Name: Kelly Kovar

Current position: Writer

Age: 50

City of residence: Ennis

Education: B.A. in political science from University of North Texas.

Professional credentials/ certifications/commendations (relative to office): Continuing education hours in coalition organization, psychology and deterring substance abuse in minors.

Prior experience (relative to office): 20 years of business experience in operations management and purchasing.

Family:  I have been married 24 years and my husband and I have two children. I have had the privilege of helping care for my father, a WWII serviceman, who died in January from Alzheimer’s disease. His philosophy of personal sacrifice and thriftiness has given me the courage to do what has to be done during the hard times of life.

Hobbies: Reading: history and biographies of public figures, mysteries, science fiction. Swimming, art, community theatre.

Campaign Web site:

www.kellykovar.com

QUESTION 1: In your own words, why are you running for Ellis County Judge?

ANSWER: An ongoing interest and concern for local and national politics has always been forefront in my mind, and the current political climate in the country and the county has led me to feel strongly that this is the time to step forward and offer myself for public service.

My deep love for Ellis County has grown immensely over the last five years, during which I served as an editor and writer for a local media outlet, doing feature writing. In that capacity, it has been my privilege to travel throughout Ellis County and listen to the stories of local workers, peace officers, politicians, educators, business people, youth, musicians, artists and ranchers.

I have listened to the stories of literally hundreds of local citizens and heard of their individual struggles and successes, their concerns and their needs. With each story the desire to be their voice in county government has grown. I still want to hear people’s stories, and I still want to be their voice. But, I need to take that voice out of the pages of a magazine and into the public arena because I believe that the true voice of the people is not being heard and represented by government. So, I decided, with the support of my husband and family, to run for Ellis County Judge.

QUESTION 2: Ellis County is growing, and with growth comes new challenges — and problems. As county judge, what are some of the policies/programs you will implement to improve services and combat growth-related problems in our county?

ANSWER: Growth related problems include more wear and tear on roads and bridges as traffic increases. I will work with the county commissioners to equitably divide tax revenues between the four precincts according to the number of roads and the amount of traffic in each precinct.

As traffic on roads increases, there will be a need for increased inspection and preventive maintenance on roads and bridges. Quality roads and bridges are one of the main things citizens want their tax money spent on, and we need to budget county resources accordingly. This may require adding additional personnel to work for the commissioners to have sufficient staff for regular road inspection.

As the population increases, there will be a need for more job opportunities for citizens. Additional industries and companies are going to consider building on county land. Tax abatements should be offered to encourage business development. 

QUESTION 3: As county judge, what will you do to involve the citizens in informing and/or taking an active role with county government to solve/address issues facing Ellis County?

ANSWER: The business of the County is the business of the people. Citizen involvement is one of the aspects of county government which is closest to my heart.

Commissioners’ court is the venue where citizens can interact with county government and become involved with issues which affect them personally. With court being held at 10 a.m. on the second Monday and at 6 p.m. on the fourth Monday, there is no time when citizens with regular 9-5 jobs can attend court. By the time someone getting off work at 5 or 5:30 gets off work, especially if they work in Dallas, or far away from the courthouse, they don’t have time to get to court by 6 p.m.

Moving the court time to evening meetings held at 7 p.m. would make meetings more accessible to citizens.

As county judge, I would like to make the agenda for commissioner’s court and the schedule for commissioner’s court more available to the public.

One method for doing this would be to have a monthly column from the county judge to the citizens of Ellis County, which would keep people updated in a readable format about issues facing the county and would clarify exactly when those issues would be on the court agenda. This letter could be posted online, but more importantly could be made available to local media outlets to publish if they choose to.

As I have visited in the county recently, one thing I have frequently heard is that different areas of the county want to see the county judge actually taking the time to make appearances throughout the different towns in the county. As county judge, I would make it a regular habit to be aware of events and gatherings throughout the area, and take the time to go to the different towns in Ellis County to attend events and actually be available, outside of the office, to listen to the citizens. 

QUESTION 4: What would you identify as the top three issues facing Ellis County and as a county judge, how would you address those issues?

ANSWER: I believe that the way to make decisions about issues is to know what you believe about principles.

As a candidate for county judge, I freely share with Ellis County citizens what my principals are and they can be confident that any decisions which I am required to address as county judge will be based on these underlying principals.

1) I believe that all people, from the unborn to the elderly, are intrinsically valuable.

2) I believe that the individual has the responsibility to take care of himself and his family as well as the moral obligation to help his fellow man.

3) I believe that people groups should not be oppressed or denied basic human rights because of ethnicity or gender.

4) I believe that our government has been entrusted with our tax dollars and thus has the inherent duty to provide a strong defense on a national level and ethical and effective law enforcement on the county level.

