San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

November 5th, 2008
Incumbents win commissioner seats, maintain contra-judge majority

Hays County Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley is all smiles as he announces his re-election to supporters Tuesday night.By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large

In an election with nothing less at stake than the governing coalition of the Hays County Commissioners Court, voters in the two San Marcos precincts all but neutered County Judge Liz Sumter for the last two years of her term by returning two opposition votes for another four years.

Incumbent Will Conley (R-San Marcos) survived a Democratic Party student surge across the country and outlasted Steve Klepfer (D-Wimberley) to retain his Precinct 3 seat. Meanwhile, as expected, Precinct 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe won easy re-election against Nick Ramus (R-San Marcos) and Bill Wyatt (I-San Marcos).

“Those in the know certainly understood the importance,” Conley said. “This wasn’t just a race for Precinct 3. This was a race for the corridor … Most people don’t understand the politics of the court and know how many 3-2 votes we have on issues that are important in Hays County.”

As the court’s only Republican, Conley has fought to preserve pre-Sumter initiatives for the last two years, since the elections of Sumter, Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton (D-Kyle) and Precinct 4 Commissioner Karen Ford (D-Dripping Springs) swung the court to a 4-1 Democratic majority.

As it turned out, Conley and Barton have mostly agreed, particularly on infrastructural matters, while Sumter and Ford have mostly agreed in opposition. Ingalsbe has distinguished herself as a swing vote, going with Sumter and Ford in several 3-2 majorities in the first year of the new court, then voting mostly with Barton and Conley in 3-2 majorities during the last year.

In September, with the election two months away, Sumter asked Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe to investigate Ingalsbe and Conley, further alienating the commissioners by alleging that they authorized illegal road repairs within their precincts. Tibbe cleared the two commissioners within three working days.

Spared having to campaign while under district attorney investigations initiated by Sumter, the commissioners produced comfortable victories. Ingalsbe never faced much of a challenge, and Klepfer conceded to Conley at 9:20 p.m.

Ingalsbe took 63.7 percent of 9,425 votes cast, easily outdistancing Ramus, who still pulled 33.42 percent despite minimal campaigning. Wyatt, the candidate promoted by no-growthers, managed only 271 votes (2.88 percent) as a write-in. Still the court’s senior member, Ingalsbe will begin her fourth term in January.

Ingalsbe won seven of her eight voting precincts by wide margins, generally two-to-one or better. She struggled a bit more in voting precinct 116, which covers the higher-income southwest end of her district, but still won it by a 422-369 margin.

Conley found himself in a much tighter race against Klepfer, a Sumter ally and the former Wimberley mayor. Conley took 52.4 percent of 16,843 votes cast, compared with 42.5 percent for Klepfer and 5.1 percent for Libertarian candidate Deborah Wood.

“It was a tough race,” Conley said. “(Klepfer) ran very hard and, let’s be honest with each other, it was a tough year to be a Republican on the ticket. There were no coattails. I won this race based off the work I’ve done as commissioner, the wonderful support I have in Precinct 3 and where we’re going to take this county in the future.”

Conley proved himself more popular in the Wimberley area than the former mayor of that town, taking boxes 333, 335 and 337. Klepfer benefited from the young Democratic vote for Barack Obama in the Texas State precincts 330, 332 and 334, taking them by an aggregate vote of 2,744 to 2,456. However, Conley won the far northwest San Marcos boxes 315 and 336 by an even greater margin, 2,290 to 1,444.

Conley said he will now to go to work on the county’s pending tasks, among which are the management of a $207 million road bond that passed overwhelmingly in Tuesday’s election. Meanwhile, the county also is looking to build a new jail and a new administration facility without dramatically increasing the property tax rate.

“We’re going to have to prioritize and we’re going to have to make some tough decisions and we’re going to have to get smarter about how we do county government,” Conley said. “I think we can continue to reform some things, to be more efficient to make sure services are developed and maintained while we tackle some of these new issues. I believe that by focusing on our local economy, it will help us generate tax revenue to help pay for some of these necessities.”

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19 thoughts on “Incumbents win commissioner seats, maintain contra-judge majority

  1. Congratulations to both Conley and Ingalsbe, both are vital to the well-being of the Court. I am not in anyway a supporter of Sumter (anymore) however I feel that the author of this article should check his facts before writing up the story – Sumter did NOT ask for an investigation of the Commissioners (Conley and Ingalsbe), she asked for an investigation on roads, and the specifics surrounding said roads, in their precincts (1 and 3), HUGE difference!! Although anyone with morals and logic, would agree that Sumter is not what Hays Co needs, we have to make sure that we know the story and its the FACTS – not the biased views of a reporter or anyone for that matter. Brad Rollins, one of the editors of this message board, wrote a really nice piece against Sumter.

