Republican Debate Transcripts: Bergmann v. McCall for Precinct 1 Commissioner
Jessica Goode | Contributing Writer
Pct. 1 Commissioner
Christina Bergmann: I am a graduate of Texas State University with a Bachelors Degree in Business Management. I returned home to manage my family’s business Bergmann Lumber Company, until it closed in 2017 and I became your full time commissioner. My roots run deep to the founding families of this county. My service to our community started at the age of 16, when I became the first firefighter for Boerne Volunteer Fire Department, which I am still a volunteer to this day. I’ve served as commissioner on the City of Boerne Historical Landmark Commission. I’ve served two terms as a city council member. I am a member of Kendall County Republican Women’s Club where I held the treasurer’s position last year. As we all know our county has grown tremendously over the last 20 years. Over the past three years, I have worked with development and engineers department in the county as well as the city. I have made decisions to better our county today as well as for future generations. Due to the rapid growth we are experiencing, we have transportation issues, which affect our citizens and the response of our emergency first responders. In the last 20 years, our population has almost doubled to 22,000 individuals. The county has only created one road which has been turned over to the City of Boerne. I intend to continue to explore opportunities that will alleviate current and future transportation issues.
Jennifer McCall: I am a lifelong republican. I am married to my best friend Andrew, who graduated from Boerne High School. We made our home in Kendall County 27 years ago. We have four children, who were born and raised here. Over the past 28 years, I have been the business administrator for my husband’s business. I was also the property manager and assisted other private property managers. In the State of Texas, the qualifications to be a county commissioner are 12 months residency in the state, and six months in the county. I’m not a politician; I’m a concerned taxpayer, just like you. I can no longer sit on the sidelines and complain. I want to make a difference. I have attended commissioners court for the last two years to understand the process. I have also attended surrounding counties’ commissioners court meetings, to observe how they handle their given authority. During this time, I have gained a better understanding of the responsibilities of a commissioner. If elected, I will work full time to be your voice in commissioners court.
What real world experience do you bring to this position?
McCall: The experience needed for this job is residency in this county for at least six months. I have been working with my husband, in jobs and raising my children at the same time, which has its own set of challenges. I have also watched this county grow. I have worked in the banking world and seen changes. I have learned a lot how to further myself. As a county commissioner, I bring a level of wanting to learn and wanting to change as I watch this county change.
Bergmann: Serving on commissions, being a city council member for two years and the past three years as county commissioner. While I managed my family’s business and worked throughout high school and college, I did help manage the books; I helped manage employees, and I managed day-to-day activities in that business. Being on the Boerne Volunteer Fire Department, I was the treasurer, and the Kendall County Republican Women’s Club as treasurer, so I have worked with numbers. In my real world experience as a firefighter in stressful situations –
to be able to handle myself, as well as try to organize the individuals involved and get solutions to the problems that arise.
How many hours a week do you plan on spending on this job if elected?
Bergmann: It’s hard to put a number to it. I am a full time commissioner. I am typically in my office Monday through Friday, pretty much from 7:45 to 5 every day. There are times when I have to go to San Antonio for meetings. I am a member of the MPO so I have to go to meetings for that as well. I have to travel and visit with people. I go on site to people’s property who are looking at a variance. I am up there as often as I can. I respond to email and phone calls on weekends from citizens and county employees. I’m always available by cell or email. My door is open to anyone.
McCall: This will be my full time job. I live close to the courthouse. I plan on spending as much time as I can being available to the county residents. I want this to be a full time job, 40 hours a week or whatever timeframe is necessary; I will be available.
What do you feel are the three most important concerns facing Kendall County?
McCall: First is continuing to protect our private property rights. We have a rapidly growing county. We need to make sure to protect those rights as developers and homeowners are expanding the county. The county is growing faster than the city. Maintaining the roads would be another. We need to have a proactive maintenance plan for our roads. We need to have funding that’s available and ready. Also, we could be working with legislators more. That would include things like incompatible land uses need to be explored more. The rules and ordinances we have need to be looked over and explored more so we are able to help protect citizens’ property.
Bergmann: Number one is transportation. With all of the growth our roads are getting crowded. We need to find alternate routes for thru-traffic. Our budget is also a concern. We haven’t raised taxes for quite some time, we’re working with the same budget but costs are increasing. Our law enforcement center is at capacity. We’re having to house individuals outside of our county. Getting citizens involved and bringing them to the table. Try to get involved and educated with what our county is doing.
What is most important issue in your precinct?
