Experience, the county’s debt and economic development were primary talking points during a debate between a pair of candidates vying for Hays County’s top elected position Thursday.
The event, held by the League of Women’s Voters of Hays County, pitted Democrat Ruben Becerra against Republican Will Conley in the first debate prior to the Nov. 6 election. The two men are vying for a seat held by longtime County Judge Bert Cobb, who opted to forgo reelection in 2017 due to health reasons.
Throughout the night, Conley cited his 14 years of experience as a public official and felt he is someone who can lead Hays County, based on his track record.
Conley spoke on his efforts as a commissioner and chairman of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) to ensure property infrastructure needs for the county as it continues to rank as one of the fastest growing regions in the country.
“I have led those efforts and worked with the state to bring half a billion dollars in highway improvements,” Conley said. “I am passionate about transportation and how we can solve those issues. I bring every bit of knowledge to ensure we are part of that regional conversation with our transportation needs.”
Becerra focused on the county’s “crippling” debt, which is the second highest in the state of Texas per capita at around $2,000 per person.
Becerra said property taxes continue to rise, which he believes only burdens the citizenry even more.
When asked about incentives for businesses coming into Hays County, Becerra said officials should not give them to everyone.
“As the darling we are in Central Texas, I find it very hard to find reason to incentivize dollars to build something over environmentally sensitive areas,” Becerra said. “It’s important for us to be good stewards with our money.”
Conley said the county has continued to bring high paying jobs to the area, calling Amazon’s move to build a fulfillment center a victory.
Additionally, Conley said he wants to balance growth with environmental consciousness and continue his efforts with economic development organizations, such as the Greater San Marcos Partnership (GSMP), to bring more high paying jobs to the area.
“I am prepared to be the County Judge of this community. I have the experience, knowledge and skill set to take our county into the future,” Conley said. “I have worked with all sides and all interest and all parties, not only in Hays County but at a regional level as well, and put our county on the map in a way it’s never been in our history.”
Conley urged Hays County residents to put him and his opponent side by side to evaluate their experience and ability to do the job.
Becerra said he wants to focus on the county’s growth intelligently, including plans to develop roads and infrastructure on the east side of Interstate 35, an area Democratic candidates believe has been neglected.
“I believe in people over politics. Our property taxes are out of control and they need to be brought down. I believe ruining young adult lives over nonviolent offenses is criminal,” Becerra said. “I believe Hays County citizens should have the opportunity to work, live and play here. I believe Hays County needs a hard working Judge, and I will be that Judge for you.”