Tarrant tax-assessor hopefuls won’t alter registration policy on red-light tickets

The four Republican candidates for Tarrant County Tax Assessor Collector — Mike Snyder, Wendy Burgess, Rick Barnes and Trasa Cobern.
The four Republican candidates for Tarrant County Tax Assessor Collector — Mike Snyder, Wendy Burgess, Rick Barnes and Trasa Cobern. Special to the Star-Telegram

Republican candidates hoping to replace tax assessor Ron Wright say they will uphold his policy of not blocking vehicle registration for motorists with unpaid red-light camera tickets.

“I will not support holding up your registration because of the red lights,” said Rick Barnes, a former Keller councilman who is one of the candidates hoping to win the GOP’s nomination for Tarrant County tax-assessor collector. “Not only do I not agree with the process, the people do not agree with the process. So I will not support it.”

That sentiment was shared by the other three candidates in the race — former KXAS/Ch. 5 anchorman Mike Snyder, former Mansfield councilwoman Wendy Burgess and Trasa Robertson Cobern, a Hurst councilwoman and the daughter of “Uncle Si” Robertson on the popular reality show “Duck Dynasty.”

The four Republicans, who spoke to more than 60 people gathered Tuesday at a Tarrant Star Republican Women forum at the Diamond Oaks Country Club, said they’ve gotten many calls from voters stressing the red-light camera issue.

They all indicated they’d like to follow the policy already set by Wright, who resigned his post to run for the 6th Congressional District, hoping to replace U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, who is not seeking re-election.

Candidates for Tarrant County tax assessor discussed the issues during a forum at Diamond Oaks Country Club.

“I agree with Ron Wright,” said Snyder, who left television news in 2010 after 30 years. “We are not going to hold hostage our car tags, truck tags or boat tags to collect red light camera fines for the cities.”

Some other Texas counties — such as Dallas — flag motorists with unpaid red-light tickets and block their vehicle registrations until the fines are paid.

Cobern said she has had more questions about her stance on red-light camera tickets than any other issue in this race.

“Red light cameras are a major issue,” she said. “I think that the Tax-Assessor Collector is the representative of the people. And the people obviously don’t want this held up at the county level. I agree. It’s not the role of the county to be collecting money for these municipalities for their own issue.”

Burgess also said she would continue to follow the policy set out by Wright.

“This is a state registration,” said Burgess, who served six years on the Mansfield City Council and is married to Tarrant County Constable Clint Burgess. “It should not be held captive by municipalities.”

At stake in this race is an unexpired two year term that runs through 2020 and pays $173,000 annually.

The winner of the March 6 GOP primary will face Democrat Ollie Anderson in November.

In the race

The four Republicans each talked about why they are in this race, during the forum moderated by longtime GOP activist Adrian Murray.

Burgess said she has more than 20 years experience running businesses, stressed the number of endorsements she has acquired and believes she can do the best job running the county’s tax office.

“This is your money. This is your office,” she said, describing herself as a leader and a conservative. “I think that it’s important I’m a business-minded candidate, not a politician.”

Cobern, a former stay-at-home mother who balanced a tight budget with raising four sons, said she can do the same with the Tax-Assessor Collector’s office. She said she has experience as an elected official dealing with large budgets and helping reduce property taxes. And she wants to “reduce any excessive spending” in the county office.

“I think that the tax office shouldn’t be run like a business. It’s not a business,” she said, describing herself as having conservative beliefs. “It’s your money ... and there is a finite amount of money.”

Snyder said he wants to help taxpayers understand how the county agency — and property tax bills and appeals — work. He stressed that he wants to make sure any taxpayers due refunds from property tax appeals receive their money the same day they learn refunds are due.

“I will be a strong voice for taxpayers in Tarrant County,” he said, highlighting his philanthropic work in recent decades and noting that his Republican ties are long. “In 1994, I was at a Republican women’s picnic. I was suspended for two weeks without pay because I attended a Republican event. If anyone wants to question my Republican credentials, go on.”

And Barnes, who withdrew a bid to run for Tarrant County Republican Chair at the last minute to instead switch to this race, said he will put his strong conservative voting record up against any of the other candidates running for this post.

He stressed he was adopted, chooses life, has been married for 30 years and “will bring better policy to this conversation.” As an elected official, he said he worked to lower property tax rates and raise homestead exemptions. From that he learned that “if we keep the money in your pocket, you still spend it. But you get to choose where you spend it.”

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley