Candidate profile: Paul D. Perry

Submitted photo.
Paul D. Perry

ELLIS COUNTY — Learn more about Paul D. Perry in his own words as he runs for re-election as Ellis County Commissioner Precinct 3 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 3 candidates' answers on one page.

Paul D. Perry questionnaire responses

1) What is your age?

55

2) What is your city of residence?

rural southern Ellis County

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

49 (1964-1983 immediately south of Midlothian in the county; 1986-2002 east of Red Oak in the county; 2002-present southern Ellis County)

4) Tell us a little about your family.

My wife Rebecca and I have been married 33 years; our marriage has been blessed with 8 children who are now ages 11 to 28. My paternal grandparents and my parents have all been property owners and taxpayers in Ellis County, as are we. My mother still lives in the county.

5) Describe your education.

1982 BBA Baylor University

1978 graduate of Midlothian High School

Hundreds of continuing education hours and training in the financial industry, as well as in mediation and arbitration

I also have taken many hours in excess of the required hours to serve as county commissioner. Those hours covered everything from road and bridge issues to government transparency.

6) What previous public office experience have you had?

Ellis County Commissioner, Precinct 3, since 2013; Ellis County Justice of the Peace 1995-1999; former vice-chairman Republican Party of Ellis County; former Republican precinct chairman; ten-time Republican Party of Texas convention delegate; Texas delegate to the 2012 Republican National Convention

7) What is your occupation?

County Commissioner

8) Describe your church and civic involvement.

Lakewood Presbyterian Church, PCA, member; SAGU Business Department Advisory Council member; Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce member; Midlothian Chamber of Commerce ex officio board member; Optimist Club board member; Ellis County SPCA county liaison; Texas Right to Life supporter; First Look supporter

9) Please provide a biographical narrative.

I grew up wandering our family’s rural Midlothian property, going fishing, hunting rabbits, dove, and quail, and taking care of cattle and horses. When I was growing up, my father was a Dallas police officer. He and my mother married young, but my mother managed to work her way through college later in life and ultimately obtained an MBA as an adult student.

After graduating from Midlothian High School, I attended Baylor University on academic scholarships. I earned a BBA with a concentration in risk management, which led me to a job in investments management after graduation.

I met my lovely bride at Baylor, and we soon returned to Ellis County, where we have raised our eight children. We’ve now been blessed with three grandchildren, as well.

I have assisted others running for office since 1978, the first year that I could vote. I was the Baylor chapter chairman of Young Conservatives of Texas. I have remained involved in conservative, Republican politics all of my adult life.

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

I thought there needed to be an independent and conservative voice on the Commissioners’ Court. I was appalled that with the fund balances as high as they were before I took office that the court would raise taxes, especially during the worst recession in recent memory. I also ran because I thought there should be more emphasis on longer term roads in the county and I also had transparency concerns regarding county government. To help address road issues, we have started using both stabilizers and sealants in the precinct, especially on high-traffic roads. We are also using higher grade materials in bridge reconstruction and repair.

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

* representing the interests of the citizens and taxpayers in Precinct 3
* maintaining and improving county roads and bridges in Precinct 3
* as a member of the Commissioners’ Court, exercising broad policy-making authority
* conducting the general business of the county, which includes adopting the county’s budget (now at over $57 million) and tax rate
* managing county debt – if any
* approving all purchases of the county, directly or indirectly through the budget process
* filling vacancies in elective and appointive offices
* setting all county salaries and benefits
* exercising exclusive authority to authorize contracts
* providing and maintaining all county buildings and facilities

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

I have taken a significant number of hours in road and bridge training, beyond that which is required. I also have spent numerous hours consulting with the county engineer on these matters in order to increase the quality of what we do.

I have served as County Commissioner for over three years, and I have adopted a forward-looking plan to address the issues of Precinct 3, which is by far the largest precinct in Ellis County. I have been actively involved in upgrading the quality of materials that we are using, as well as some of the processing. We are now able to engage in a significant amount of cold weather patching, for instance due to the use of new materials.

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 have successfully managed millions of dollars for financial clients. Perhaps most importantly, my wife and I have managed our family budget in a responsible manner for many years, while raising our eight children; we have a good reputation in our personal business dealings.

