Candidate profile: David Pagan

Submitted photo.
David Pagan

ELLIS COUNTY — Learn more about David Pagan in his own words as he runs for Ellis County Commissioner Precinct 1 in the 2016 Republican primary.

Election day voting will be held on March 1, 2016 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Click here for a list of election day polling locations. Early voting will take place February 16, 2016 through February 26, 2016. Click here for a list of early voting locations and times.

Click here to view and compare all County Commissioner Precinct 1 candidates' answers on one page.

David Pagan questionnaire responses

1) What is your age?

47 (48 after January 28th)

2) What is your city of residence?

Ennis, TX

3) How many years have you lived in Ellis County?

Total of 7 (2013-present, 1991-1996)

4) Tell us a little about your family.

My wife Charlene and I were married in Ennis almost 23 years ago (our anniversary is in March) and we have two teenage sons

5) Describe your education.

Bachelor’s degrees from SMU in political science and economics; graduate degrees from UT in law and public affairs

6) What previous public office experience have you had?

I do not have any previous elected office experience; I have served as a policy advisor to two Republican governors and have volunteered on Republican election campaigns.

7) What is your occupation?

Policy Director for the Collin County Business Alliance (CCBA); part-time adjunct professor of government at Navarro College, Waxahachie

8) Describe your church and civic involvement.

I attend Friendship Baptist Church in Ennis where I previously served as a youth leader; I have also led foreign mission trips to India at another church. I am a member of the Ellis County GOP Legacy Circle, Ellis County Republican Women (associate), and Ennis Chamber of Commerce. I am also a member of Texans Against High Speed Rail and the North Texas Crime Commission. I previously served on the board of directors for Helping Hands of Ennis and the United Way of Ennis. I have also donated to the Ellis County SPCA and Ennis ISD Education Foundation.

9) Please provide a biographical narrative.

After growing up mainly in the Dallas area and graduating from Richardson Berkner High School and SMU, I moved to Ennis in 1991 to be the first Economic Development Coordinator for the City of Ennis. I married my wife Charlene in Ennis in 1993 and we had two sons while living in Austin where I worked as a budget analyst for the Texas Legislature and attended graduate school at the University of Texas. We returned to Ennis a little over two years ago after living in the Washington, DC area where I worked as a federal affairs advisor for Texas Governor Rick Perry, a senior advisor to the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and a homeland security consultant. I currently work as a policy advisor for the Collin County Business Alliance (CCBA), help my wife manage and maintain rental properties in Ennis, and teach a class on Texas Government at Navarro College in Waxahachie. I have also been involved in the Ennis community, serving on the boards of Helping Hands of Ennis and the United Way of Ennis, and have led foreign mission trips to India.

10) What motivated your interest in running for Ellis County Commissioner?

With the open seat in Precinct 1, I saw this as an opportunity to use my experience and skills to serve the people of Ellis County. I feel my unique qualifications can benefit the Commissioners’ Court during this important time for Ellis County as we prepare for the continuing growth in our area.

11) Briefly and succinctly define the job responsibilities of the office you are seeking.

The office of County Commissioner has two sets of responsibilities: at the Precinct level, I would be responsible for managing the road and bridge maintenance operations in an effective and efficient way to make the best use of the limited funds allocated to Precinct 1; and, at the Commissioners’ Court level, I would be entrusted with providing policies and a balanced budget to guide overall county operations.

I feel I have a good understanding of the responsibilities of the office; for example, the Commissioners’ Court is responsible for reviewing and approving purchasing recommendations made by the County Purchasing Agent and typically does not handle the bidding process itself. As a former purchasing officer for Ennis and Texas state agencies, I understand the importance of designing requests for proposals that will provide the County with the best goods and services at the best price.

I also understand that most of the County’s general fund budget is allocated to other elected officials and is not directly administered by the Commissioners’ Court. For example, over 50% of the general fund goes to the offices of the Sheriff and County/District Attorney. Overseeing this type of budget requires a different approach than managing operations on a day-to-day basis.

12) What qualifications and professional experiences do you possess that are applicable to road and bridge construction and maintenance? Be specific.

