By Steven Zimmerman
SAN ELIZARIO, TEXAS- We wanted to present a through comparison of the candidates running for County Commissioner Precinct Three. Last week, we reached out, once again, to the incumbent, Current County Commissioner Vince Perez (D), Iliana Holguin (D) and Randy French (R). Each candidate was provided a list of questions that came from readers of San Elizario News. What follows are the responses of Mr Randy French.
Mr French, an Army Veteran, was awarded the Soldier’s Medal. The nation’s highest award for heroism during Peace Time or a Non-Combat Environment for putting my life in extreme risk to save others.
As I said, San Eli News reached out to Vince Perez and Iliana Holguin multiple times, however, we did not receive any response. Questions were sent out on May 2nd, and May 6th, 2020, with a stated deadline of May 13th, 2020 for responses.
We present, as is our policy, the answers Mr French provided, unedited.
1. What caused you to initially run for office;
I decided to run for El Paso County Commissioner Precinct 3 because of the extremely poor response of emergency services and extremely poor representation of our outlying municipalities and rural areas, especially in Precinct 3. I believe that the Sheriff’s Department, Fire Department, and Emergency Medical Services are understaffed and are not adequately provided with the new and updated equipment that they require to do their jobs. We, as a County, need to pay special attention to our Emergency Services and provide them the funding they need to make their jobs easier.
I have attempted to contact my County Commissioner about different issues and met with no results. The County Commissioner’s Office for Precinct 3 would not even respond or acknowledge that I contacted him. Additionally, after talking to many friends and Neighbors in our outlying areas, I have come to understand that they have had the same problem. When they contacted the County Commissioner’s Office, they too, received no response or acknowledgement. For these two reasons, as well as many other reasons I decided to run.
After becoming involved in my campaign I found even more disturbing information about the lack of representation by our current County Commissioner in El Paso County Precinct 3. I believed that our representation is an extremely important part of running our County. With the County Commissioner not responding or even acknowledging that his constituents have reached out to him, he has proven that they are not important to him.
2. What would you say your two (2) greatest accomplishments have been while in office;
First I must say that I have not been in a political office prior to my running for El Paso County Commissioner Precinct 3. I did not go to college to get a degree in political science, or government, or any other college program that layout of career path in politics. My college education is in Master of Arts in Management and Human Resources Development, and a Bachelor of Science in Sociology. This may be the very reason that voters in El Paso County Precinct 3 should vote for me.
I plan on working for the citizens of Precinct 3 with no other goals or aspirations for further political positions in mind. I do not have any ambitions to be a US Congress person, a Senator, or the President of the United States like many of those who have degrees in political science and/or Government do. In am not using this County Commissioner position as just a steppingstone to get to a higher political office.
Now for my two greatest accomplishments. First and foremost is my family. My second greatest accomplishment is my Military service to our country. I retired after 21 years of honorable service in the Army as a Military Police Person and Infantry. While in the military I obtained three college degrees.
3. Looking forward, how do you plan to strengthen the County of El Paso’s government? Over the years, the County has given more and more to the City of El Paso, such as the City handling all things COVID. How do you plan to fix this;
I plan to review the responsibilities of the county versus the responsibilities of the city. Identify areas that the county is not fulfilling its responsibilities and allowed the city to move in and take over. Then I will implement a plan to take back county responsibilities.
As with COVID19, I honestly believe that the county has relinquished too much authority to the city. In my opinion the county should be over the city, just as the State is over the Counties and the Federal Government is over the States. With the COVID19 crisis I have noticed that the County has taken a backseat role and relinquished most of all responsibilities to the City of El Paso. What is happening is the City of El Paso is focused mainly on the city of El Paso as a city should be. With the county taking a back seat extraordinarily little attention is on our outlying municipalities and rule areas. Here transparency and accountability are greatly needed. Our great citizens of these outlying communities and rural areas deserve to know what is happening just as much as the City of El Paso does.
