Precinct 3 commissioner candidates' views detailed

Incumbent touts experience; challenger has focused on better fire, law enforcement

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK, News-Telegram Managing Editor

Oct. 28, 2008 - Voters casting ballots for Precinct 3 Commissioner have a choice between an incumbent who's been in office longer than anyone in Hopkins County and a political newcomer "bringing to light some things that he saw that needed to come to light."

Don Patterson, the incumbent Democrat seeking a fifth term, and Ron Reed, the Republican nominee, are competing for the county commissioner post that governs Northeast Hopkins County.

Patterson and a representative of Reed spoke to about 100 people at a nonpartisan forum presented Thursday night by the Political Enlightenment Group at Best Western Trail Dust Inn Heritage Hall.

Chris Brown, chairman of the Hopkins County Republican Party, spoke first on behalf of Reed, who retired with the rank of captain as a Dallas fireman and now works at Commerce Fire Department.

"I have nothing but respect for this guy," Brown said. "He saw a problem, and instead of just sitting around griping about it, he got up and decided to voice his concerns and to jump out there in an area where he was not comfortable. He's not a politician, and he's not real comfortable in the spotlight, but as a retired Dallas firefighter and as a captain, he's used to taking action, and that's what he did."

Reed made it clear during his Republican Party primary campaign against Phillip Anderson that an around-the-clock county fire department was a high priority. (At the time, Hopkins County employed a paid staff of fireme, but their duties ended each night at about 10 p.m. The county department began working 24-hour shifts this month.)

"The creation of a paid county fire department was one of the biggest steps Hopkins County has ever taken," Reed said at a February forum. "I am not anti-volunteer, but we have got to have trained, equipped personnel answering these calls 24 hours a day. There's no reason for that state-of-the art fire station to close the doors at 10 o'clock at night."

Reed, a firefighter for more than 33 years, also said more needs to be done to ensure there are enough sheriff's deputies on patrol at all hours

"If we want to attract industry and other things into this county, law enforcement and the fire department have to be improved," he said in February.

Reed put part of the blame for the fire and law enforcement problems on the voting patterns of the commissioners court.

"When you've got a voting bloc of three against one, there's not many ties," Reed said.

On Thursday, Brown commended Reed for "bringing to light some things that he saw that needed to come to light."

"That's the best of all candidates -- the people who are willing to jump out there and solve problems instead of just laying around and griping about them," Brown said. "He is a stand-up guy."

Patterson, who has the longest tenure of any Hopkins County elected official, returned fire of sorts when he took the podium.

"You can't have one issue," said Patterson. "You've got 19 elected offices and three appointed offices in this county, and you've got to look at all of them. When you go to prepare a budget, you've got to prepare for all of them. This county has got to work based on that.

"We all want more ... but sometimes there's just not enough money to go around, and you've got to kind of divide it out and make it work."

Patterson also spent time touting his record on the county commissioners court.

"I have not backed off a decision," Patterson said. "I have never failed to vote on an issue. There's some times I've wanted to, but you can't do that."

Improved roadways in his corner of the county were also a topic of discussion.

"All the time I've been commissioner I've improved the equipment, and I'm proud to say today that Precinct 3 owes no money, and I can take all the money (budgeted to his office) and put it on the roads and keep them up,"?he said.

Finally, he reminded voters that he doesn't mind work, whether with a road crew or behind a desk.

"I'm a full-time commissioner," Patterson said. "I can run a machine -- and I will, I don't mind it -- or I can go up to the courthouse and handle business up there. I know basically what operations is all the way through."

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