When I worked as Administrative Assistant to the Ennis City Manager, I handled: all purchasing for the public works departments (buying heavy equipment, road materials, and engineering services); human resources for all departments (I conducted about 1,000 screening interviews, oversaw policies and procedures, and administered employee discipline); and, served as the risk management and safety officer (I set up a Material Safety Data Sheet program to make sure we were storing and handling chemicals safely, and conducted inspections of city facilities and worksites). Through this work, I gained an understanding of the requirements to build quality roads adequate for our soil and how to provide proper drainage; and, I have seen what happens when roads and drainage are not properly constructed or maintained. I have also learned how to effectively hold employees and contractors accountable to ensure work is completed in a timely, cost-effective, and safe manner.

I also have experience with managing the administrative duties of an office like Precinct 1 through my work in Ennis and at Texas state agencies. I have overseen budgets of $1 million to $3 million, have directly managed as many as 25 employees, and had indirect responsibilities (such as human resources policies) for 150 employees. In each position, I worked to cut costs and put more efficient processes in place, such as when I created computer databases for Ennis to track Street Department work orders, insurance claims, and Police arrests (to replace the 3x5 cards they had used).

13) What qualifications do you possess that will enable you to manage a budget of over $57 million for Ellis County and a budget of over $1 million for the commissioner's office you are seeking? Be specific.

I believe I have unique experience both with day-to-day management of an operating budget of over $1 million as well as with analyzing and assembling larger government budgets with multiple funding sources, departments and offices. I have directly administered public and private sector budgets of $1-$3 million, serving as an Administrator for two Texas state agencies where I was responsible for budget requests, purchasing, payroll and financial records; I made cuts where I found wasteful spending and I have had to find savings after state budget cuts. I have also provided key support for managing government budgets of $10-$50 million, and analyzed budgets of between $10 million and $10 billion. Through these experiences, I have learned how to dig into department budgets, pinpoint areas for savings, and hold employees and officials accountable. In the private sector, I have developed proposals and managed projects with multiple sub-contractors with the goal of providing competitive pricing for the customer while maximizing net revenue for the firm.

I also feel it is important that I have an understanding of the difference between public and private sector budgets. For example, certain government fees may be dedicated to specific programs and there may be limits on changing the fees. For example, my understanding of Texas local government budgets allowed me to find a shortfall in the City of Ennis budget last year because they had incorrectly assumed they could raise their local 9-1-1 telephone fee (which is set by the State) to pay for two new employees. Because I already have knowledge of government budgets, I will be ready on my first day as Commissioner to begin analyzing the County budget in depth and to identify ways to improve it.

14) How has your education prepared you for this office?

I studied economics and political science at SMU and law and public affairs (policy and administration) at the University of Texas. These courses provided me with an understanding of many of the key issues facing Ellis County today and in the coming years and how to develop and implement solutions. My education has also given me a deep appreciation for the importance of limited government based on Constitutional principles and a commitment to free-market economics.

15) Do you own property in Ellis County, and if so, for how long?

Yes (in Ennis, listed in my wife’s name) for 3.5 years

16) Have you declared bankruptcy or have had any liens placed upon you in the past 10 years? If so, please explain.

No

17) Prior to your candidacy, or prior to your election for your first term (for incumbents seeking re-election), have you attended Commissioners' Court meetings? If so, how often during the previous 12 months? If not often, please explain why.

I have attended one meeting, in person, and have watched several other meetings online and have reviewed detailed agenda packets posted on the county website. I have not attended more meetings in person because my schedule does not allow me to attend meetings during daytime work hours.

18) What distinguishes you from your opponent(s)?

I offer unique qualifications based on my experience working in and around government as a senior staff member and advisor to private sector firms. This does not mean I want bigger government; instead, it has given me a deep understanding of how government works, and doesn’t work, that I can use to make sure our County is responsible when spending the taxpayers’ money. I also have experience building and leading coalitions to advance policy priorities and have maintained effective relationships with state and local officials, residents, and businesses while dealing with a wide range of complex, and often contentious, issues. And, I have always built good relationships at all levels of the organizations where I worked, from the most senior leaders to the employees doing the real work. Finally, my economic development work in Ennis and private sector business development experience has prepared me to support county-wide efforts to promote economic growth.