Commissioner Vince Perez testified before the Texas House of Representatives Committee for County Affairs supporting legislation for better oversight of Emergency Services Districts in El Paso County in March of 2013, shortly after he was elected. He was supporting HB 685. He stated that passage of HB 685 would strengthen transparency and accountability in El Paso County.
Where is the oversight? Where is the transparency? Where is the accountability? When I asked the county for a copy of the Emergency Operations Plan I was informed by Assistant Fire Chief and Emergency Manager / Coordinator that the Emergency Operations Plan is not for public consumption. Public consumption? I do not plan to eat it! I just want to read it so I can be better prepared to serve the great citizens of El Paso County when I am elected as El Paso County Commissioner Precinct 3.
4. What more, in your opinion, can the County of El Paso do to assist the outlying municipalities;
There is so much more that the outlying communities need.
First I plan to improve our Emergency Services. In my opinion the Sheriff’s Department is underfunded and needs better equipment and more personnel. Sheriff’s substations are needed within our outlying communities. Our Fire Department needs to have more equipment and more substations with Personnel on duty. Along with the fire department our Emergency Medical Services needs more personnel and better equipment. Again, on this campaign I have heard far too many people tell me do not call 911, call the corner instead. The corner will arrive 10 times faster than any of the Emergency Services. I understand that this is somewhat of an exaggeration, but the perception in our outlying communities is simply this, better Emergency Services are required.
Second I plan on looking into the budget and find where we are wasting Monies and failing our communities, Then develop a plan that serves all of El Paso County, not just the few municipalities that the city of El Paso consider major municipalities. Every citizen of El Paso County, whether in the city of El Paso or in the outlying municipality or a rural area deserves the best that El Paso County can give. Right now that is not happening.
Third I plan to investigate what facilities and services that El Paso County Precincts 3 should have and do not. Then develop a plan to get these facilities and services for our outlying communities. The comments by some, that El Paso (the city) has everything that is needed is not only garbage, it also sets the city up to get funding that outlying municipalities should have. By this I mean that when citizens from outline municipalities and rural areas come all the way into the city of El Paso to use facilities and services because they don’t have these services in their municipalities, then El Paso gets the money and outlying municipalities do not.
I will look into past projects in our municipalities and see if there was something done that was not done to standard and why it was not done to standard. Then I will implement a plan to fix it. I encourage all of El Paso County Precinct 3 to reach out to me and let me know what if anything you know that needs to be corrected. After all, when I am elected as your county commissioner, I will be working for you. I will be listening to you. I will do the will of the people and not my will. My email is email@example.com
5. San Eli is dark. At one-point Commissioners Court had a plan to place LED lights in the outlying municipalities, that has seemingly never happened. How will you ensure the outlying municipalities will receive the county support they need, such as lighting, water, et al;
As for lighting within the outline municipalities, as your county commissioner I will look into it and see what was done in the past about this project. Then I will consult with the leaders in the outlying communities. Define what they need in their own specific communities. Once all that information is gathered I will submit a plan and request to the County Commissioners Court to get that lighting needed in our outlying communities.
As for water and sewer services in our outlying communities, this is a complex problem that needs to be addressed. The cost of running water and Sewer services to homesites in our rural communities is very expensive. For example, to bring water to the Hueco Mountain Estates area, the cost is estimated to cost $250,000.00 per household. The outlying community leaders and the County Commissioners need to work together to develop a plan for the water and sewer services and request funding from the federal government for these Services.
It is hard to Fathom that in the United States we have communities that do not have water and sewer services. Yet we are building water and sewer services and other infrastructure in other countries. Now while I support helping to develop other countries, I am a firm believer that we need to develop our country first. Starting in El Paso County Precinct 3. To do this we need to work together, we need to plan together, and we need to make it happen.
