Fall is the season of change — not only for the weather, but also for politics.

The Nov. 2 election promises to be widely watched and, hopefully, will generate strong voter turnout with many races of interest on the ballot (see related story, page XX).

Locally, the hottest contested race is for county judge, with two seasoned candidates vying for the position — Somvervell County Commissioner Mike Ford, who's running on the Republican ticket, and Justice of the Peace Dwayne Griffin, who's running as a Democrat. Current County Judge Walter Maynard has held the job for the past 12 years, so this election means a change of leadership.

As Judge Maynard can attest, a county judge does much more than preside over meetings of the five-member Somervell County Commissioners Court, which has budgetary and administrative authority over county government. The judge also holds judicial responsibilities for certain criminal, civil and probate matters and has appellate jurisdiction over matters arising from the justice courts.

The judge also handles a wide range of hearings for beer and wine applications, admittance to state hospitals for mentally ill and mentally retarded, juvenile and guardianship purposes. The judge is responsible for calling elections, posting election notices and receiving and canvassing the election returns. He or she may also perform marriages.

The county's chief elected official also is chairman of the Juvenile Board, director of Emergency Management — which directs operations of the Emergency Operations Center — heads civil defense and disaster relief, county welfare and, along with the county auditor, prepares the county budget and presents it to the Commissioners Court.

With such an important job on the line, the Reporter asked both county judge candidates a series of questions on major issues. Below are their answers in full, as they provided them, and a summary of their backgrounds and qualifications to help voters make an informed decision.

Please make time to vote! Early voting runs from XXXXXXX.

Mike Ford

Current job: Somervell County Commissioner, Precinct 2

Education: Graduated from McMurry University in Abilene with a degree in music

education.

Personal information: xx years old. Born in Fort Worth, has lived in Glen Rose since

1985. Married to Jean Ford, two children, Jamie and Matt.

Member of First United Methodist Church.

Relevant work experience: I was an educator for four years. Jean and I ran a small business

for eight years before moving to Glen Rose, where I was executive director of Glen Lake

Camp and Retreat Center for 16 years. During that time I oversaw up to 75 employees

and was responsible for budgets exceeding $1 million. I also managed over $8 million in new

construction that changed the face of Glen Lake. I then consulted with camps and

conference centers across the United States, dealing with business issues and master planning.

During the last three-and-a-half years, I have been integrally involved with every aspect of

county business.

Other experience and community service: Served two terms on Glen

Rose Independent School District board, seven years on original Hospital

Authority Board, member of Lions Club, Methodist Men's Club, chairman of the Boy

Scouts breakfast for two years.

Q. What do you consider the three major issues facing the county in the short term and long term?

1. Somervell County provides the majority of services, so how will we continue to

provide those services and still maintain a reasonable tax rate? How do we

fund and equip law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services, the

hospital, senior citizen services, libraries, parks and recreation, roads and

bridges, our judicial courts and all the elected offices which deliver their

particular services?

I have been in constant conversation with our representatives for over a year, now,

and have expressed our views on the need for alternative sources of funding so that

the ad valorem tax payer might get a break on being virtually the only source of

funding for county government.

2. With redistricting of state senate and congressional districts, we rural

districts are in very real danger of being lumped in with the major urban

centers. Realistically, that will leave us completely out of the mix when it

comes to representation, as elected officials will be working mostly for the

legion of voters in the metropolitan areas, rather than our 5,500 votes in

Somervell County.

On redistricting, our interests are not well served unless we are in a

district that is mainly rural in population and lifestyle. I have, and will continue

to actively lobby those legislators who are involved with making those decisions. I will

join with our neighboring counties whose interests are the same as ours.

3. Retaining our hospital, physicians' offices, and our nursing home is, and should be,

a priority for the court and for each citizen. In this current medical care crisis,

we will be faced with difficult decisions about how best to assure that we continue

to have a hospital. I have an extensive background with the business of hospitals

and a complete understanding of the issues we are currently facing.

