The Levelland Chamber of Commerce held a political forum Monday night for candidates for Hockley County Commissioner, District Attorney and Sheriff.
We have included a list of questions asked each candidate and their response below…
Comm. Pct. 1
1) Please tell us about yourself and why you feel you are the best candidate.
Curtis Thrash–2 terms 8 years in Hockley County Commissioners Seat. Completed High School in Ropes, took over family farm 28 years ago. Experience in budgeting and have done a good job stretching tax dollars.
Jackie Ellison–Grew up in Hockley County, Served In US Army and Worked in oil field-10 years, Farmed for 50 years, now has land leased out. Worked for Hockley County 20 years. Hopes to keep tax rate down, only spend what you have too.
2) What is your plans to work with business community–
J.E. Will try to work with businesses and will work to keep tax rate down. Oil Field workers are hurting. He knows how to build roads and roads need rebuilt.
Curtis Thrash–Commissioners always has open door policy and will continue to listen to everyone. Try to use local businesses whenever possible. We have had to raise taxes but will work to stretch it as far as possible.
3) Funds may be tight in future, where would you cut—
CT I cut my budget, $50,000 for this year. I would have to take a hard look at cuts.
JE–Not utilize buy back program–cut wherever you can. I am new and don’t know how much is required for fuel and tires. I have always lived on a tight budget.
4) Why can’t county live within its means and not raise taxes when oil revenues drop…..
JE Don’t expect people to pay more taxes, we will have to cut expenses. Won’t cut salaries. Would consider cutting his salary.
CT–We have raised taxes but that amount of taxes only generated the same amount of revenue. When property values are down taxes have to go up. There are set expenses that can’t be cut.
5) How do you plan to strengthen relations with city and school.
CT We will continue to operate on an open door policy.
JE–I am in favor of bringing employment opportunities to county. He wants to raise taxes through more employment.
County Commissioner–Pct. 3
- Why are you the best candidate for this position?
Whitey Barnett His family in hockley county since 1949–He and his wife Ruth raised family in Hockley County. Worked Great Western Drilling Company and then worked in Oklahoma before returning to Hockley County and working for Amoco for many years.
Dyrl Bush–Owns and operates business in Hockley County. Time to give back to community and help the citizens.
2) What is your plan to work with business community—
DB–We need to get more businesses into county
WB–Member of Tax Increment board in Levelland. We are not growing, would do anything possible to help community.
3) What are your ideas to improve quality of life in Hockley County
WB–Support anything that we can to to help community. Mallet Event Center has improved Quality of Life and has been good for county.
DB–Work on something for youth to keep them out of trouble.
4) What would you do to keep county roads in good condition or better
DB–Feels roads are in good condition in Precinct. Keep check on the road conditions.
WB–Feel we do a good job keeping roads up in precinct. 321 miles of roads over 200 miles of dirt roads. All roads need some repairs and maintenance regardless if they are paved or not.
5) After Blizzard of 2015, what improvements can be made in communications and working together between agencies.
WB–All road crew has worked to get roads in passable condition. Will continue to work to fill pot holes, etc.
DB–All agencies need to work together and make sure all roads are open and make sure roads are open getting to emergency facilities. Everyone work together.
- Why are you best candidate for position?…
Christopher Dennis–I am the current district attorney and enjoy what I do. He admits to being a career politician but notes he is a career prosecuter. Prosecuting for your career will change you and will alter your beliefs. Went to law school to be a prosecuter and seek justice. Being a DA is a calling.
Richard Husen–Been in Levelland for 37 years. Served in Air Force for 4 years then entered law practice in Levelland and has served as City Attorney for many years. Crime must be addressed vigerously and must be done on a full time basis. With growth in community we can do a better job prosecuting and doing so in a timely manner. We must also remember, crime has victims. Making system work requires solving cases through trials or plea bargains.
2) What is your plan to work with business community—
RH–I will continue to work with business community. Has had a legal practice for 37 years and has always worked with businesses. He will work to promote public safety and control criminal activity and work with law enforcement agencies to do so. Make sure community is safe.