Bergmann: The number one thing that I do hear about and it’s a hot topic is transportation. In my precinct there is I-10 from the county line to Ranger Creek and 46 West, as well as Johns Road and Ranger Creek Road. Those are some major roads that are being done. Part of Main Street and River Road is in my precinct as well, so the congestion in our area and the roads is probably the most important one. The second most important one is development. Because there is quite a bit of undeveloped land in Precinct 1, we have a lot of places that are being put up for sale that developers are looking at. So these developers are coming in, and Precinct 1 is large, but there is a lot of undeveloped area. There are some subdivisions that have been approved but just haven’t broken ground yet. We cannot regulate density, so we have to find ways to try to keep 300 homes going on minimal acreage. It would be great if state legislation could give us more authority to regulate development.
McCall: I would agree that traffic is an issue. We talk about it all the time. We hear about it all the time. One of the things we could do would be to have small road connectivity within the subdivisions we have. Continuing roads so folks don’t have to go around to 46 and create congestion. There are ways to use the roads we have, to either expand them or make better connectivity.
Tell us about your experience serving either in public or party office, running for office or actively campaigning for a candidate.
McCall: I have not served in a public party but have helped in many campaigns. If you haven’t done this already, helping with a campaign is a very exciting thing. As citizens, we feel apathy when we think things don’t change. When you get involved in a campaign, it makes you feel a part of the process. Now being a candidate it is a different world. There is a lot of information. And I’m excited about learning. Being part of a campaign, you feel you’re making a change. One of the most exciting things is talking to people. People really want to tell you what their thoughts are. That’s part of the reason I’m running. I have enjoyed learning what people know and the changes they want to make. It’s very beneficial to get involved, and it gives you hope that you can be part of that change.
Bergmann: My experience serving public office as a city council member and commissioner is getting out there and visiting with our citizens, listening to their concerns. I’ve been honored to serve our community as often and in the capacities as I have. One of the best feelings is when someone comes to you with a problem and they don’t know where to start, is being able to help them and their family through the process so they can get what they’re needing. I get phone calls that don’t pertain to my precinct but I help them and get them to the right place. So seeing something all the way through has been a privilege.
In what area is the county going in the wrong direction and how do you propose redirecting it?
Bergmann: Again transportation. There is a map out there from 1974 that shows a loop around the City of Boerne. In the past 45 years we’ve hit this topic of what do we do to alleviate traffic? How do we do this? Back in 1974, they had a vision of some sort of alternate transportation around our city. We’ve gone through multiple tasks of research and data to try to figure out what to do. The county needs to take action and do something to help alleviate this traffic. I don’t have the answer for it. We’ve done lots of studies. There’s lots of information out there. Commissioner Durden and Mr. Bob Manning are co-chairs on a committee that’s researching this. The other issue is with our law enforcement center. We built a new law enforcement center looking forward to the future, not realizing how much we were growing and the crime that is happening and the individuals that are being put in jail. So it something we need to look at to see how to remedy that issue, and keep prisoner housing out of Kerr County and bring them back to ours so we don’t have that expense. But it all goes down to budget. Where do you get the money? What do you cut in order to get what you feel is needed? Who do you sacrifice and what department do you sacrifice so you can benefit another? That’s one of the hardest things is weighing the budget and figuring out how to distribute the funds.
McCall: One of the things that needs improvement is communication. We had an issue where the county was deciding on a large transportation issue around our county. The citizens were not informed. We need more communication from our commissioners’ court, from our elected officials, so we can be informed with what’s going on. In this particular issue, we had many citizens talking to each other, but that information needs to come from our elected officials, and they need to listen to what we’re saying.
Does the county have a role in managing growth, and how do you propose it be done?
McCall: That’s another hot bed issue is growth. The county cannot stop growth. The county is growing at a more rapid rate than the city because of the land that is available. The county has a role in protecting our private property rights. That would mean making sure the county utilizes all the laws on the books so that we protect those property rights. We need to protect those rules and regulations that the county has. We could dig deeper into those rules and regulations. The last time they were reviewed was in 2010. We have things to work with. I’ve talked with Kyle Biedermann’s office, and other legislators and representatives. They have said we have more tools at our disposal if we start looking at what we have already.
Bergmann: Managing growth can be a very difficult thing. The county does not have a lot of regulations at this moment that can help regulate growth. In this year’s budget, we approved hiring a consultant to review county regulations. I have been working with the county engineer, Rick Tobolka, and I have talked about going out for bids. We are in the process of getting the paperwork ready for that and will hire a consultant to come in and review our county rules and regulations and those will be revised hopefully, if not this year, then next year.
What power would you like the state to give counties to manage growth?