We cannot allow this hospital to fail. It is too important to the future of Somervell County growth,

the medical well being of our citizens, and the economic future of the county as a

whole. We have extremely dedicated board members who are wrestling with the alternatives,

we have highly professional hospital employees of whom we can be proud, and a

facility which allows the best care that a hospital this size can provide.

Q. What are the major points of your campaign platform?

I have personally committed myself to actively participating in as many stakeholder groups as possible. I

have been a board member of the Glen Rose/Somervell County Chamber of Commerce and have led the process for a

ìshop localî campaign, as well as a member of the City of Glen Rose Strategic

Planning Committee and its Comprehensive Plan Action Committee, and I try to

attend every session of the Glen Rose City Council. I am a member of the Somervell

County Historical Foundation as well as the Somervell County Heritage Center.

I was involved, from the very beginning, in bringing Billings Productions (a

business that makes animatronic dinosaurs) to Glen Rose.

I have worked with my Precinct 2 constituents in fighting the placement of a high power transmission

lines through their properties. I testified before a state legislative

committee on behalf of Somervell County concerning our wish to become part of

the Prairielands Groundwater Conservation District, as well as e-mailing and

calling particular state and federal lawmakers on behalf of issues affecting

our citizens and I am on a first-name basis with those legislators. I believe

that I have an excellent understanding of all areas of community involvement

as well as a grasp of our citizens' needs and desires.

My experience as a county commissioner has given me the opportunity to understand

each of the judge's responsibilties. No other candidate has the experience of governing

or leadership that I do. I have a breadth of experience that will allow me to

hit the ground running — no need for a "grace" period.

I will do things differently than the present judge —I have a different personality

and different priorities. Other points in this article will specify some of those

priorities. I chose to live here, I have participated in the life of this community

for 25 years and I want to continue to pursue the best we can be in this county.

Q. What is your position on the proposed expansion of the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant?

Very simply, I am for the expansion of the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant. It

is good for the county (jobs, ad valorem taxes, community involvement,etc.) and it is

good energy policy. I have always believed in nuclear power and my belief is that

sometime in 2013, we will recieve the operating license and construction will begin.

Q. How do you feel about the county's relationship with the city and what would you do to improve it?

Much has been made of the state of relationship between the city and the county.

Quite honestly, I don't think it's as bad as many think. Headlines may point out

those issues about which we disagree, but my relationship with the city, generally, and

the different council members has not been ugly or troublesome, and we work well

together on many different levels. We will never agree about everything — we each have certain things we can or can't do. But I believe we both want the best for each other - we sink or swim together!

What I will do, as judge, is to regularly converse with the mayor and city council, just

so we have a better picture of what we are each facing or thinking about. Communication

is the key. It doesn't guarantee we will agree on everything, but it does assure that

we have a better understanding of why decisions are made and what expectations we

might have of each other. I purposely participated in the city's strategic planning

committee and the Comprehensive Plan committee in order to better understand both the

personalities and the intricacies of municipal government. I feel I am in the best

position to effectively communicate with the city.

Q. Are there any new projects you feel the county should undertake during your term of office? Please describe them.

I am most interested in upgrading those parts of our government operations which

simplify our constituents' interaction with us. Wouldn't it be great if anyone could

find birth certificates, property plats, marriage certificates, court minutes (written,

recorded and video taped) and many other legal records just by going online? How about

being able to pay traffic tickets online? I am prepared to press an agenda that will

upgrade our technological capabilities — make it easier to get what you need from the

county. Does this cost money? Yes! But consider the fact that digital records don't

require new, expensive, fire proof vaults in which to house the paper. Possibly, fewer

employees are needed as fewer constituents need help "over the counter."

I don't have any major projects in mind. As I have said before, I believe county

government is the most responsive to the needs of its constituents. Personally, I'm

fine with fine-tuning what services we presently provide, and if that's all we do, so

be it. But, I'm certainly open to the wishes of the electorate. Right now, however,

I think most of us just want to retain the lifestyle we have for the least tax dollars

possible. And, thats not a bad policy aspiration!

