Post Managing Editor
In an effort to give the voters a look past the hundreds of political signs that crowd the easements across our county, The Post recently interviewed four candidates seeking election in the upcoming Republican Primary Election.
Because Kaufman County is predominately a Republican county in which very few Democrats have ever won election, the Republican Primary is the election in which the voters of this county determine which candidates will represent them in public offices.
Kaufman County Commissioner Precinct 1 Jimmy Joe Varzlik, Kaufman County Sherriff Candidate Brian Beavers, Kaufman County Tax Assessor Tonya Ratcliff and 422nd District Judge B. Michael Chitty each sat down to discuss the upcoming March 1, 2016 Republican Primary Election.
First to speak with The Post was Kaufman County Commissioner Jimmy Joe Varzlik who will seek his second term in office and he will be challenged by Candidate Greg Starek.
A wealth of information about the various county projects currently underway, Jimmy Joe Varzlik explained, “I’m seeking reelection because I want to continue with the projects we’re working on. We’re doing really well so I want to continue serving the taxpayers of this county.”
One of the Kaufman County Tea Party’s staunches supporters Jimmy Joe Varzlik has repeatedly bucked what he refers as the RINO (Republican In Name Only) system in Kaufman County. He has questioned the transparency, negotiating skills and authority of County Judge Bruce Wood several times since being elected and has openly opposed several county contracts and the Sheriff’s annual budget when he became concerned about contract negotiations and unnecessary expenditures.
While discussing what he was most proud of accomplishing during his first term in office, Candidate Varzlik stated “Well, after the Sheriff halted the plan to privatize the jail. He (Sheriff Brynes) wanted to buy fourteen new police vehicles when he already had something like 134 cars for 84 employees, so we voted that down.”
Commissioner Varzlik stated “And in addition to that, we voted in the contract with the U S Marshall’s, where we board about 150 prisoners for them annually. We made about $1.3 million dollar from that contract already and it’s estimated to bring in about $1.2 million, at least, this year. So I think that’s a real plus for the county.”
Next to interview, Kaufman County Sheriff Candidate Brian Beavers very openly discussed his personal life and qualifications to become the next county sheriff.
Currently serving the citizens as Chief Deputy Sheriff of Kaufman County, first-time politician Brian Beavers will campaign for election against two candidates, Tim Spillman and Bruce Bryant, and it’s this political race that is sure to capture voter attention as Election Day approaches.
Deputy Beavers has been employed by the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Department for almost nineteen years and his is currently second in charge at the Kaufman County jail. Born and raised in Kaufman County, Beavers has a long history in law enforcement and is being endorsed by the Kaufman County Fire Chief’s and Firefighter Association.
Candidate Beavers has vast criminal justice experience which includes being a detention officer, a jailer, a patrol lieutenant, a K-9 officer and most recently the Sheriff Departments’ Chief Administrator overseeing the sheriffs’ multi-million dollar annual budget.
Candidate Beavers was instrumental in the creation of the Kaufman County Crime Stoppers Program which has proven very helpful in the prosecution of some of Kaufman County’s most important criminal cases.
When Candidate Beavers was asked what he thought the voters need to know about him, he answered “I’m a fourth generation Kaufman resident. I graduated from Kemp High School and I have the most experience of the candidates running for Sheriff. I’ve always had a real passion for my work that’s why I’m running for Sheriff. I want to continue serving the citizens and helping make Kaufman County a better place to live.”
Third to interview, Kaufman County Tax Assessor Tonya Ratcliff will soon seek her second term in office.
Ratcliff will face two opponents, KCO Tea Party candidate Brenda Samples and former Tax Assessor Dick Murphy, who has returned from retirement to challenge Ratcliff for his old job because he is reportedly bored with retirement so he would like return to work.
As an important sidebar; the voters need to clearly understand that Candidate Dick Murphy was the County Tax Assessor for seven years just prior to Ratcliff’s election. He declined to seek re-election after his assistant; P.J. Gipson was indicted and convicted for embezzlement of a huge amount of taxpayer funds.
Candidate Murphy didn’t then and apparently does not now accept any responsibility for the funds stolen from the county. The County Tax Assessor is elected as the chief overseer and guardian of all county monies therefore it’s important that the voters understand that there was extensive “lack of oversight” during the seven years in which the financial offenses occurred.
Having extensively reported on the arrest and convicted on P.J. Gipson, the voters of this community need to clearly understand that Tonya Ratcliff did not provide me with the above sidebar information; it is public record that any voter can easily discover.