5) I believe that government does not have the right to impose regulations on citizens that infringe their personal liberties, including undue taxation or regulations pertaining to education, health, property and gun rights, or the restriction of the free exercise of religion.

6) And, I believe our country was established with documents that assert that the belief in God is a foundational principle of our governmental system.

Currently there are several important issues facing Ellis County:

1. Federal Stimulus money that is offered generally is accompanied by Federal mandates that are not necessarily beneficial to Ellis County. The County Judge can voice objections to accepting federal stimulus money to NTCOG, and to State government. Any mandates that come with federal money that require rolling the program into the county budget the next year, and being paid for by county tax money should be rejected. For example, when FEMA funds come to Ellis County for road and bridge repair, the County should insure openness and transparency to the taxpayers regarding what mandates the money entails.

2. Does a bigger population necessarily translate into a bigger budget? No, as our population grows in the urban areas, we are not necessarily needing to increase our budget for county services because more county rural areas are being incorporated into cities. As the tax-base grows, instead of increasing the tax rate and the budget, we should be able to apply more of the budget to debt relief.

3. Proper maintenance of current county facilities and appropriate creation of new facilities will continue to be necessary as the population grows and the demand for County services increases. This must be provided to the County on a zero-based budget plan. Any major additions to County assets must be undertaken with full accountability to the taxpayers.

QUESTION 5: As county judge, what do you see as the pros and cons of a combined road and bridge division for the county?

ANSWER: Currently, commissioners maintain separate supervisors, equipment barns and equipment. When this equipment is not in use, or when bad weather in an area prevents ongoing road work from being completed, equipment and personnel sit idle. By combining and sharing equipment and supervisors, costs could be reduced, affording more of the budget to go for actual road and bridge repairs. Especially as equipment wears out and needs to be replaced, and in the case of very specialized equipment which is not used as often, a sharing system could be gradually implemented to cut costs and conserve tax resources.

Careful checks and balances would have to be in place to ensure that each precinct received timely repairs and an equitable distribution of resources.

QUESTION 6: Would you be in favor or against a proposal to bring road and bridge work under a single county department?

ANSWER: County department heads are not directly accountable to the citizens, so I would prefer that the authority for road and bridge work remain under the county commissioners, who are accountable to the voters.

An administrator should be appointed by the commissioner’s court who would work under the authority of the commissioners’ court to coordinate resource needs.

QUESTION 7: What do you see as the biggest budgetary challenge currently facing Ellis County and, as county judge, how would you address that issue?

ANSWER: Unquestionably, the biggest budget challenge for the Ellis County Budget involves dealing with the criminal element. County taxes are paid by law-abiding citizens, but county tax dollars are spent on providing for the trials, care, containment and probation of non-law abiding citizens.

With the trend in our society and the continuance of Ellis County becoming a target for metroplex area criminals, this situation can continue to grow and dominate our budget. State requirements mandate many procedures for housing and guarding county inmates, so the budget cannot be cut in that regard. However, the county judge needs to take a new, proactive approach to dealing with this situation.

The County Judge needs to give the sheriff’s department and local law enforcement agencies the utmost support in making Ellis County a place which does not invite crime. This can be accomplished by establishing a Citizens’ Crime Commission which will consist of volunteer participates drawn from every area of the community: business, law enforcement, county officials, churches, non-profits, etc. These citizens, under the blessing of the County Judge, can work together to provide education for citizens about crime prevention. They can work to offer speakers and training to law enforcement. They can work with young people to educate them about the law and the benefits of being a law-abiding citizen.

They can work with local business to encourage a community spirit of watchfulness. They can, as volunteers, encourage a spirit of cooperation between citizens, and law enforcement which will improve the safety of citizens, property and law enforcement personnel.

QUESTION 8: If you could have a wish list of three items to change Ellis County government, what would they be and why?

ANSWER: 1) We need a new county judge, who is elected by the people and accountable to the people; who instead of having no agenda, has an agenda which includes zero-based budgeting and getting citizens involved in the government of their county.

2) The Emergency Management needs to be upgraded to be sure that the County is prepared to deal with weather disasters, including tornadoes, with man-made disasters – such as terrorism – and with any unexpected events such as power grid blackouts. The current system is inadequate for providing for the logistical needs of all Ellis County Citizens.

3) The County needs to take a proactive approach in communicating to the State the position of Ellis County citizens about Loop 9. The public hearings which are scheduled in April should be attended by the County Judge and Commissioners and they should be prepared to present alternative suggestions for routing Loop 9 through non-residential areas.

QUESTION 9: As administrator of one of the largest employers in Ellis County, what do you see as the challenges facing human resources and your thoughts on addressing those challenges.

ANSWER: As the county grows and the demographics of our area change, the county could be benefitted by offering continuing education for county employees in areas such as providing bi-lingual services. As current employees retire or leave voluntarily, instead of automatically re-hiring for those positions, the county needs to evaluate on a case-by-case basis if the position is still essential or not. Some county functions can now be streamlined through applying current technology.

