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Bandera County Candidates Forum, continued

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Pictured: BCC Staff Photo by Judith Pannebaker

Lila Ward of the Bandera County Republican Women assisted challenger for Precinct 3 Andy Wilkerson and Sherrie Keese, who pinch hit for her husband, incumbent Richard Keese.

Candidates for Precinct 1 Commissioner are challenger Bob Grimes and incumbent Bruce Eliker.

Candidates vying for the position of Precinct 1 Constable include incumbent Rod Chalmers, Rick Neely, Mark "Butch" Terry and Austin Butch Lewis.

First salvos in the latest political races were fired Saturday, Jan. 21, when the Bandera Republican Women, in conjunction with the Republican Party of Bandera County, sponsored their Local Candidates Forum.

Local voters packed the Silver Sage Corral Great Room to see candidates for tax assessor-collector, county attorney, sheriff, commissioners and constables take center stage for a little give and take and back and forth.

Last week's edition featured county attorney candidates, Janna Lindig, Daniel J. MacNeil and incumbent John Payne, as well as candidates for sheriff, Daniel "Dan" Butts, Frances Kaiser, David McGilvray, James Newton, Scott Sharp and Richard D. Smith.

Questions were posed to those candidates; however, the candidates featured today were given two minutes for an introduction.

Tax assessor-collector

With the retirement of Mae Vion Meyer, Bandera County Commissioners appointed Gwenda "Winnie" Tschirhart, in her stead. Tschirhart is now running unopposed for the position of tax assessor-collector. A graduate of Bandera High School, she has lived in Bandera County for over 32 years.

Prior to her interim appointment, Tschirhart served as chief deputy tax assessor-collector since April 2001.

She recently extended office hours during the week to assist taxpayers and citizens conduct their business.

Precinct 1 Commissioner

In the race for Precinct 1 Commissioner, incumbent Bruce Eliker drew an opponent, Bob Grimes.

"As commissioner for the past seven years, I know that a vision for the county is a hard and slow process, and I have the heart for the job," Eliker said. As a former engineer with the Texas Department of Transportation, his strong point is - not surprisingly - county road issues. A part-time instructor at Texas A&M. Eliker served as a reserved BCSO deputy for 28 years.

Grimes said this was his first time seeking public office; however, he has had 30-plus years working in the healthcare profession.

Grimes' three-fold platform includes transparency and communication. "I will schedule regular meetings with voters in my precinct," he promised.

Regarding economic development and diversity, Grimes felt it imperative to look 30 years into the future and attempt to attract businesses that would not damage Bandera's water supplies and life style.

Grimes also found Bandera's relatively high taxes problematic. "In 2010, Bandera County was in the top 20 percent of Texas counties relative to the general property tax fund," he said.

Precinct 3 Commissioner

Incumbent Precinct 3 Commissioner Richard Keese has been challenged by Andy Wilkerson.

Pinch hitting for her husband, Sherrie Keese said, "Well, when they said 'for better or worse,' I guess this is the worse." The couple has owned land in the county since 1970 and moved here permanently in 1995.

"A commissioner has the greatest responsibility in the county and must wear many hats and always consider the business of the county," she said.

During her husband's tenure as commissioner, accomplishments have included a new jail and justice center, expanded EMS services, a recycling program, stricter subdivision rules and a new courthouse annex in Medina, among others.

Challenger Andy Wilkerson threw his hat in the political ring because he wants to "get involved to improving the county as a whole." A lifelong resident of Bandera County, he said he would place special emphasis on roads and drawing more small businesses to the area to "help the tax structure and relieve the burden from property owners." Wilkerson also promised to communicate with his constituents and "work diligently for the county."

Unopposed constables

Unopposed incumbent constables include Precinct 1, Phil Tobin; Precinct 2, Ernie Reich; and Precinct 3, Don Walters.

The affable Tobin told the crowd, "I assure you, this won't take me two minutes." He said he was running for his fifth term because he enjoyed serving the public. "You've elected me four times before and I'd like to serve another term," Tobin added.

Reich, who has served as constable for the last 22 years, holds a Master Peace Officer certification - as do must of the other constables. He has been married for 51 years and he and his wife have a son and three grandchildren. Reich's constabulary beat includes Medina Lake area.

"This will hopefully be my third term as constable," said Walters, a former Houston businessman. He has owned property in the county for 30 years. "I'm proud to be a member of the west end of the county," Walters said. "Most everybody knows me and some don't want to know me." Precinct 3 includes Medina and the City of Bandera.

Precinct 4 Constable

Four candidates are vying for the office of constable, Precinct 4 - incumbent Rod Chalmers, Austin Butch Lewis, Richard "Rick" Neely and Mark "Butch" Terry. Precinct 4 includes the far western reaches of the county.

A native of New Mexico, Neely said he has a good work ethic and a "great team" in his wife and child. Since 2001, he has served the public as a volunteer firefighter; EMT; certified jailer, supervising work crews; and currently as the senior animal control officer for the Bandera County Sheriff's Office. "I want to help clean up the community," Neely said.

Describing himself as the "new kid on the block," Terry moved to Bandera County in October 2011. Prior to that, he served as a constable in Arkansas for the past 11 years. "In Arkansas, constables are not paid, so you have to love the job," Terry said. He also served as a volunteer firefighter for 25 years. He is currently working on his Texas Peace Officer Certification.

With 32 years experience as a peace officer in Texas, Chalmers is seeking re-election for a second term. "I am running on my work record for the last three years," he said. "I have learned the people and what their needs are." As a constable, Chalmers serves as an auxiliary patrol officer who assists other law enforcement agencies.

A member of the Utopia Lions Club, Chalmers also serves as president of the Bandera County Texas A&M Club.

Utopia High School grad Lewis also graduated from Uvalde College in 1969. A true son of Texas, he spent his youth rodeoing and roping calves. "I couldn't gain enough weight to become a police officer," he revealed.

Instead, after working as an EMT and paramedic, Lewis joined the Houston Fire Department as an arson investigator. When he retired in 1994, he received the Fire Marshal Award for Excellence in Fire Investigation. Since his retirement, Lewis served as a justice of the peace in Uvalde County.

'Meet & Greet'

Members of Bandera American Legion Post 157, 205 12 Street, will hold a "Meet the Candidates" Night," beginning at 7 pm, Thursday, Feb. 2.

After a three-minute introduction, candidates will take questions from the audience with responses limited to three minutes.