PALESTINE — Primary election candidates for County Judge, County Treasurer and District 8 State Representative expressed where they stood on current issues Monday during an open forum hosted by the Anderson County Republicans Club.
Members from the audience penned questions on index cards for the candidates, which were collected and posed by moderator Judge Jeff Doran. Each candidate was given given three minutes to answer, with one minute reserved for response by the opposing candidate.
Candidates represented at the forum are as follows:
• County Judge – Robert Johnston and James Westley
• County Treasurer – Rafael Hernandez and Tara Holliday
• State Representative – Byron Cook and Bobby Vickery
When asked what a county judge can do to enhance economic development in Anderson County, current county Judge Johnston gave details of progress he has seen through his first term.
“I have developed a very good relationship with the Palestine Economic Development Corporation, along with the City of Palestine, so the three of us have come together and in the last three years, we've brought over $700 million in new economic development as far as three different businesses are concerned,” he said.
“We brought Sanderson Farms to Palestine, which is going to be $250 million in economic development, along with a $24 million annual payroll and up to 1,200 jobs. So we're doing four tax abatements in one year, in 2013—the first time we've had four in one year ever.”
Westley, Justice of the Peace for Precinct 4, responded by agreeing that Anderson County was competing to bring in new industries, but the landscape is changing. He said 50 years ago the railroad and glass industry were chief employers.
“Now, our chief employers are the prison systems, Walmart warehouse and the oil field,” he said. “In the next 25-30 years, we don't know what the landscape will look like. We always have to be looking for what we can bring in. We have a great area, we have land, we have water. Those are two primary resources that most counties don't have.”