Bergmann: Density is one way to manage growth. I know out in the county, if you have a large piece of property and want to sell it to a developer, the developer is going to want to get the biggest bang for their buck. I would like for the state to give us some sort of guidelines and give us the authority to do compatible land use. Possibly do a little bit of a restriction on density, or acreage per water. We have four approved WCIDs and MUDs. If they come in and bring their own water and their own sewer, the county has no regulations against them, other than floodplain and fire code. We can control the growth or number of homes in subdivision by requiring two ingress and egresses. I would like to have more authority to regulate some of the density and acreage. I don’t like homes on quarter acres. I would like to see a minimum of possibly three to five to keep the country flair.
McCall: I think the keyword here is power. When state gives us more power, it means more restrictions and laws. There have been different pieces of legislation that have come through in years past, and it seemed like it took on a strong effect of making so many rules and ordinances. The county enjoys the freedom to develop property. I would like to see the county be able to hand developers a suggestion of how to build, how things should be laid out, a plan. I don’t think we want a whole lot more power, but when legislation comes down, it tends to make too many rules.
Tell about which Republican or political groups you have been involved with.
McCall: I have helped candidates. I have helped with the Republican Women’s Group years ago. As the county has grown, we have so many more people active with groups, and we have so many more groups. I feel I should have been more involved in the past; that’s one of my weaknesses. I do not go to the polls without getting the ballots first. Word of mouth has been my involvement, more than with a group. I’ve done more person to person and visiting with folks and asking them to vote. That has been my strength more than being part of a group.
Bergmann: I am a member of the Kendall County Republican Women’s Club, and have been an officer. I have been an active member for years; I do attend the Kendall County Republican Party meetings and Tea Party meetings, but I am not a member.
What is your long-term vision for the road network in Kendall County and Boerne?
Bergmann: The connectivity and networking the roads is a big concern of mine. One thing that has come up throughout these discussions is do you build new roads or use existing roads? One issue with existing roads is right-of-way. County roads are not that wide, so we don’t have a big right-of-way. If we use county roads, we have to go to each property owner and negotiate with them to obtain that property so we can widen the road. In my opinion it would be easier to go out to undeveloped land where you don’t have to deal with as many legalities and property owners and try to get an alternate route.
McCall: I brought up before short connectivity between what we have already. In 2005, we had a road plan that was voted down. We then had a group that picked up the ball, and with citizen involvement, they had another plan. They had people willing to use their property easements. I’d like to see us go to a plan like that. That plan was turned down. When citizen involvement is part of the process, I think that it’s much more successful. I do not want to see another plan that has imminent domain as a possibility.
What major new roads would you be in favor of?
McCall: We cannot expand roads. Any road with a number is a state road and cannot be expanded without TxDOT help, and with TxDOT help comes TxDOT plan. And that would be a regional plan. We need to go back to the citizens’ plan. We had a plan that was agreed upon. I think we need to dust that off. It was one of the plans that would have worked. I’m a taxpayer; I’m learning; I’m getting up to speed. We could talk to other rural counties and ask how they have dealt with roads. We have to plan ahead, not just deal with roads as they come.
Bergmann: The most needed area for a new road would be on the east side of I10 connecting 46 South to I10, to alleviate the downtown traffic, which Herff is helping, but people coming from 46 trying to get to San Antonio, if they have one more faster route to get there would be good. Also, on the northside of 46 East for people coming from New Braunfels, having to come into downtown to head north to get to Kerrville and Fredericksburg.
What is your vision for Scenic Loop and Highway 46 West in 15 to 20 years?
Bergmann: Don’t know if this pertains to roads itself or development, so I’ll try to put some of it together. My vision is connectivity. I don’t think it’s as detrimental to get to Kendall County as on the east side. But on the west side there is some progress that the city has made. I do see some connectivity through WCID 3 from Scenic Loop Road over to Upper Balcones. There is a development in the city limits up on the Upper Balcones that could potentially be built. Then it would be a short jog from that subdivision to 46. So I think, if we can work with developers coming in and get them to work with connectivity, that could help alleviate traffic. The bad thing is we have a lot of development; the good thing is we have a lot of developers willing to come in so we can negotiate and ask.
McCall: We’re seeing WCID 3 coming, and it’s going to add a ton of traffic. We see an expanded I10; there are not turnarounds. I think that would help. I appreciate the county is talking to developers and suggesting they consider the amount of traffic they will add to the roadways. With every development, we have added schools and police.
How do you propose to address the needs of rural Kendall County as the City of Boerne grows?