  2. Dear Truth Please,

    I’d be interested in the subtle distinction between what this piece says and what the Brad Rollins piece says. Here is the Rollins piece:

    Also, look at the letters from Tibbe to Sumter to which the Rollins piece links. At the end of each letter, one regarding the road Ingalsbe worked on and the other regarding the road Conley worked on, Tibbe says, “You requested that my office look into this matter to determine the legality of the actions regarding the work being performed by the county. I conclude that there is no evidence of any illegal activity. I am closing any further inquiry into the matter.”

    I’ll take your point so far as to concede that I could have said Sumter suggested illegal activity rather than alleged it, but considering that all this happened in the context of Sumter asking for these investigations in the middle of each commissioner’s re-election campaign, does that distinction make any real difference? She asked for investigations on the roads, which, quite naturally, is tantamount to asking for investigations of the actions from the commissioners who facilitated those works. In one of these letters, Tibbe specifically explains why Conley’s actions weren’t illegal. Did Tibbe put all that in there because Sumter wasn’t asking about Conley?

    Can you, with a straight face, actually suggest that asking for investigations of these roads doesn’t amount to asking for investigations of actions issuing from the commissioners involved?

  3. To Truth Please, I don’t think that many people would think there is a “Huge Difference” between what Judge Sumter was asking for and trying to accomplish. I feel, as do the many people that I know that are connectected or have some background in politics, that this was a ham handed move on Liz’s part that she tried to pull. Trying to have someone investigated right before an election or coming up with questions of integrity is wrong and has no place in government. I am very thankful that we have a District Attorney that acted quickly and executed her duties flawlessly. As citizens in Hays County we have a right to expect better of our County Judge. She has shown that she may not the necessary character to serve even the remainder of her term much less be rewarded with a second term. That said, I think that I have politely said “Liz, it’s time for you to step down for the good of Hays County. You have shown that you lack the essential knowledge, background and especially the character to lead and/or push the ideas which will make our County a better place in which to live and work.” I encourage others with knowledge of some of the bizarre things that Judge Sumter has done that are probable abuses of her position to come forward now so she can be held accountable now and not shortly before an election. There are the allegations of not earning her extra judicial pay, county employees walking her dog of County time (I am sure that the “I was on my break time” defense is in the offing there, etc. ….Certainly enough that if people come forward there could at least be someone appointed by the Court to investigate the Judge. Liz, I bet there would be a 3-1 vote on that on less you refused to recuse yourself. Truth Please, thanks for taking the time to write.

  4. To Peterson, it’s not the objective of a reporter to present assumptions the public may or may not infer, and should present facts. Im not negating the fact that this investigation could have possibly been politically motivated, however, to indicate Sumter investigated the commissioners, instead of indicating the truth, that Sumter wanted the roads investigated in their precints, provides for questionable credibility on behalf of the author. Especially when another reporter has written a piece against Sumter.
    To Charles, Im not suggesting that what everyone believes (Sumter’s actions were politically motivated) is not a true opinion of the public. What I wanted to clarify is that this public opinion has not been verified with evidence as truth. It is just an opinion certain, if not most, of Hays County residents have, and for the author of this article to write it as fact is wrong. He should have wrote the fact – Sumter investigated the roads in their precincts, not the commissioners- We cannot confuse opinion with fact, and I would imagine reporters have certain ethical standards that prevents them from presenting an opinion as a fact. I’ve read District Attorney Tibbe’s letter to Sumter, in it she never mentions that the Commissioners were investigated, she mentioned the investigation of the roads. Tibbe mentioned conley’s actions as further evidence that the road issue was not an ethical problem. When investigations are conducted, investigators look into everything and provide a full scope of information for backup, however all the information they present does not mean that the investigation initially called for summoned it.
    Sumter asked for investigation of the roads, not the commissioners. the public can assume it was politically motivated, but I dont think a credible media outlet can do the same.

  5. I believe that Truth Please doth protest too much.

    Newspapers are not courts of law and it really is not necessary for them to prevent facts as “evidence as truth.” Judge Sumter was quoted herself in the Austin American Statesman on September 13th as saying “When there is a complaint against an elected official, there isn’t anything I can do. I’m bound to take it to Sherri Tibbe.” That was an actual quote from the Judge. She didn’t say when I get a complaint against a ROAD. It is not uncommon for the really good reporters to be well-read and informed and able to incorporate a great deal of the “evidence” from multiple sources into their journalism.

    Why are you so hot and bothered about it anyway. Judge Sumter isn’t under investigation. Nor is she up for re-election. Come on “Truth Please,” perhaps it is time for you to tell the truth as to who you really are. You have actually “read” the letter to the DA from the Judge? Wow. I’m impressed. I don’t think too many people have seen that letter. It wasn’t posted on this website, or any other that I know of. You must be really connected down at the Courthouse.

