Filings for ESD board elections underway

Published on Sunday, 3 August 2014 23:28 - Written by ADAM RUSSELL arussell@tylerpaper.com

Candidate filing for the first Smith County Emergency Services District board elections is underway, but there is little interest in campaigning.

The sign-up period for potential candidates runs through Aug. 18. Seven individuals have signed up as candidates for 10 spots within the respective single-member districts, five within Emergency Services District No. 1 and two within ESD No. 2.

ESD No. 1 board president Annie Baldwin said she would not run for election and all current board members except Kenneth Smith do not intend to run. Smith and four other individuals have filed as candidates but do not intend to campaign for the positions, she said.

“They don’t want to raise money or spend their own money to campaign,” she said. “There’s not much interest in running a campaign for election.”

Candidate Ron Bunch, a 50-year-old health care businessman, said Ms. Baldwin recruited him. He’s lived in Lindale his entire life and wants to help, but he doesn’t want to campaign for the volunteer position.

“None of us really want to campaign,” he said.

Oversight and board appointment powers rest with county commissioners courts by state law. But a local law passed during the 2013 Legislative Session made the five-member boards elected bodies. The positions will be on Nov. 4 ballots.

Candidates must be at least 18-years-old and live within the precinct they wish to represent. A candidate is disqualified from serving as a commissioner if they are members of a municipal or volunteer fire department or related to a member by the third degree affinity, such as uncles and nieces or great-grandparents. Consultants paid by the district are also prohibited from serving.

ESD No. 1 includes Lindale Fire Department and collected less than 6 cents per $100 valuation, or $639,000, in 2012.

ESD No. 2 includes Arp, Bullard, Chapel Hill, Dixie, Flint-Gresham, Jackson Heights, Noonday, Red Springs, Troup, Whitehouse and Winona volunteer fire departments and collected more than $4 million from taxpayers in 2012 based on a property tax rate of 8.46 cents per $100 valuation.

The maps are drawn proportionally based on voting-age population.

The two five-member boards would be elected to four-year terms. Members would then draw lots to decide which three members would serve four-year terms and which two would have to run again in two years to keep the terms staggered in the future.

Charles Wilson, a firefighter at Red Springs, who helped organized the department more than 33 years ago, signed up as a candidate and looks forward to campaigning. He said he would raise money and tour the district to meet with voters.

“Even if I don’t face another candidate, I am going to go out and let people know who I am and what I am about,” he said.

If Wilson and other candidates don’t draw an opponent, they would automatically take the position on Jan. 1, 2015. If there is no candidate filed for an open position within ESD No. 2, elected board members would appoint vacant positions within 90 days.

JoAnn Fleming, the executive director of Grassroots America — We the People, which has monitored ESD No. 2 during the past several years and offered criticism regarding everything from policies to purchases, said the group is not actively recruiting candidates. She said the group is interested in “all qualified candidates who are interested in following the law and being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”

Candidates can register at the Smith County Election Office, 302 E. Ferguson St. in Tyler.