CD–Enforce the law in the community. Been working with business community and will continue to educate business community on fraud schemes, etc.
3) Is there a backlog in the DA’s office and is it causing jail overcrowding
CD–There is a state number on backlog of cases–Hockley County is in good shape. there are a number of things that take place before I get a case and because those happen on a regular basis. There is jail overcrowding but I do not believe I can take the blame for that. Sheriff’s office needs to submit reports to DA in timely manner and quit over arresting and over charging. Make sure court appointed attorney papers are being sent from the jail.
RH–Statistics available from the state in 2012, just under 200 cases pending now at 290. In 3 year period 1200 cases disposed of, 400 plus was from dismissals. We need to speed up the process. No one is totally innocent and no one is totally guilty. Many people are in jail on drug charges and you cannot go to trial without a verified drug test. Only have one DPS lab serving many counties and I would like to take proposals from independent labs to do test and see if that would speed up process and possibly keep numbers of prisoners housed out of county down.
4) What changes need to be made in DA’s office
RH–I have no plans for restructuring or personnel changes at this time. I feel probably could work smarter.
CD–There are changes to be made and we are working to make those changes. There is a greater case load. Over 200 drug cases prosecuted in last year. Another assistant DA has been approved by commissioners but I am not sure that I will hire that position at this time due to tight budgetary concerns. Noted it may be necessary based on increased case load.
5) How do you plan to speed up process so county doesn’t have so many open cases.
CD–I’m not here to run a fast case I am here to run a just case. Every case is different. You don’t move a case quickly just for the sake of moving the case quickly.
RH–There is more to running judicial system then speed. We are not trying cases we have. Number of cases awaiting trial continues to increase. Overall slowness will have an impact on Police system. We have to do a better job to make sure that when a jury is called to the courthouse make sure there is a case for them to hear, do not cancel trial after jurors have taken off work, etc to report.
1) Tell us about yourself and what makes you the best candidate for the job.
RC Cheek–Born and raised in Hockley County. Joined DPS in 1967 and have been in Law Enforcement for 49 years. Sheriff in Hockley County for 3 years.
Ray Scifres–Worked for Hockley County Sheriff’s office in 2010 for several years. Feels Sheriff’s office needs to work on communication with other agencies. I have always maintained my integrity. 20 years leadership experience and has municipal and county experience. I hope to bring leadership to Sheriff’s Office.
2) What is your plan to work with business community.
Ray–Would like to implement community policing program and work with businesses to educate them against fraud and to prevent loss. Work with DA’s office to make sure cases are being handled. Make sure cases are filed in timely manner and correctly. Jail is a wreck now, large amount of money being spent in other counties to house Hockley County prisoners.
RC–We work to stay within our budget but unfortunately you can’t necessarily do that. Jail overcrowding is example, we have to house prisoners out of county and it costs money. My deputies work to patrol county we let the city handle the city. We do assist if possible.
3) What responsibility does the sheriff’s office have in the half a million dollars being spent on housing inmates out of county.
R C–Sheriff’s Office cannot release any prisoners loose on their own, must have authority from court or bondsmen
Ray–Have a hands on approach. Know who is in your jail and how long they have been there. Make sure cases are being turned in a timely manner.
4) How do you plan to improve working relationship with other agencies.
Ray–I have had working relationship with cities and law enforcement angencies in this county even while working as an investigator in the DA’s office in Yoakum county. Must work with all cities in the county. When a drug raid is done in the county and Sheriff’s Office isn’t there it should make you wonder why. Working with other angencies starts from the top.
RC–This sheriff’s office gets along with every department in this county and we work with everybody in this county. He has always told his officers, if you are in Anton and Sundown calls for help you get enroute immediately to back up.
5) Since drugs are rampant in this county, how do you propose to get a handle on drug problem.
RC We need more deputies on the road. It cannot be done with 6-7 deputies and 6 towns to cover. We can’t be everywhere.
Ray–City of Levelland and DPS is running ragged on working drug problem. There was a time when we worked drug cases in Hockley County Sheriff’s Office. This is where communications with other angencies come in. Look at what our sentencing options are, pre trial options etc. Have active involvement with judicial system.