QUESTION 10: How is illegal dumping in Ellis County being addressed now, and as a county judge, what are your thoughts on how it can be improved?

ANSWER: Currently, the county offers free dump days to Ellis County citizens a few times a year. The dump sites are not at the county landfills, so when citizens bring their truckloads of debris, it requires additional county funds, resources, and services to move the waste back to the landfill. The dump days need to be at the landfills to avoid redundancy.

I propose that we have more frequent county dump days and that they are actually held onsite at the county landfill. Making legal dumping more accessible to citizens will decrease illegal dumping.

QUESTION 11: Are you current on your personal and business taxes?

ANSWER: Yes

QUESTION 12: Have you personally had criminal and/or civil legal issues (this does not include any litigation as a public official) and if so, how were those resolved?

ANSWER: No

QUESTION 13: What do you see as the key transportation issues facing Ellis County and what is your vision at this time for addressing those issues? (Please elaborate on your vision to improve the county’s infrastructure needs).

ANSWER: The county needs to address the issue of Loop 9 cutting through neighborhoods in Ovilla and Red Oak. An alternate route needs to be proposed.

With the current growth in the county, the improvement of roads and bridges is a main concern.Citizens should be allowed the option of voting on a road bond.

Better oversight of road crews by county commissioners could be implemented by commissioners keeping in closer contact with the personnel building and repairing the roads. Repeat business with companies that don’t perform efficiently should be eliminated.

QUESTION 14: What is your experience in administrating a major budget?

ANSWER: I have administered company budgets, including payroll, purchasing, equipment and fleet maintenance. I have handled purchasing for Bright Bank, and been the engineering purchaser for the Loew’s Anatole. 

QUESTION 15: Ellis County has several partnerships with non-profits. Please discuss the pros and cons of these partnerships and how you feel these partnerships should be expanded or decreased.

ANSWER: Pro: Non-profits that provide services for county citizens, such as Meal-on-Wheels, Helping Hands, and the United Way, redirect social services into the purvey of the private sector and away from the public sector.

I would increase cooperation with non-profits that will help us deter crime in Ellis County. Groups that work to deter drug and alcohol abuse in minors can have an impact on crime reduction, and eventually reduce the expense in the budget for dealing with the criminal element.

Non-profits that encourage civic participation of students will also deter crime. I would like to see the county sponsor tours and forums to involve young people in the process of observing government.

Cons: There need to be monitoring of non-profits that have a relationship with the county so that citizens are protected from situations such as those which arose with Kevin’s House.

QUESTION 16: Discuss your thoughts on indigent health care and what the county could or should do to address this issue.

ANSWER: We are mandated by the state every year to provide specified services to the indigent, but no state funding accompanies this mandate. The county has to provide for this service in the budget and this cannot be avoided. However, regular monitoring of the system of indigent health care needs to take place to determine how many people are using the services and if the method of delivery is efficient.

QUESTION 17: Tell us why you feel you are the best person for this position.

ANSWER:  I believe the secret to finding your goal in life only partially involves looking within yourself. It also involves looking outside of yourself, beyond the faces of the people around you, and into their hearts, to see what they need.

Every one of you has something inside of you that the world needs. Setting goals is not just about what we want from life – it is about what the world needs from us. What is inside of you that people need? Your compassion? Your technical skills? Your teaching ability? Your laughter? Whatever it is, when you find a way to offer that to other people, you will have found the secret to reaching goals that benefit you and the world around you, fueled by your passion.

 I have a passion for seeing the principles of freedom and individual liberty, which are blessed by God, insured for all people. I believe that as County Judge I will bring my ability to sincerely listen to and care about what you, the citizens of Ellis County, are saying, and represent that voice in county government. This nation, founded on the principle of individual liberty, will remain great only as long as it is fueled by the individual. Liberty is not born in the seat of government, but in the heart of man.

QUESTION 18: As an administrator of one of the county’s largest employers, what changes would you like to make to improve morale and retention of county employees?

ANSWER: Studies show that employee productivity is related to their morale. When elected officials vote themselves pay raises, while county employees struggle to make ends meet, morale and loyalty to job performance decline. And studies aside, my experience has shown me that people’s morale improves and their job efficiency is raised when they like to come to work because they feel appreciated.

As County Judge, I will be not just “accessible” to citizens; I will actively solicit the input from county employees, who know from the inside-out what they need to do their job better. Employees know where waste occurs. Employees know where procedures are creating redundant work. As County Judge, I will coordinate with department heads and elected officials and work with them to create the most efficient and cost-effective county government possible. But, I look forward eagerly to sitting down beside employees in various departments and hearing about their workload; getting their input on what they bring to their positions, and finding out how I can use county resources to make their jobs easier and more rewarding.