Elections

Why you don’t need to worry about red light cameras in Tarrant County

Not sure what Texas’ elected politicians actually do? Here are explanations

Railroad commissioner? County Court-at-Law judge? County tax assessor-collector? When you head to the polls, know what the responsibilities are of the positions on your ballot. Here's a brief explainer on some of the key elected positions in Texas
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Railroad commissioner? County Court-at-Law judge? County tax assessor-collector? When you head to the polls, know what the responsibilities are of the positions on your ballot. Here's a brief explainer on some of the key elected positions in Texas

Tarrant County voters don’t need to worry about pesky red light cameras.

Though state law bans those with outstanding tickets on their accounts from renewing their vehicle registration, outgoing Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector Ron Wright has made it a policy to renew registrations no matter how many unpaid red-light tickets.

That’s not going to change under either candidate hoping to replace Wright, who is running for the 6th Congressional District.

Democrat Ollie Anderson has said she doesn’t plan to “shake up too many things” with the assessor’s office, including the red light camera policy.

“I’m not trying to repeal what Ron Wright has put into place,” she said.

Republican Wendy Burgess said she would also continue Wright’s policy.

“This is a state registration,” Burgess said earlier this year. “It should not be held captive by municipalities.”

While the two candidates may differ on party line, both see improving community relations as the biggest challenge of the tax assessor-collector’s office.

Anderson, with more than 40 years of accounting experience, oversaw government audits and multimillion-dollar accounts, she said.

A disconnect between Tarrant County residents and the tax office has grown, she said. She would prioritize community outreach and a new streamlined website so people better understand the office’s role.

“I want to be visible and reintroduce people to the tax office and its services,” she said.

Burgess, a small business owner with experience in information technology, was previously a Mansfield City Councilwoman.

Customer service would be her first priority, she said in a questionnaire.

“We are adding 1,000 people per month and most will first experience the Tax Assessor-Collector office through the motor vehicles division with registration of vehicles,” she said. “We can shine in their eyes during the first visit by providing cheerful quality service to welcome these individuals to our community.”

Tarrant County Judge

Republican County Judge Glen Whitley has served 22 years on the commissioners court, including 12 as judge, and is seeking another term to see through a number of ongoing county projects. Among them are transportation improvements, the JPS hospital bond project and a program that places asthma nebulizers in schools.

“I’ve had a lot of emphasis on transportation but this is something I’m quite proud of,” Whitley said of the nebulizer program

Larry Meyers, who previously served as a Republican on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, is running against Whitley as a Democrat. He did not return calls seeking comment about his campaign.

Commissioners Court, Place 2

Republican incumbent Andy Nguyen, elected in 2010 and the county’s first-Asian American to hold office, touts transportation, economic development and fiscal responsibility among his priorities, according to his website.

As Tarrant County’s population grows, Nguyen said transportation will be vital to job creation, property values and economic development. Tax increment finance zones, along with other tools, can help spur economic development while partnerships and efficiencies can help keep government costs low.

Democrat Devan Allen said in a questionnaire that access to quality healthcare is the biggest issue facing Tarrant County.

An EMT, Allen said she supports the Tarrant County Hospital District’s $800 million bond proposal. The proposal will increase access to mental health services as well as preventative care, she said.

Allen said she would work across party lines to find solutions.

Commissioners Court, Place 4

J.D. Johnson, the Republican incumbent, is running unopposed.

Tarrant County District Attorney

Sharen Wilson, the Republican incumbent for district attorney, was first elected in 2014.

She lists victim advocacy and domestic violence as her top priorities. Violence between intimate partners is one of the most common crimes in Tarrant County, she said.

Rehabilitation for first-time, non-violent young offenders is also a priority along with fighting fraud against the elderly.

Democrat Albert John Roberts wants to reform bail and jail terms.

He supports individual risk assessments before bail is set, non-cash pretrial release for non-violent misdemeanors and alternatives to incarceration. A cite and release program for possession of marijuana would save taxpayers by decreasing costs for incarceration. He also supports increasing the scope of the diversion program.

Tarrant County District Court Clerk

Incumbent Republican Tom Wilder said in a questionnaire that he is seeking re-election so he can wrap up several projects. He has served as district clerk for 23 years.

Computer and building upgrades underway may save taxpayers money in operations costs, he said. A disaster recovery plan will ensure the county’s justice system continues to operate in the event a disaster renders downtown Fort Worth unusable for records and jails.

For Wilder the major problem facing the is competition in the job market. Attracting and retaining talented employees is crucial to its operation, he said.

Democrat John Derewitz said public confidence in the clerk’s office has eroded under Wilder. He pointed to a 2016 Texas Supreme Court decision that rejected Wilder’s practice of collecting fees from indigent parties in divorce cases as an unreasonable burden to Tarrant County residents.

Derewitz said he would work to make the clerk’s office more accountable to the public. He has 28 years of government experience including 10 as a precinct chairman.

Tarrant County Clerk

Neither incumbent Republican Mary Louise Garcia nor Democrat Challenger Karroll W. Parker returned a questionnaire.

According to Garcia’s website, technology has been the focal point of her tenure as county clerk. She was elected in 2011.

Among advancements, an automated line management system has reduced wait times, a new website allows electronic form filing and she is pushing to eliminate paper.

Parker’s Facebook page doesn’t list platform information and he didn’t return messages.

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