Q. What is your general philosophy about the county government's transparency, accountability and oversight on behalf of taxpayers?

During 2009, House Bill 2743 proposed to mandate that counties over 250,000 population

should maintain a transaction register for the county's checking account in a readily

available online format. However, the bill did not become law. Even though we don't

meet the population criteria, I am for us posting our ledger. If elected, I will order

that our check register be posted.

As for transparency generally, I understand and embrace open government. The challenge

is how to make that transparency obvious and available to the public online. There are

formidable financial and technological challenges to overcome which take money and time.

Questions also revolve around implementation; should and office scan the check register

or should the financial info be makde available in raw, seachable data form? Redacting

confidential info prior to posting, which is required by law, also results in additional

costs. Again, I am absolutely for moving toward cost-effective online transparency and

I have been researching the technology to accomplish the task for over 3 years.

Q. Any final thoughts?

Jean and I chose to live here and raise our children here. I have served this community

for the last 25 years. I hope to be given the chance to continue to creatively work

with the commissioner's court and our constituents in keeping and enhancing our quality

of life.

Dwayne Griffin

Current job: Judge for eight years as Justice of the Peace of Somervell County, Precinct 2

Education:

Personal information: 47 years old,

Relevant work experience: Background in law enforcement and judicial, 21 years as a certified law enforcement officer in the state of Texas

Other experience and community service:

Q. What do you see as the three major issues facing the county in the 

short term and long term?

1. I believe that the most important issue is the expansion of Comanche Peak power plant. (Please see more in the following questions).

2. While visiting people in their homes, our hospital has been one of the most talked about issues. It is important that we continue to have a hospital here in our community. I have complete confidence in the hospital board as they continue to move forward in this difficult time.

3. Continuing the economic development of our community is vital. We must look to our local developers and builders to build more affordable housing for the workforce of over 5,000 workers that will come here for the expansion of Comanche Peak. We will also look to bring more industry to our industrial park. This expansion is not only vital for the present economy but will provide a better tax base for future years.

Q. What are the major points of your campaign platform?

Fairness, integrity and approachability. I pledge to always have an open door to anyone with concerns about our community. I also pledge to look to the future and the betterment of our community.

Q. What is your position on the proposed expansion of the Comanche Peak 

Nuclear Power Plant?

I was recently able to speak at the NRC meeting and voiced my opinion in favor of the new expansion. When the construction begins on this expansion, it will be the largest economic development project in the history of Texas. This project is expected to be worth $25 billion and will mean an inflow of about 5,000 workers in this area to complete the additional construction. When construction is complete, it is expected to bring approximately 125 additional permanent jobs to this area. This project will be vital to the economic stability of this area for the next 30 to 40 years.

Q. How do you feel about the county's relationship with the city and 

what would you do to improve it?

I will support the city wherever possible. I hope to enter into inter-local agreements to assist one another in local projects for the betterment of our community. It is important for both sides to maintain an open line of communication even if they have different views on various projects. I would like to build a stronger rapport with the city leaders, being able to move ahead with respect for each others decisions.

Q. Are there any new projects you feel the county should undertake 

during your term of office? Please describe them.

As stated above, I feel that economic development is the key. We need to work on filling the existing industrial park which will build a larger tax base for our community.

Q. What is your general philosophy about the county government's 

transparency, accountability and oversight on behalf of taxpayers?

Our county must move forward with technology and in doing so it must embrace transparency in government. I feel that all issues involving county spending should be able to be viewed by the citizens of this community. After all, the money being spent is yours. Commissioners Court meetings are open to the public and all citizens are encouraged to attend.

Q. Any final thoughts?

I am truly concerned about your opinion. Please contact me at dwayne@dwaynegriffinforjudge.com or on Facebook or at (254) 396-6385