The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

February 28, 2014

Election Q&A: Hernandez, Holliday vie for county treasurer

Staff Reports
Palestine Herald-Press


NAME: Rafael Hernandez

AGE: 73

OCCUPATION: Winemaker/Owner Texas Vineyard & Smokehaus

EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree, Glassboro State College; MBA, University of Houston


NAME: Tara Lambright Holliday

AGE: 28

OCCUPATION: Anderson County First Assistant County Auditor

EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree, University of North Texas, May 2007


Q: What are your qualifications for the job?


I managed organizations of up to 145 soldiers while in military service. I served as training director for the Houston Police Department and have served as treasurer for the Forest Cove Property Owners Association and for the Pinewoods Wine Trail Association. As a business owner, I am responsible for the day-to-day operation of Texas Vineyard & Smokehaus, including customer relations, budgeting, accounting and inventory — above all, operating within the budget using checkbook economics. I decided to seek the treasurer's office after seeing an article about a payment to the IRS where taxpayers paid $1,404 in penalties/interest on a $68.41 bill.


After obtaining my Bachelor’s degree from the University of North Texas in 2007, I returned home to Palestine and began working for Anderson County. I currently serve as first assistant county auditor. Over the last six years I have had the opportunity to audit and work closely with the treasurer’s office. I am aware of the duties and statutory requirements of the office of county treasurer and will be able to work from day one without having to waste tax payer dollars training and evaluating procedures. I am also familiar with the Public Funds Investment Act which governs county investments.


Q: What do you believe are the most critical issues facing the county treasurer's office?


Lack of leadership — the county treasurer's office has been in the state of turmoil the past four years. Financial reports to the commissioners' court have not been made in a timely fashion. Employees have been doing their job with little or no direction, no one to turn to for instructions or assistance in the decision making process and no one to beheld accountable to. This has had a demoralizing effect on the way the office performs and how employees feel about their job and themselves. I want to bring back a sense of respectability, teamwork, pride and employee satisfaction.


I believe the most critical issue currently facing the county treasurer’s office is the lack of leadership and communication. The county treasurer is an important office charged with the safety and security of county funds. I will be in the office. I will be available to the public, employees and the other offices. I will bring back unity, integrity and restore confidence to the office.

Q: What changes/improvements would you make if elected for the next term?


Initially, I will make no changes. I will evaluate the office, employees and equipment to find out shortcomings, if there are any. I will solicit feedback from those served by the treasurer's office, office employees and other elected officials. Afterwards, using the evaluation findings, I will make adjustments and changes as needed. I want to begin cross-training employees on other employee's jobs. Ultimately, my goal is for every employee to be able to do each other's job — a form of checks and balances. I will develop an award system to reward those employees exceeding office production.


I would first and foremost take steps to better secure our county funds. I would like to implement positive pay which will improve check fraud detection. I will have ACH blocks placed on various county bank accounts to prevent unauthorized wire transfers. I will work to implement remote capture to increase the timeliness of deposits and reduce the likelihood of theft. I will meet with our depository bank and work with them regarding other suggestions to help prevent fraud. I will also take steps to improve technology in the office in order to better streamline office procedures and improve efficiency.


Q: How would you insure that jurors' checks were paid on a timely fashion out of the county treasurer's office?


A checks and balances system will be set up to determine priorities. A suspense file will be set up with payment due dates, to include payment to jurors and will be posted daily. All suspenses will be reviewed and addressed no less than five days before action is required. By so doing, if the computer program is not working, (as it has happened the past four years), the office can begin manual payment and avoid late charge penalties. There is no excuse for late payment to the jurors or anyone else. I will make sure all obligations are timely met.


I feel that paying jurors in a timely manner is very important. In the past, jurors have had to wait months before receiving their payment. This is unacceptable. If elected, I will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that jurors are paid promptly for their service to the county. Lubbock County utilizes modified ATM machines to expedite the juror payment process. The jurors can scan their jury service document as they leave the courtroom and receive their payment. I will explore technology and other options utilized by other counties to reduce cost and increase efficiency in this process.