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

I have hundreds of hours of financial training. I have a BBA from Baylor University in risk management. I have numerous hours in finance. I have spent many hours consulting with others trained in financial areas that are pertinent to the issues, including our county auditor and county treasurer. I also have been hired as a business consultant to deal with personnel matters.

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

Yes, we currently own our second home on acreage in southern Ellis County. We have held this property for almost 14 years. Previously, we owned property in the Red Oak area in the county for about 16 years. My paternal grandparents and my parents also owned homes and property in the Midlothian area in Ellis County.

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.

Yes. For years prior to my candidacy, I was a fairly regular attendee of Commissioners’ Court meetings. I have never missed a regularly scheduled County Commissioners’ business meeting since taking office. I was a few minutes late to one meeting, due to an injury.

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

I would prefer to let the voters make that distinction.

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

Growth as it affects roads, growth as it affects our courts and justice system, and unfunded mandates.

We must constantly review our county procedures to make sure we have the flexibility to accommodate growth. In the road and bridge precincts, we must use heavier materials and road stabilization and sealants in order to make the roads last longer, which we have begun to do in Precinct 3, especially in high-traffic areas. We must reach out to the cities around us, which I have done. The City of Midlothian, for instance, has offered to swap a road with Precinct 3; the city will put down more durable lay-down asphalt on a county road, and Precinct 3 will take care of road maintenance in a lower traffic city area. We have done some chip and seal work for the City of Waxahachie, where they have trouble getting their equipment. We have exchanged roads with Waxahachie and other cities in the precinct, and I will continue to reach out to the Precinct 3 municipalities.

We must allow the natural growth of the county to fund increasing demands on our courts and justice system. In order to do that, we must keep our fund balances at appropriate levels so that the budget stays balanced and so that there is not any call for a tax increase to fund essential services.

We must continually encourage our state officials to fund the mandates upon county government and to curtail any unnecessary mandates. It is imperative that we maintain budget flexibility by not overspending our budget in order to respond to unanticipated legislative meddling.

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.

First, I want to maintain or reduce the tax rate. We have sufficient revenues; however, we must constantly guard against unnecessary spending in order to provide for essential services. Second, I want to see the budget efficiently managed to provide for essential services and growth-related needs such as increasing demand upon our courts, law enforcement, and justice system in general. Third, I want to continue to address the roads in our precinct, making sure the repairs we make are as permanent as possible. Right now, we are engaged with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to procure funding that was promised to us when we suffered record rains last spring. Those monies will be used to make long-term repairs and improvements to our flood-damaged roads and bridges. I will continue to work with other officials and inform the public of issues through local papers, social media, and town hall meetings when necessary.

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

Appellate court judges are state judges, and they should be fully funded by the state. However, we feel obligated to provide a county subsidy based on our population, as do all counties in appellate court jurisdictions. To my knowledge, most if not all Texas counties provide some type of subsidy. These are not county judges; they are above a district judge. Although this is not a mandate, this is an example of an unfunded expectation. In my opinion, it muddies the water between state and local funding at the very least; however, until the state legislature intervenes and clarifies who should provide funding, counties will continue to pony up.

Also, while I appreciate employees who do an extraordinary job, when it is generally agreed during the budget cycle what a cost of living raise is going to be, that should be the cost of living raise for that budget cycle. We shouldn’t see special raises appear late in the budget cycle – unless that raise is under the direction of one department supervisor and is within the already agreed upon range of salary for that position in that department.

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

Yes. I will always work with any member of the government who wants to rationally trim the fat and govern more efficiently while providing necessary services.

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

I would not vote to increase property tax rates. I did introduce a slight tax rate decrease two budget cycles ago, but the motion failed for lack of a second. As our chief appraiser has pointed out, if appraisals are continually rising, it is probably appropriate to lower the rate somewhat. I would agree with that, as long as we are able to provide for essential services.

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.

Our pay is sufficient. I recently declined a pay raise, because I thought it was in excess of anything reasonable for county commissioners. I believe I am the only Ellis County Commissioner to decline a pay raise by affidavit, and when I sign an affidavit, I mean it. I see no reason for a pay raise for the Commissioners’ Court in the next two years.

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

I am very concerned that we are not keeping up with our surrounding governmental entities in our pay for law enforcement, including jailers. In the last few years, I’ve done a salary survey of some of the sheriff’s departments in other counties and municipal police agencies. While I need to update my survey, I think there are some inequities that need to be addressed by the county.