Speaking only about the changes she’s made in operations at the Tax Assessors office, Candidate Ratcliff was honest and upfront about her first term in office and openly discussed what she wants the taxpayers of Kaufman County to know about the county tax office.
After taking office, Ratcliff immediately began noticing the tax departments’ lack on internal controls, low staff morale and several outdated and costly processes. A very large operation, the KCO Tax Department consists of four branch offices that employ twenty-two staff members who annually process $130 million dollars in tax revenue.
When asked what she was most proud of accomplishing in her first term, Ratcliff stated “Well, I researched to find a better credit card rate for our citizens. Our citizens were paying 2.56% to use a credit card at the Tax Office and on-line. Plus, we had two different credit card companies we dealt with, one for in-house charges and one for on-line charges. Now with our new credit card service, the taxpayers pay 2.35% both in-office and on-line and we only deal with one credit card company. I consider that real progress.”
She said “I updated contracts with 33 entities we collect for – all the cities, schools, ESD’s since they hadn’t been updated in twelve years. Then I started outsourcing the printing of our tax statements. It costs less than printing them ourselves and its saves an extremely large amount of overtime and comp time that was being used to produce our statements after hours.”
Ratcliff explained that previous to her election, all tax department employees would stay after work to manually process the stuffing, sealing and mailing of thousands of tax statements yearly. Tables would be set up and for hours the employees, many of whom had already worked all day, would process tax statements that had been printed internally, and then take them to be mailed.
Ratcliff explained “Outsourcing the printing and mailing of the tax statements allows the staff to stay well rested and we’re not spending salary dollars on overtime and comp time. The other big issue was how the office handled the property re-sale process. It was first-come, first-serve and was a long and cumbersome process that led to actual fights at our front door when someone wanted to be first in line to bid on a property.”
She stated “With the new re-sale policy I implemented, all citizens get an equal and fair chance to purchase property, not just the one who can get through the door a 8:00 am, first. Now we have re-sale auctions in the evenings so that most people have the opportunity to purchase re-sale properties. We do these auctions three or four times a year and they have been extremely successful at getting properties back on the tax rolls.”
Last to interview but without question always a wealth of wisdom and knowledge, the honorable B. Michael Chitty representing the 422nd District Court of Kaufman County sat down to discuss the years of legal experience he brings to the bench.
First appointed by former Gov. Rick Perry, Judge B. Michael Chitty was chosen to serve as the first judge of the newly created 422nd Judicial District Court of Kaufman County in January 2004. The following November he was elected to his first four-year term and then he was re-elected in 2008 and 2012.
A conservative Republican, Judge Chitty also serves as the Local Administrative Judge for Kaufman County. A practicing attorney from 1973 to 2004 he represented both plaintiffs and defendants in a variety of criminal and civil cases. His legal experience include cases that involve probate, real estate, deceptive trade practices, torts, criminal, commercial, municipal, securities and bankruptcy.
A respected member of the State Bar of Texas, Judge Chitty is licensed to practice in all state courts, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and the U.S. District Courts for the Northern and Eastern Districts of Texas.
An advocate for the mentally ill, Judge Chitty is the Kaufman County representative on the Board of Directors of the North Texas Behavioral Health Authority. Serving as the President of the board for four terms, the North Texas Behavioral Health Authority is the local mental health authority for Collin, Dallas, Ellis, Hunt, Kaufman, Navarro and Rockwall Counties.
A life-long resident of Terrell, Judge Chitty is also a member of the Board of Directors for Terrell State Hospital and a former member of the board for the Ethics Committee at Terrell State Hospital. In 2010, he established a mental health and drug diversion court that provides structured programs that assist mentally afflicted, low risk, criminal offenders in rebuilding their lives.
Bringing a variety of legal experience to the bench, Judge Chitty will be challenged in the upcoming Republican Primary Election by Tea Party newcomer, Harry Weaver. Candidate Weaver is currently employed as a prosecutor for the Texas Attorney General’s child support collection division.
The voters of Kaufman County will be provided with several opportunities to meet and hear the political platforms of each of the Kaufman County candidates seeking election during a series of Candidate Night forums hosted by the Kaufman County Republican Party.
Jan 28 – 7p.m. Candidate Forum
Furlough Middle School 1351 Colquitt Rd Terrell, Texas
Feb 4 – 7p.m. Candidate Forum
Forney High School 1800 College Ave. Forney, Texas
Feb 11 – 7p.m. Candidate Forum
Kaufman County Magnolia's (Maple Hall on the square) Kaufman, Texas