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September 19th, 2008
Commentary: Sumter paving road to political hell, but not with good intentions

Not Fit to Print: A column
Managing Editor

If there’s any justice, County Judge Elizabeth Sumter is about to take a trip down a bumpy road that leads to a political graveyard.

Last week, Sumter managed to make the papers for something besides her staggering failures on transportation, conservation and indigent health care when she parlayed the flimsiest of accusations against commissioners Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe and Will Conley into a public call for a district attorney’s investigation. Ingalsbe’s crime was regrading a private drive that leads to the county’s oldest Latino cemetery, a public works project explicitly allowed under the state law that requires property owners to allow public access to historic gravesites. We’ve suggested before that Sumter doesn’t seem to like Latinos too much, especially working-class ones, which is where Conley apparently got into trouble. His offense was repairing less than a quarter-mile of a county road, called Old Bumpy by locals, that provides critical emergency vehicle access to a blue collar subdivision in Wimberley.

It took District Attorney Sherri Tibbe less than three working days to clear both commissioners of wrongdoing in letters (here and here) that one can’t help but notice are addressed to Elizabeth Sumter, not the Hon. Elizabeth Sumter.

Sumter’s latest desperate, deceptive gambit — former Texas Democratic Party chair Charles Soechting calls it a “low-tech swiftboating” — is clearly a political maneuver. Both commissioners in question are up for re-election in less than two months and both of them — right or wrong on any given issue or all of them — want first to serve the people who elected them. On this basis alone, they differ from Sumter. She even had the gall to tell the Austin American-Statesman that, in Conley’s case, she wasn’t publicly supporting his opponent, former Wimberley mayor Steve Klepfer, even though she is listed on his campaign materials as a supporter.

She also told the Statesman she was duty bound to ask for Tibbe’s investigation after “citizens”, who she refused to name, reported these egregious acts. “Once I get a complaint I have to act,” she said. Yet when a citizen complained this week to Sumter about Sumter’s own gathering storm of a scandal, she replied with a brush-off letter, apparently no longer bound to refer every complaint to the district attorney for an investigation.

All of this begs a question: If the road to hell is paved in good intentions, where will Sumter’s trail of intimidation and lies take her? We’re all about to start down that path.

BRAD ROLLINS is The Mercury co-publisher and managing editor. He voted for Sumter and is genuinely sorry for it. Charles O’Dell can send him nasty e-mails at


» Parks vote again highlights ‘two Hays counties’
» Elizabeth Sumter’s Flying Circus

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10 thoughts on “Commentary: Sumter paving road to political hell, but not with good intentions

  1. Liz Sumter is a liar – her property in Wimberley has large signs supporting Mr. Conley’s opponent. How can she claim that she is not supporting anyone in this precinct race?


  2. Ms. Sumter forgot to mention that she is duty bound to ask for an investigation – ONLY when the subject of an allegation is up for re-election. Perhaps she will look into the allegations against herself when she is up for re-election.

    Of course, I can’t for the life of me understand why she would want to subject herself to a re-election bid. 64% of her votes in 2006 came from the Kyle-Buda-San Marcos area. In her first budget, she proposed cutting services in these same towns while offering bonuses to the Wimberley area. (Wimberley-Dripping garnered her only 36% of the vote). Her supporters on the east side of the county were stunned. She has continued to ignore the needs of the I-35 corridor, be it transportation, social services, or the inability of just being courteous to our elected officials.

    We all voted for her once, as evidenced by her win against Powers in our boxes(although her lapdog O’Dell would like people to think that people on this side of the County supported Powers). But I wouldn’t count on that scenario a second time. Not unless we witnessed a miraculous change in her behavior over the next two years.

    We’re getting tired of continuing to be nice to someone who just keeps kicking us in the teeth.

  3. As a someone who has tried to be a loyal Democrat over the years I cannot believe that our local Democratic Party has stooped to this level. I wondered why the attendance at this year’s LBJ Birthday Party was so anemic that is was a embarrassing. I can no longer support this part of the Democratic party that stoops to these tradionally Republican practices. This reminds me of what was done to Former San Marcos Mayor David Chiu by the anti annexation folks years ago. It is wrong, it is unethical and it must stop now. This gutterballing is worthy of Karl Rove. I didn’t realize that Ms Sumpter had been taking lessons from the Alberto Gonzales and Karl Rove School of campaign ethics. I am glad that Sherri had the guts to do what’s right and clear Conley.