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

We have a new human resources director, and I look forward to working with her. I hope to help with that improvement.

I also hope to continue making improvements on the road and bridge front. We will be using some of our fund balance to make some equipment purchases later this spring, and I think that will result in greater efficiency.

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 will continue to advocate for what I think is right in a manner that is as polite as the situation will allow for.

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

I will continue to use my training, education, and experience to look for efficient ways to govern consistent with a conservative philosophy. I will continue to advocate for more budget hearings before state law requires us to vote on elected officials’ raises. In general, I think more transparency in that area will result in greater efficiency. We also need to reinstitute at least one evening business meeting a month. Even though we now have audio/video so that people can watch most meetings, our citizens who work during the day should be able to attend Commissioners’ Court meetings, just like folks can attend most city council and school board meetings in the evening hours. Citizen involvement contributes to transparency, and transparency contributes to efficiency.

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

We need to make sure that we are working with our cities and schools in the county to attract good businesses and keep our financial house in order while looking for ways to improve our roads, bridges, and other infrastructure. Good infrastructure will make economic development easier.

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?

We have made some progress. I have successfully introduced measures to make sure that the public is able to address the commissioners’ meeting by topic; I also successfully advocated for audio/video recording. While audio/video and playback is important, we need to make it more convenient for the public to address the court as whole and reintroduce evening meetings. I think both regular meetings should be held in the evening. I have introduced bringing back an evening meeting, but my initiative did not pass for lack of a second. We have moved our meetings from Mondays to Tuesdays, which is an improvement; however, our citizens who work during the day should be able to attend Commissioners’ Court meetings, just like folks can attend most city council and school board meetings in the evening hours. Citizen involvement contributes to transparency, and transparency contributes to efficiency.

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.

Again, I think both regular meetings should be held in the evening. I have introduced bringing back an evening meeting, but my initiative did not pass for lack of a second. We have moved our meetings from Mondays to Tuesdays, which is an improvement. All regular meetings are now held at 2 PM.

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 am a strong supporter of property rights, and I generally believe that everyone should be able to use their own property as they see fit. However, in response to citizens’ concerns, I helped lead the effort to stop the use of nearly raw human waste products as fertilizer in Ellis County. It is overly odorous, and many residents had health concerns. Its use was affecting the rights of property owners near the areas where the human waste-based sludge was being used. Some reported lost home and real estate sales due to odor issues. If we regulate the type of septic system people use in the county and do not allow the discharge of solids from septic tanks, how could it be ok to allow the mass use of human waste that would often end up in even the waterways of our county? I oppose the use of human fecal-based sewage as fertilizer in our county.

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 attempted twice to get the agreement overturned, and it was finally overturned. I brought it to the Commissioners’ Court a second time, after the composition of the court had changed. It had quickly become evident that the process was flawed and not convenient to our residents. I discovered all of this almost immediately after the agreement was passed, as pertinent facts that were not disclosed by the NTTA (such as all appeals would be through Dallas County JP courts, rather than our own) came to light after our vote. I tried to get this agreement overturned immediately, but the Commissioners’ Court was at first reluctant to do so. I have learned my lesson regarding these sorts of agreements and will remember how difficult it was to overturn the NTTA one.

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 remained accessible to all residents through my office, through social media, and from time to time through publicized town hall meetings. I believe in listening politely to people who come to voice concerns at Commissioners’ Court. I do publicize online and around the county when commissioners’ meetings are being held.

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 am active in the community, am a member of two chambers of commerce, and support many county activities. I sincerely try to be open and accessible to all.

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

He who governs best governs least. However, we have essential services we must provide, and that is where we should focus our efforts and the taxpayers’ monies.

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

I have been a conservative since I was a young man. I self-identified as a Republican in this county by 1988, while we were still a minority party in the county. I have regularly contributed financially to the local and state Republican Party, especially to conservative candidates, as well as many hours of work. We have a conservative Republican Party in this county, and I want to keep it that way.

38) Why should voters choose you?

Many are attracted to political office simply because they look upon it as a job. I would like to serve this county for a second term with what skills and talents I possess. I do believe I offer a strong conservative voice on the court. I also have embraced transparency and helped to bring about some needed reforms in that area, such as audio/video recording of court meetings and allowing the public to address the court by topic. I think there is further work to be done. I would like the opportunity to do that work.