Bell County will conduct an election for Precinct 1 on the Commissioners Court.

The court consists of five elected officials, one representing each of Bell County’s four precincts and a county judge.

Precinct 1 encompasses most of central Bell County, including Belton, Nolanville, Morgan’s Point and a small portion of north Killeen.

The post is currently occupied by Republican Richard Cortese, who is seeking re-election. Cortese was first elected in 1992 and is seeking his sixth term.

He is facing Democratic challenger Irene Andrews on Nov. 6.

County commissioners are elected to four-year terms.

Richard Cortese

Age: 60, Precinct 1 county commissioner, Republican

What makes you qualified to serve?

My experience in business and the leadership roles I have been involved in have, and continue to be, an asset in managing county government. Managing a farm and ranch budget gives good insight into the budget process.

This is verified by the fact that Bell County continues to have one of the lowest tax rates in the area, and more importantly, we continue to have one of the lowest budgets to population ratios in the state. … Bell County is a leader in the state in awards for proficiency in many areas. … This is a result of building good communication between other elected officials and collaboration in solving problems and meeting challenges.

What should be the county’s budget priority?

The main priority is an all-encompassing one. We have to bring many aspects of the county operation together in order to keep costs under control. Bringing technology products and new improved business processes together make the operation move smoothly without the greater need for increasing staff until absolutely necessary.

What is the biggest issue facing the county?

The biggest issue facing Bell County will be the continued population growth and how it creates demands on infrastructure, services and sheer volumes of contact with the public. The Commissioners Court has planned for growth in additional space for courts, jail and technology services.

Even though we have the building space, it will require additional people and that affects the budget. It will require continued innovation and cooperation among elected officials and good leadership on the part of the Commissioners Court.

I believe we will meet these challenges.

Irene Andrews

Age: 57, special education teacher for KISD, Democrat

What makes you qualified to serve?

I’m a veteran KISD special education teacher with 20-plus years experience. I’m the daughter of a retired Methodist minister and my mother taught first grade. My parents valued hard work, good citizenship, wise stewardship and service above self. I am qualified to serve because I live and work by these same values and will lead by them, too. I am ethical in my behavior and passionate about public service. I listen, I care, and I strive to understand the needs of my community. Qualified leaders are positive people, like myself, who communicate well, build consensus and work as a team.

What should be the county’s budget priority?

Reducing the county’s costly interest payments on the accumulated debt will free up thousands of dollars for programs and improvements without borrowing more money. Bell County government must reduce the debt shouldered by the taxpayers and start living within its means, just as those it serves must do.

What is the biggest issue facing the county?

We need a vision and strategies that will mitigate the impact of fluctuations associated with Fort Hood. Planning for a self-sustaining future includes budgeting for that plan. I will look at how every nickel is spent. Nickels add up to dollars wasted today or money saved for tomorrow.

Contact Philip Jankowski at or (254) 501-7553

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