Keeping in line with the question about the county relinquishing its responsibilities to the city. We need to pull back from the city and become a stronger county. We must have a strong county consisting of the citizens and representatives to make these things happen. Again, I encourage any feedback from anybody within Precinct 3 that will help reach these goals of bringing adequate water and sewer services as well as any other services, to the communities of Precinct 3 here in El Paso County. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
6. The City of El Paso has created an economic a recovery task force that seems to only cover El Paso. As yet, there has been no announcement from the County of El Paso has created a similar task force, is one to be created;
Unfortunately, I am not in office. Having said that, I passionately believe there should be a county level economic recovery task force established. This task force should focus on all the cities municipalities as well as rule areas within the county. While El Paso City has an economic recovery task force already established, we as a County, would not have to spend a lot of time focusing on El Paso City. However, we should take El Paso City into account in our overall El Paso County Recovery task force. The task force for the county needs to focus on primarily the outlying municipalities and communities. It appears that they were put once again on the back burner.
I have also noticed the lack of County Commissioner involvement from all four Precinct Commissioners within El Paso County in the COVID19 Crisis. This inaction by our Commissioners demonstrates just how much authority the County has given up to the City of El Paso.
7. Do you plan to back any future plans to raise property tax;
ABSOLUTELY NOT! As your County Commissioner I will begin a review of the County budget. The citizens of El Paso County are taxed far too much as it is.
In my opinion, the county budget is being abused. Look at the last four years. The County Commissioners voted to raise the pay of the County Commissioners annual salary from $62,680.00 to about $114,000. This is a raise of a little more than $51,300 from 2016. That is over an 81% raise. All of this is while the retired county employees received a zero cost of living increase. That is right they have not received a cost of living increase for at least years or more. I cannot find any hard data about this so I can only go on what El Paso County Retirees have told me. These county retirees are now getting less groceries for the same exact retirement pay the were receiving 4 years ago. How is that even fair?
Commissioner Vince Perez and then El Paso County Judge an now current US House District 16 Congresswoman Veronica Escobar stated in a KFOX 14 article dated Friday, 12th 2016 about the pay raise.
Perez said, “If people are still really upset, I myself would be willing to either to put the salary aside but at least keep it level for the next person coming in or phase it in or donate it.”
Escobar said, I know and understand people are very upset the fact there was an increase, you know there’s nothing I can do to appease people.”
I have yet to find any documentation that Commissioner Perez put the extra pay aside, donated or phase it in.
In a KFOX14 article dated Thursday, September 5th 2019 County Commissioner Vince Perez stated “The elected officials are getting paid 80 percent of market value of comparable counties,” said Vincent Perez, Commissioner of El Paso County’s Third Precinct.
The article went on to say El Paso County has a policy of paying elected officials a percentage of what their counterparts make in other, larger counties.
The $115,000 they are voting on Monday is 80 percent of a commissioner’s salary in Harris County, near Houston.
Let us compare a little about Harris County and El Paso County that the Commissioner is not telling us and most likely doesn’t want us to know.
Harris County: Population 4,713,329 El Paso Population 839,238
El Paso has 82.2% Less People
Harris County: Median Income $60,146 El Paso Median Income $44,597
El Paso Median Income is 25.9% Lower
Harris County: Poverty Level 16.5 % El Paso Poverty Level 20,5%
There are 19.5% More People Living In Poverty In El Paso County
Harris County: Housing Units 1,788,240 El Paso County: Housing Units 299,592
El Paso has 83,2% Fewer Housing Units. That Means Far Less Homeowners to Tax.
Harris County: Median Value $165,300 El Paso County: Median Value $119,100
El Paso has 18.8% Less Home Value. That Means Far Less Home Values to Tax On.
I got this information from the United States Census Bureau.
How can our County Commissioners justify their salary after looking at these statistics?
This is only one small area of El Paso County’s budget. After looking at just this portion of the budget, I now wonder what other areas if the County’s budget is full of wasteful spending.
8. Would you work to encourage a VA clinic to be opening for the outlying municipalities and work to make it happen?
Yes, I will work to get a Veterans Administration Community out based Clinic in our outlying areas.
When the new William Beaumont Army Medical Center was developed there was ground set aside for a new Veterans Administration Hospital. The utilities for that hospital were put in place and the undeveloped area remains to build a VA Hospital. The leadership in El Paso Veterans Administration failed to submit for funding to build the hospital.