19) What are the three greatest challenges facing Ellis County? If elected, what measures would you propose to resolve them?

1) Managing Growth – With Ellis County's population projected to grow by 65,000 people, or 40%, during the next 15 years, I believe it is important for our County government to work in partnership with our cities to maintain a robust business environment and our high quality of life. I also feel it will be important to engage with the local residents, community groups and businesses in Precinct 1 to make sure we are working together to plan for our County's future.

2) Providing Transportation Infrastructure – Increased population is likely to put additional stress on our transportation system. With over 200 miles of county roads in Precinct 1, I understand how important it is to use the limited county road maintenance funds in the most effective and efficient way. I believe an updated county-wide transportation plan would be an important tool for the county and cities to use to identify top priorities and coordinate efforts. I would also work with the cities in north Ellis County to press for State funding for upgrades to key roads in Precinct 1, like FM 664. And I would work to ensure that Precinct 1 and Ellis County have an effective voice as regional transportation plans are drawn up by NCTCOG and TxDOT.

3) Opposing the High Speed Rail - After attending several meetings - held by Texas Central Railway and Texans Against High Speed Rail - I feel strongly the proposed Dallas-Houston high speed rail project will have a negative effect on Ellis County while providing no benefits to us. Not only would this project hurt local residents, farmers and ranchers directly in the path of the railway, it also threatens to hurt the future development of Ellis County Precinct 1. I believe it is important for the County Commissioners Court to work with our cities and local residents to do everything we can to oppose this project that is being pushed by interests in Dallas, Houston and Japan. I believe my expertise with building advocacy coalitions, along with my experience and relationships gained from working with the Texas Legislature, can help me be an effective leader in the effort to defeat this project.

20) If elected, what are your top three priorities? How will you work with other elected officials and county staff to achieve them? Be specific.

My top three priorities are:

1) Fiscal Responsibility and Transparency - With the Ellis County budget now over $57 million a year, funded primarily from our property taxes, it is important to make sure these funds are being used efficiently and effectively to address the needs of the taxpayers. I would work to limit spending and hold the line on the current tax rate. I also believe the budget process and financial documents should be understandable to all residents of Ellis County. I feel my experience working with government budgets will allow me to work effectively with the other Commissioners to develop responsible budgets and to provide the residents of Precinct 1 with more information about how their tax dollars are being spent. I would also be accessible and accountable to the voters through holding regular town hall meetings in the Precinct to make sure taxpayers have an opportunity to voice their opinion on County taxes and spending.

2) Transportation – Because quality roads are vital to our residents and businesses, I would work to provide I believe an updated county-wide transportation plan would be an important tool for the county and cities to use to identify top priorities and coordinate efforts. I would also work with the cities in north Ellis County to press for State funding for upgrades to key roads in Precinct 1, like FM 664. And I would work to ensure that Precinct 1 and Ellis County have an effective voice as regional transportation plans are drawn up by NCTCOG and TxDOT

3) Promoting Economic Development – I would work to make sure Ellis County remains a great place to live and work and would form partnerships with our cities, economic development corporations, chambers of commerce, and businesses to develop coordinated economic development approaches. I would also maintain regular contact with local businesses to make sure I am aware of their concerns and would work to position the County as a full partner with our cities as they recruit new employers to our area. And, I would pursue opportunities to provide additional higher education and technical training for residents of Precinct 1.

21) Is there a specific item you would add or remove from the county budget? Please explain.

I have not yet identified any specific item to add or remove because the current format of the County budget does not provide very much detail on expenditures (for example, only the total salaries for each office are shown, there is no explanation for increases/decreases, and no lists of vehicle and equipment purchases). If elected, I am confident I would identify areas to change after receiving more detailed information.

22) If elected, will you work with others to reduce county spending? Please explain.

My goal is to make sure we are being good stewards of the tax money we receive because we must always remember that we are public servants responsible to the people. I would need more detailed information about the specific programs and expenditures before I could commit to reduce the overall level of spending for the county or of any departments. And, I would need to better understand the various funding sources to see if there are limitations on how they can be used. However, I can commit to work with the other members of the Commissioners’ Court, other elected officials, and County staff to analyze the budget in detail to fully understand what funding is needed to meet our top priorities. And, as I find places to cut spending, I will work with others to implement reductions.

