
She created beachheads for Burnet County in the Texas Legislature, the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), appearing at their meetings, cultivating their staffs and leadership, and helping give our area a voice in the effort to reshape water policy in the state, particularly as it effects the Highland Lakes.
Water is the most vital factor in the future of Burnet County and the Austin Metro area and leadership and a sophisticated understanding of the issues and politics involved is absolutely essential at a time when relentless drought has unmistakably proven that resources can diminish as needs increase.
On another front, the county – thanks to the judge and the commissioners – is close to being debt free, perhaps as soon as 2016, with only very modest tax increases. In an age where infinite debt and wanton spending has become a way of life for much of government, that is truly remarkable. That also calls for a successor who not only can read a balance sheet, but knows that citizens and businesses are not bottomless ATM dispensers and views monstrous debt as a problem rather than a solution.
So far, James Oakley, a former Burnet County Commissioner, has filed for Klaeger’s job. While Oakley may prove to be an excellent choice, the position is too important for an unopposed election. Fortunately, there is plenty of time for candidates who fit the measure of the job to join Oakley in the race and gather their supporters.
Although we believe elected officials and party leaders should tend to their own business rather than involving themselves in the primary campaigns of select candidates, others who see the importance of electing a truly experienced and thoroughly capable County Judge should encourage those they respect to run and energetically support them if they do.
We can do this differently way next year than we did last year. Going forward, voters can insist on civilized, open and transparent local elections without outside political consultants, backroom powerbrokers, personal attacks, rumor mongering and gutter-rat tactics. Allow the best candidates – and their supporters – to compete on their merits in an intelligent contest.
With the immeasurably important office of County Judge in the balance, we owe the county and its citizens the opportunity to choose between men and women who will not be discouraged by our recent political history, but will have faith we can do better.
Roy E. Bode
President & Publisher
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