By CLINT FOSTER
The 2014 primary elections in March are only three months away and local Republican voters will have three contested races to decide on for representation in county offices.
The Index will provide previews for each of these races, breaking down the candidates and helping voters to be as informed as possible.
First is the race for Palo Pinto County Judge, which features the incumbent Judge David Nicklas against former Precinct 4 Commissioner Ernest Pechacek.
Let’s meet the candidates for County Judge:
Incumbent David Nicklas is running for his second term as Palo Pinto County Judge. Having spent the last four years in the Palo Pinto County Courthouse, Nicklas told the Index he felt he and the Palo Pinto County Commissioners Court have done a good enough job to retain their positions.
“I just feel like we’ve done a good job so far,” the Palo Pinto County native said. “There are still some things I and the commissioners want to get done to better serve the residents of PPC.”
Nicklas’ first term was marked by budget-conscious and fiscally-responsible decision making. In his first year in office, Nicklas and Palo Pinto Sheriff Ira Mercer worked together to institute a new shift schedule for the county jail that Nicklas said resulted in about $40,000 in savings for taxpayers, just from overtime charges.
More recently, Nicklas and commissioners went out for insurance bids for county employees for the first time in several years. Nicklas said he was pleased with the results.
“While we didn’t save as much money as we anticipated, we were able to keep the employees coverage at the same level as last year and not increase their premiums, which has been a big thing,” he said.
But Nicklas is not only hanging his hat on his past accomplishments He told the Index he has even more plan for Palo Pinto County if he is re-elected.
“We’d like to be able to control our costs a little bit better,” he said of the current commissioners court. “We’ve done a pretty good job considering the insurance increases we’ve experienced over the past few years. (Also) the cost for materials to keep the roads maintained continually rises, so we’re just trying other ways to offset some of those things.”
Nicklas and commissioners have found ways to keep the county’s taxes as low as possible, while still meeting all necessary needs. Nicklas said Palo Pinto County’s tax rate is the 19th lowest in the State of Texas, with the 18 lower counties mostly either in oil producing regions or big cities. Palo Pinto County also has a lower tax rate than any county that touches its borders.
“Overall, we are doing extremely well,” Nicklas said.
Ernest Pechacek will do his best to unseat the incumbent Nicklas and establish his own legacy as county judge. After testing the waters of retirement, Pechacek decided it was time to “jump back in the water” of county government and try his hand at leading the Palo Pinto County Commissioners Court.
Serving eight year as Precinct 4 Commissioner, Pechacek’s calling card is his experience in county government. While on the court he worked with two different judges on budgets and courthouse operations and told the Index he believes he has the qualifications for the job.
“Based on my experience, I feel like I’ve got the qualifications to run for county judge,” he said. “I need to get back into it because I keep up with it and I thoroughly enjoy county government operations.
“I got quite a bit of exposure as to budgets, operation and all of the departments. It’s just a big job there at the courthouse and I think I’ve got good qualifications to jump back in the water.”
In addition to his experience on the commissioners court, Pechacek said his time spent in law enforcement also makes him a well-rounded candidate.
He got a license to be a peace officer from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement and Officer Standards in Education (TCLOSE) and also worked as a reserve for the Mineral Wells Police Department. Pechacek said he believes this knowledge of the law only makes him a stronger candidate.
“I have a real good background in law enforcement,” he said. “The county judge seat does require knowledge of some law as well as budgets and the courthouse.”
When asked about his plans if he were elected or if there was any need for change in Palo Pinto, Pechacek said he has nothing specific in mind.
“First I need to get elected and then I’ll get in there and see where we’re at and get going,” he said. “I’m sure the commissioners court have got everything under control.
“I haven’t got ay problems with the courthouse at all. [Judge Nicklas] is a very good person. I just want to get back in there and maybe I can make it a better place. If I get elected and there are problems, I’ll find them and address them with the court.”