By Sahar Chmais
Hays County commissioners have selected who they want to head the Citizens Advisory Commission on Redistricting and the guidelines to ensure a fair course.
The redistricting commission will meet to help redraw the electoral district boundaries in Hays County, according to the latest census figures.
The county continues to grow and its demography shifts. According to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau, Hays County had a population of 157,000 and increased to 230,000 in 2019 – an increase of more than 70,000 residents. Hays County continues to grow and is labeled as the second fastest growing county in the U.S.
Ultimately, the commissioners court will have the final vote on redistricting, but it will not be the ones in charge of creating the maps. Discussions regarding the redrawing of maps will be held by appointees in open space so the public can join in.
Commissioners and Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra (D) each selected one member to represent their districts.
Becerra said he chose Shannon Fitzpatrick because she is a former prosecutor, is level-headed and is for the people. Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe (D), chose Ruben Garza and said he would be a great fit as he served on a redistricting commission in 2000. Ingalsbe added that Garza may reject the selection due to health issues, so her second choice would be Vanessa Westbrook.
Pct. 4 Commissioner Walt Smith (R) selected Steve Meyer. Pct. 2 Commissioner Mark Jones (R) chose John Ambrose. Pct. 3 Commissioner Lon Shell said he will make his selection next week and awaits confirmation.
Both party chairs, Bob Parks for Hays County Republicans, and Mark Trehan for Hays County Democrats, will also have a seat at the “round table,” to oversee that each party has a fair say without tipping the scales in the process, Becerra said.
To further create a fair process, the commissioners set some guidelines. The redistricting commission will have a quota on how many days they can meet, no more or no less than a certain amount; that amount is yet to be decided.
Commissioners agreed to make the meetings at accessible points in different precincts so that residents are able to attend the meetings without difficulty. They also added that each meeting should have substance to it, that way residents show up and leave informed, rather than just checking off a box that they met.
These meetings will be open for resident participation to give ideas and feedback. More details on the redistricting commission to come.