23) Would you vote to increase or decrease property tax rates? Please explain.

Based on my current understanding of the County’s budget, I cannot see a reason I would vote to increase the tax rate in the next 4 years; I believe increases in the tax base should generate enough revenue at the current rate (Ellis County has added over $1 billion to its tax base in recent years) and I understand the County has a significant fund balance in case there are unexpected, one-time funding needs. I would vote to decrease the property tax rate if spending is reduced and/or tax base growth allows us to lower the rate and bring in enough revenue to have a balanced budget.

24) Would you vote in favor of a pay raise for yourself and other county commissioners during your first and second year in office? Please explain your position.

No. The current Commissioners recently voted for a pay raise (which some of them did not take) so I do not believe another raise is needed in the next 2 years. I also do not believe I would have been in office long enough to have earned a raise in my first 2 years; if a raise is passed by the Commissioners’ Court during my first 2 years, I would not accept it or would donate it.

25) Do you support a raise for non-elected county employees, including employees of the Sheriff's Office?

Yes; I know that retaining good workers is crucial to any organization and I would support a cost-of-living increase for all employees and would work to find efficiencies elsewhere in the budget to pay for these increases, if necessary.

26) Name one county program or department you would like to improve. Please explain.

I believe a better budgeting process is the most important improvement I could make to improve the overall County operation. A process that requires all departments and programs to explain the costs and benefits of their current budget and provide detailed justifications for any requests for increases would help identify any potential areas for savings and help make sure resources are used responsibly. The use of performance measures for each program, similar to the ones in the state of Texas budget, would also improve efficiency and accountability.

27) In recent years there have been situations where other elected officials have had disagreements with some members of the Ellis County Commissioners' Court and the perception of budgetary revenge has ensued from some of those members of the court. How would you handle these situations and what would you do to prevent this from occurring in the future?

I would work to implement a budget process that is uniform across all County offices and departments (similar to the Texas state budget process); uses a clear and transparent format; and, can be understood by the taxpayers. I believe this would help ensure the budget that comes out in the end would be viewed as having been put together based on an evaluation of the County’s priorities within available revenue. This approach could also provide a visual report card, in effect, to show if the departments and County as a whole, are achieving the established goals.

28) If elected, what measures would you take to ensure the efficient operation of Ellis County?

First, within Precinct 1, I would review all current operations to look for any possible cost savings or opportunities for more efficient use of the taxpayers’ funds. This would include a review of the current duties of all Precinct 1 employees. I would also develop plans and performance measures for our road and bridge programs to ensure our funds are being spent wisely.

And, at the County level, I would work to implement a budget process that requires all offices and departments to justify their funding requests and include performance measures to make sure the Commissioners, and taxpayers, understand how the money is being spent.

29) If elected, what measures would you take to generate economic development opportunities for Ellis County?

Using my experience working in economic development in Ennis and as a business development consultant, I would identify the greatest competitive advantages for Ellis County, especially in Precinct 1, and our best opportunities for growth. I would also listen to the people of Precinct 1 to understand what type of growth they want so we could encourage development while maintaining our quality of life.

Another key part of my approach would be to ensure the County is a full partner with the cities; this could include being ready to act quickly on incentive packages for major projects. I would also use my experience working with an association of major corporations in Collin County, Texas (one of the top areas in the country for economic development) to bring together the County, cities, chambers of commerce, economic development corporations, and businesses to develop a vision and plan for our future economic growth. Finally, I would draw on my business development consulting experience and wide network of private sector contacts to market Ellis County’s high quality of life and positive business environment.

30) Government transparency has been an issue at all levels of politics for the past few years. Do you feel that the county is transparent enough? If not, what needs to change?

I feel the County has a decent level of transparency – for example, video of Commissioners Court meetings is available online along with detailed agendas – but I also believe there is room for improvement. I would support posting additional information on the County’s website, such as financial reports; the City of Waxahachie has received recognition for its posting of check registers, for example. I would also support public posting of additional budget information including summaries and graphs so taxpayers can better understand how their money is being spent. At the Precinct 1 level, I will work to provide the public with regular updates on my operations, even if this information is not made available at the County level.