Congresswoman Veronica Escobar has lobbied against having a VA Hospital built here in El Paso. Maybe that’s the reason why the El Paso VA Administration here did not move forward with building the hospital. The greater El Paso area has over 90,000 veterans that receives health care in the El Paso VA Health Care System. The nearest VA Hospital is in Albuquerque New Mexico. This is unacceptable!
A VA hospital is needed here in El Paso as well as Community Out Based Clinic in the Far South Eastern, Far North Eastern and Far North western parts of the County.
Also, your final/closing thoughts. I give each person the chance to share those and they run at the close of each piece.
I would like to tell the citizens of El Paso County Precinct 3 that I am the candidate for you. You, the great people of Precinct 3 are the shiniest part of the brightest star in Texas. You deserve the best. And the beast candidate for El Paso County Commissioner Precinct 3, simply put is me.
While I am not a career politician, nor have I gone to school to learn how to be a career politician and get a degree in any type of political related studies, I am the best candidate for Precinct 3 of El Paso County. I am a person who likes helping people. I do not aspire to be a Congressman, Senator, Governor of Texas or even the President of the United States. I aspire to serve You the great citizens of El Paso County Precinct 3.
I have worked many different jobs in my life’s journey. I served almost 21 years in the United States Army. My primary Military Occupational Specialty was Military Police. My secondary Military Occupation Specialty was Infantry. I was also detailed to recruiting duty for 2 years 9 months. I served 9 years of my military service overseas. I worked as a manager in warehousing, receiving, shipping, service parts and research and development supply chain management. I taught graduate school and undergraduate school. I worked part time in private security and hotel security, gas station attendant and for a tree service. As a kid and through high school, I worked delivering newspapers to delivering pizzas, bailing hay and straw, shoveling out livestock pens and Corrals and detassling corn fields and walking soybean fields to eliminate the previous year’s crop, As a High School Senior I worked full time at a car dealership detailing cars to help my mother pay the bills after my father’s death. These many and varied life’s experiences and so very many others allow me to better serve You.
The opportunity to serve in multiple countries and live within the civilian communities while I was waiting for housing, gave me a unique experience and perspective that will greatly benefit El Paso County. I understand how multiple cultures need to work together to achieve the ultimate outcome. I understand the unique complexities and how to appropriately address the varied issues and work together.
I have worked with several Foreign Law Enforcement Agencies and have worked with Federal, State, County, and city Law Enforcement agencies as well. The FBI, Secret Service, U.S. Customs, Border Patrol, State Bureaus of Investigation, State Police, Highway Patrol, County Sheriff’s Departments and City police Departments. Just to name a few.
I am trained and experienced in U.S Customs operations, Law Enforcement operations, Special Reaction Team operations, Security and Intelligence operations, Hospital Security operations, Law Enforcement Patrol and Patrol Supervision operations, Physical Security operations, Personal Protection operations, Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Response operations, Emergency Response operations, Mass Casualty operations, Riot Control/Crowd Control operations and other Law Enforcement operations.
I obtained my 3 college degrees while in the Army. My Associates of Science degree from Georgia Military College, Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology from the University of the state of New York Regents and a duel Master of Arts degree in Human Resources Development and in Management from Webster University. This gives me the education to know How to best serve You. It took me 20 years of going to class when I could attend classes, to obtain these degrees. I studied in the bottom of a foxhole and within a mile of North Korea. I studied during my off-duty time and during lunch. I studied during down time when I was in field operations and training. This allows me to focus on what is important to you and issues in Precinct 3 and El Paso County.
I am uniquely qualified to help our Precinct’s beloved Veterans. I assisted many Veterans file claims for benefits, I have walled other Veterans through the Veterans Administration and helped others fight the bureaucracy within the VA system. I am a Veteran myself and hard to work my own way through the VA system.
I believe in God, Jesus Christ, and the Bible, I support our great and inspiring Constitution of The United States. I am pro-life. And I believe in You, the Citizens of El Paso County Precinct 3. You are the Shiniest Part of the Brightest Star in Texas!
A vote for me in November is a vote for yourselves and a better County Precinct.