    But in the event you are truly naive and not an imposter just playing with us, I would suggest you read Jeff Barton’s blog on this subject which is posted on this website and entitled “Be Careful of the Stones that You Throw.” He explains the not-so-subtle intentions of Sumter’s “road investigations” in a way that perhaps you can understand.

  6. Oh little Lila, little Lila – how dumb you must feel. Clearly the letter from Sherri Tibbe is available on this site. Before you open up your mouth, please do your research!! Although, you are right, newspapers CLEARLY are not a court of law, however, they are bound to tell and report the truth! and not skew the facts. pay attention darling, in the end it will serve you best.

  7. Truth Please,

    I’d rather not fool with the kind of chicken salad that makes snide remarks about others under cover of anonymity, but Lila is correct that the judge’s intentions had been reported elsewhere. That is not an assumption. Sumter told the Statesman that she was pursuing a complaint against “an elected official” in explaining both of these requests. Good heavens, she was checking on the legality of road work undertaken by these commissioners. Learn how to do the math and you might be proud enough to say your name.

  8. Truth Plese – my mistake, I misread your post as your having read the Judge’s letter to the DA. I still stand by what I have written however. And, in fact, it would be interesting to see that letter from the Judge to the DA to see exactly what she alledged to the district attorney.

    My congratulations to Commissioners Conley and Inglasbe. They’ve done a great job in the past and I am certain they will continue to listen to their constituents and work diligently for the County in the future.

  9. Let’s cut thru the bulls”&t. Liz put a political hit on Wil and Debbie,she’s looked for stuff on Barton because she knows that she’s got her own problems. Truth at lest be “truthful”enough to tell us who you are since you are advocating fairly strongly for the judge in name only.

  10. Billy boy Peterson, common man, you made a mistake and dont accept it. But in speaking with others in town, that’s not something unusual. And by the way, like I’ve stated before, it is ok for citizens to speculate on issues, but for a reporter to do the same, and categorize a myth as a fact, is irresponsbile journalism! Also, you cannot base your argument on what another newspaper has reported, WTF!? what if all media outlets reported their news on what Fox News says – we would all be informed accurately on the issues that affect us, right?
    All make mistakes, but perhaps most of us try to correct them, and not justify them with non-sense.
    I use to be a stong supporter of Sumter, hell I voted for her, but now I regret that decision, however I dont think “news” outlets should report public assumptions as fact. Yeah, Im sure Sumter was politically motivated in her investigation, but according to Tibbe’s letter she investigated the roads and the legallity of the work being done on them – not the two Commissioners!!
    By the way I did vote for Conley, he’s done great work.

  11. Blame the media – what a cop-out. Like I said above, Liz was QUOTED as saying it was a complaint against a public official.

    If you don’t like Peterson’s journalism, then read something else. But like it or not, he’s the best damn writer in all of Hays County. Perceptive too….
    I just wish he would write more often.

  12. Oh Lila, Im glad you feel that way, because someone has to, but lots of people in the county, but especially in the city would differ with your thoughts that he is a good writer.. Partisanship is not good in journalism, its ok in public opinion.

  13. Considering the alternatives in SM these two guys are a breath of fresh air. Fact number 1: Liz Sumter tried to influence an elecion thru a bogus “referral of criminal concern” or whatever you want to call it. These people have reputations, families and are good people who ought not to be drug through the mud because of Sumter’s meanspiritedness and incompetence and also lack of moral fitness to serve as a judge.

  14. Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe, is a hard working,elected officer who take pride in serving Hays County,her desire to serve this community benefits not only people in her voting area but everybody in Hays County San Marcos area. You find few Polictician of her integrity and honesty.

  15. Banker,

    Why are you scamming readers with a post five months later?

    Pct 1 Commissioner Ingalsbe has a long record of sponsoring public money for Southside Community Center, an organization that employs her father who uses the Center as a political base for Ingalsbe.

    Ingalsbe stood by silently as Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley illegally sued an elderly couple in her precinct, and was silent as Pct. 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton attempted to sneak by commissioners court a septic and platting variance for one of her Pct. 1 constituents.

    The list of political self serving at public expense and standing by while other commissioners run her precinct is long and sad.

    So, Banker, if you are Ruben Garza, Executive Director of Southside, you should be ashamed of yourself for posting such self serving comments. And whether or not you are Ruben, I believe that what you post is absolutely false and a scam.

  16. I take back everything I said about Peterson and Lila. I guess I just dont know how to read too good and im too dense to understand anything. I posted under a fake name because I am chicken. im glad i posted under a fake name because people would know I am a dunce and I wouldn’t be able to go out in public.

  17. Truth Please – Don’t be so hard on yourself. It takes a lot of courage to admit a mistake. Don’t worry about it. I don’t hold it against you.

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