    My votes go to the man and from what I have gathered Conely has done much to help his constituents while all Klepfer has done is manage to establish the City of Wimberley in a such a way that many of the older and less advantageous subdivisions were not part of the city and remained a burden for the County to deal with ( and now he wants to deal with them)and he also managed to mismanage the garbage contract so that the citizens of Wimberley lost and very few gained.

    In contrast Conely actually understands roads, green spaces, conservation and the need for bonds. Conely can actually cross a party line and work for the benefit of the County as a whole and actually has a vision that is clear. All in all I cannot support either Sumpter nor Klepfer anymore. The tactics and more importantly the record demands that we keep Conely and that we replace Sumpter with someone who understands government and leadership.

    David K Sergi
    Sergi and Associates P.C
    329 South Guadalupe Street
    San Marcos, Texas 78666
    Tel: 512 392 5010
    Fax: 512 392 5042

    Protecting the Lord’s children who have fallen short of perfection from the wrath of those who believe they have attained it — Stu Kinard

  4. Hey, Brad, why don’t you write what you really think about Sumter. Quit sugar-coating. Keep up the good investigative stuff. We can get the pablum–and my belly-button lint–from the Record.


  5. Get over it Brad. It’s politics and you know how it’s done. You are so obviously a lackey for Conley holding yourself out as a respectable journalist. Why don’t you use your talent for the greater good instead of protecting the powers that be? Is Conley one of your secret investors? I read your nice article about the Carsons middle finger to San Marcos. Are they investors too? Whose paying for this website and why? Its to bad people don’t know the difference between real news and your propoganda or they wouldn’t read this rag.

  6. It’s no secret that I am sympathetic to Conley because I’ve seen the damage his opponent’s political benefactor, the judge, is doing. To be fair, it seems Klepfer is more reasonable and stable than Sumter but I’m not inclined to empower ANYONE else with alot of rhetoric and little positive record.

    Conley by contrast has led on every issue we face. In addition to his transportation work, he started the Habitat Conservation Plan that will result in thousands of preserved acres; started a low-interest loan program to encourage rainwater collection and other progressive water conservation measures; and negotiated, along with city leaders, acquisition of Spring Lake Preserve adjacent to the San Marcos River headwaters. He was also instrumental in initiating a rewriting of development standards and implementing a system of increased developer fees that for the first time in the unincorporated county require developers to assume part of the cost of roads and parks to serve their subdivisions. He fought for increased law enforcement pay so we can enhance that aspect of county government; was the only commissioner who voted against Sumter’s tax increase last year; and long before the current court took office, helped secure funding for the first low-water crossing warning system and for important maintenance and repairs to the five San Marcos flood control dams. Most recently, he along with Ingalsbe and Barton refused a $8,000 pay increase in light of the flagging economy. His car wash commercials are kind of obnoxious but let’s keep our eye on the ball, shall we?

    To answer your question, neither Carson nor Conley are investors. Also, I am glad to see a supporter of Sumter/Klepfer concede that her courageous protection of All That Is Good And Decent was really a poorly executed political maneuver.

  7. I would like to say that I am proud of the job that may of the local Democrats are doing. Debbie is doing a great job in Precinct 1. I will be happy to vote for real Democrats that dont resort to gutterball.

  8. At least Mrs. Sumter is not in the pocket of developers and a corrupt political hack
    like her predecessor. As for Will Conley, he is owned lock, stock and barrel by the
    development interests and is a typical GOP shill for the money boys.

  9. So what do you base this on? Have you spoken to Will. The fact that he knows about roads and road bonds is my key for voting for him. We need responsible development not the NIMBY regulations that got Austin into the mess it’s in now. I lived thru the Freidman era in Austin as a youth and understand the appeal of “no growth” however look what happened to Austin. We need responsible development and leadership. One final thought, unlike some others who do consulting work and can benefit by their time on the Commissioners Court, Will runs a family owned car wash, he really does not stand to benefit here.

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