31) If elected, would you support changing one daytime Commissioners' Court meeting to an evening meeting so that daytime working residents can participate in our county government meetings? If so, how soon would you propose the change after taking office? Please explain your position.

Yes, I support having at least one evening meeting. And, whenever possible, I believe any hearings or action items on issues that are of great interest to the public should be scheduled at the evening meeting. Consent agenda items and other more administrative matters could be handled during the daytime meeting. If elected, I would need to evaluate all the priorities for my office before committing to a timeline, but feel this would be something I would propose during my first year in office.

32) Using human waste and processed sewage sludge, known as biosolids, as fertilizer in Ellis County made headlines in 2013 and 2014 before the practice was temporarily halted. What is your opinion on the practice returning to Ellis County and will you take any steps to push for that action to occur? Please explain.

I understand the Trinity River Authority (TRA) has stopped all biosolid shipments to Ellis County and there are no current plans to restart these shipments. Before I could take a position for or against future shipments, I would want to understand any potential impacts (positive and negative) on residents in Precinct 1 and would want a full analysis of the relevant issues for the County as a whole.

33) In March 2014 the Ellis County Commissioners' Court voted to enter into an agreement with North Texas Tollroad Authority (NTTA) that gave the Ellis County Tax Assessor/Collector the authority to refuse vehicle registrations for habitual toll violators. The commissioners' court voted in June 2015 to terminate the agreement with NTTA because of problems with NTTA's appeals process for alleged toll violators. Do you support the initial agreement with NTTA or similar agreements with other non-county organizations that may be proposed in the future? Please explain.

I do not know the details of the NTTA agreement with the County; but, before I could support any such agreement with a non-county organization I would need to make sure it provides benefits to Ellis County.

34) In order to successfully represent the residents of Ellis County you will have to work with people who do not share your opinion on issues. What is your plan to ensure that all residents are fairly represented and that their voice is heard?

I have extensive experience working with a wide range of people, many of whom did not agree with me or the organizations I worked for. I have always remained open and accessible to everyone, even if we disagreed, and have always worked to be fair to everyone, even when they have publicly criticized me. For example, I maintained effective relationships with local officials along the Texas border during construction of the border fence despite their vocal opposition to the project. I am also not afraid to hear criticism; I understand that citizens are often frustrated because they don’t feel they have a voice in the government processes and I always work to listen for the specific issues we can deal with and then look for workable solutions. As Commissioner, I would always seek to hear all sides of an issue before making a decision and would work to make sure Precinct 1 is effectively represented at the Commissioners’ Court. And I would always remember that I am the servant of the people that has been elected to take care of their concerns.

35) If elected, how would you reach out and form relationships with residents of Ellis County and how would you reach out to those residents in the outlying areas of the county?

I plan to hold town halls and informal meetings in various locations in Precinct 1 and to put out regular newsletters and updates on Precinct 1 and Commissioners’ Court activities. I will use tools like social media to let people know about County proposals and collect feedback from residents. And I will commit to be accessible by phone, email, and in person; I have a record of being available at nights and on weekends and holidays and would continue providing this level of public service. I would also attend community events throughout the Precinct to build relationships with as many people as possible.

36) What are the factors on which you will base your decisions as a county commissioner?

I would be guided by principles from the Constitution (of the United States and Texas) and the Bible (for example, Romans 13 says that government officials are to be servants of the people to do good). Before voting, I would work to decide if a position is fair, is a wise use of the taxpayers’ money, is the right thing for Precinct 1, and the right thing for Ellis County. I would not represent any special interests and would not use the office for any personal gain.

37) Is there any additional information that you feel voters should know about your political views?

I believe the words of Thomas Paine written in 1776 are still just as true today that "Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil" and should be as limited as possible.

38) Why should voters choose you?

I feel confident I am the best choice for Precinct 1 during this important time for the future of Ellis County. With our prospects for additional growth, we have exciting opportunities ahead of us, but these will also bring challenges that will require leadership at the County level. I believe I offer a unique combination of experience in leadership positions in the public and private sectors, along with management and budgeting experience, to meet the needs of Precinct 1. I am also committed to being open and accessible and will devote myself to working for the good of Precinct 1 and Ellis County as a whole.