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story.lead_photo.caption BOBBY HOWELL

Republican

1.What are your top priorities if elected into office, and how do you plan to address them?

My first priority is to continually monitor Bowie County's expenses and revenues to be sure we are good stewards for the taxpayers. I also will work with all elected officials to provide the best services to our citizens. We are blessed with good, hard working county employees, and I want to do to support them.

I would like to work on five-year and 10-year plans for Bowie County. I will utilize a citizen's committee to help formulate these plans.

2.How do you plan to address and improve the economic development and infrastructure in Bowie County?

I will continue to work with our local economic development groups and community leaders to attract new business and jobs. I will continue to work closely with the Texas Department of Transportation to implement and plan new roadways and improve our existing roadways.

3.What is the biggest challenge the COVID-19 pandemic has caused for the county, and how do you plan to address it?

The biggest challenge the COVID-19 pandemic has caused Bowie County is the complete disruption of our everyday lives. The way we work, shop, and go to school has all been disrupted. I have worked continually with our local healthcare professionals, first responders, Emergency Operations Center, businesses, schools, and Local Health Authority to be sure that we have done everything possible to keep our community safe. I will continue so that Bowie County can safely return to "normal" as soon as possible. Until we have a safe and effective vaccine widely available, I will encourage our citizens to follow the health protocols: social distance and wear a mask!

4.What are your thoughts about the county's finances, and what programs would you like to see added or done away with?

Bowie County is currently in good financial condition. The Commissioners Court recently passed a balanced budget for 2021, without increasing our tax rate. Going forward we certainly have challenges. The State of Texas continues to issue "unfunded mandates." The county is required to furnish certain services or provide services in a certain way, without receiving funding. Bowie County is required to furnish a County Jail, a courthouse, our court system for civil and criminal cases, and law enforcement. All of these services are very expensive. In addition, we are required to provide for indigent healthcare, pauper's funerals, mental health services, and a variety of other services. Another example is our elections office. The State of Texas has issued new laws and regulations for how elections are conducted and how results are reported. This required the county to add computer devices and additional employees. All on top of the expected large voter turnout and the pandemic.

We continually look for ways to reduce expenses, but I do not see any programs that we can legally do away with. If we can obtain additional revenue, I would like to add more Sheriffs's patrol deputies. We need to create a grant administration department to help keep up with the numerous grants that are a major source of funding and enable us to obtain additional grants. We do not want to miss any available revenue.

This is why it is so important for our local economy to grow to provide additional revenue in the form of sales taxes and property taxes.

5.Under what circumstances, if any, would you consider raising taxes?

Raising the county's property tax rate would be the last resort, if for example our tax base were to shrink.

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