McCall: We do not have a lot of ordinances or codes as the county grows. We want to protect property rights. We don’t want to add roads that will cut through people’s properties. We want to use the laws on the books. We don’t want developers coming for un-needed variances. We have got to make a plan and have funding. It seems we have reacted to things happening, instead of planning ahead. We have to have some kind of a maintenance plan and funding to go along with it as the county grows.
Bergmann: I propose we work closely with City of Boerne. I am an advocate for the city and county to work closely together. I have already accomplished that with the WCIDs development agreement. The county had a lot of involvement. The networking and the relationship between city and county officials are helpful.
What are your ideas for reducing property taxes?
Bergmann: I don’t know that I have a whole lot of ideas. We are growing so much. That is one of the things we get most of our funding from. No one wants to go up on taxes, but everybody wants something to improve. I would like to keep taxes where they are and not have to go up on them; so in order to do that, bringing in other businesses, our sales taxes are part of our budget as well. So having people come to town and spend money and make purchases, and have that sales tax go back to the county and can be used for funding as well.
McCall: We have a new piece of legislation – Senate Bill 2 addresses property taxes. I think we all saw our bills skyrocket this year in advance of this bill that will take affect not next year but the following. They will not be able to raise effective tax rate higher than 3.5 percent, right now at 8 percent. This last year, we could have lowered the property taxes or possibly have given some of that money back to citizens.
How would you aim to control budget growth, for example limit government county spending?
McCall: As a county, commissioners court needs to set the example. One of areas with large amount of growth, we could have had better control over. If we’re going to give one set of elected officials a raise, it could have been spread across all of the employees. We have about 300 employees. I am a taxpayer and I am learning about the facets of the county. I don’t have my fingers on all of those numbers. If I am elected I will be able to learn about things and have a better handle on them.
Bergmann: Controlling budget growth is hard with how fast our county is growing. With the county growing as much as it is, we need more law enforcement and EMS personnel. When you come to the county and some of those departments are working on weekends to get their work done, we need to employ more people to help keep up with the growth. In response to salaries, most employees got a raise because we implemented a salary study. All county employees moved up to the new minimum, which was adjusted three times. So some employees this year got a raise three separate times. We value our employees.
The dynamics of water availability are rapidly changing. How do you manage to regulate that change?
Bergmann: I don’t know that there’s something commissioners court can do. We could ask for the minimum acreage to increase, but that does put a burden on some property owners who want to gift property to family members. The Cow Creek Water District helps regulate that. We don’t have a lot of control over it. If a land-owner brings in their own water, we cannot control that. The only thing we could ask to regulate, if you have out of county water, is there anything we can regulate them for acreage sites per home.
McCall: We have a very sensitive water availability. I need to learn more. The water is what helps with development and limits where developers can build. Water is like oil here in Kendall County; it’s very important. We need to work better with Cow Creek.
Should the county have a policy to promote rainwater collection?
McCall: We have very limited ability to control anything in the county. Working with density with developers, it could be a great suggestion. A lot of people do that. Once you put a policy in place it seems like a rule that limit people. It would help our sensitive water. We have to be careful when implementing policy.
Bergmann: I don’t necessarily think county needs a policy. As commissioners and the judge, on our own we can promote. I do promote rainwater collection; I just don’t want to tell people that’s something they have to do. There are some people that would create a burden for. Cow Creek promotes rainwater catchment systems. There are subdivisions using gray water for irrigation in their common areas, and that is also something we should promote.
What is your view of the future relationship with WCID 3 and SAWS?
Bergmann: I do have a relationship with WCID 3. I think there were issues with that from the get go. I spoke with Senator Campbell’s office personally and expressed our concerns. One of the worries is outside water is coming into our county and no restrictions are in place saying it’s only for one development. So SAWS water can come into Kendall County, and they can put pipeline on this one piece of property, and pipeline wherever they choose in the county and get water to another development. It does concern me. Once developers hear or find out that they can have a contract with another company like SAWS to bring water, it scares me what our future could be.
McCall: WCID3 – the development agreement that has been handled has been a long process. It concerned a lot of us because of how many lots they have. It makes people think they can make more developments with more density. It concerns me that they will tax the county as the development continues.
How would you develop the relationship with TCEQ to manage water supply?
McCall: From what I know of TCEQ, they don’t do a lot of managing. I question their effectiveness in managing anything. They’re at the state level. I think the county should be in charge of those rules.
Bergmann: My relationship comes through our development engineer. She works with TCEQ not only on water supply but also on floodplain. Our development engineer is my go-to girl if I have to get information to or from TCEQ.