Early voting starts this Tuesday, February 16th for the Texas primaries. We’ll be part of the “SEC” presidential primary that makes the network news, but there are also some local races worth analysis. One of them is the County Commissioner race in District 1, which encompasses areas of White Rock that are east, north and south of the Lake including pieces of Dallas, Richardson, Garland and Mesquite. See our previous introductory piece on this race.
The incumbent is Democrat Dr. Theresa Daniel, elected four years ago for her first term. She replaced Maureen Dickey on the Commissioners Court. The boundaries of Dickey’s district were changed; some would say that allowed a Democrat to replace a Republican.
Daniel grew up in South Bend, IN and graduated from St. Mary’s College there. She earned her PhD in Public Administration at University of Texas-Arlington. She served on the staff of former U.S. Representative Martin Frost and has served in leadership roles at the local and state level in the Democratic Party. Before her election to the Court, she worked in DISD.
Absent the federal indictment of John Wiley Price, the Dallas County Commissioners Court doesn’t get as much TV and print media as the Dallas City Council and DISD. What actually does it do?
“I spend about half my time talking about that!” says Daniel. “It’s mostly around public health and public safety. For public health it’s Parkland, clinics and immunizations. For public safety it’s the Sheriff’s office, the county and district courts and the jail. We also run the elections. We set the tax rate and pass a budget. This year it is over $900 million.” Take a look-see here.
For those that grew up in less urban counties in Texas, they’ll recall the County Commissioners handled the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges. Since east Dallas is an urban part of the county, the roads and bridges are typically under the management of the local cities in District 1. Well, almost all of the roads and bridges. “I have one-half mile of unincorporated road in my District 1, “grins Daniel.
Why did Daniel run in the first place? “I ran for the statehouse against Bill Keffer in 2002 and it was a great learning experience,” Daniel shares. She feels that running for office was a “coming together” of her professional and educational experience in public administration. She had looked at previous County Commissioner races and didn’t think she “had a shot at winning” but after redistricting felt like victory “was a possibility and I didn’t want to have any regret”. She jumped in. She won with 62% of the vote, a semi-drubbing of her Republican opponent Larry Miller.
Asked about the most important thing for the Commissioners in 2016, she spoke of the building and facilities issues facing the Court. Work will soon be in full swing on renovation of the existing county facilities. While that is being done, space has been leased in Renaissance Tower for county employees that will be temporarily dislocated.
The big elephant in the room that sits on the back row of every Commissioners Court meeting is the federal indictment of John Wiley Price. How does that affect the work of the Commissioners? “The work of the County goes on, ” Daniel states simply.
Why does she deserve a second term? “ I bring specialized management skills to the table, have an expanded perspective due to my study of public policy and have worked for thirty years in the District 1 communities, “ says Daniel. “Things I started are now coming to fruition. So, I am not done yet”.
If you’re an early voter, go to the county web site for polling locations through Friday, February 26. If you’re a game day voter, Election Day is Tuesday, March 1.