BELTON — Family is at the heart of everything Killeen resident John Driver does in life.
Whether it was his 30-year military career, leading Fort Hood Family Housing or operating a small daycare with his wife, Chappell, family was always at the forefront.
Now it’s the same reason Driver, 64, is running for the Democratic nomination for Bell County Precinct 4 Commissioner — a position with an annual salary of $74,518.
Driver will face fellow veteran Louie Minor in the Democratic primary on March 6. Whoever wins will face four-term incumbent Commissioner John Fisher, a Republican, in the Nov. 6, 2018, general election. Fisher is unopposed in the GOP primary.
Growth issues fueling race
The centerpiece of Driver’s campaign is shaping up to be the economic development of Precinct 4 — which covers most of Killeen and the southwest corner of the county.
“I look at Belton and Temple, their industry is constantly growing. What about Killeen?” Driver said.
Killeen is too reliant on the military, Driver said. The candidate wants Bell County’s largest city to attract more businesses that stay and grow.
Driver pointed to the new $30 million chemical plant that MGC Pure Chemicals is building in Killeen as an example of industry that needs to come to the precinct. While he understands people’s concerns about the plant, Driver said this is what Killeen needs.
Once complete, the Killeen Economic Development Corp. estimates the plant will generate about $2.25 million in benefits for a decade.
“We need to be looking at what industries that can be placed that will draw the businesses from Austin, Georgetown and all that rather than those people just moving here,” Driver said.
As the cost of living becomes too high in Austin, Bell County needs to seize the moment and lure industries here, he said.
“I believe in a good quality of life for everybody,” Driver explained. “In order to attain that quality of life, we need to bring in some things that can support the family because not everybody is military. Not everybody can get a government job and work there (at Fort Hood).”
Growth hinges on water
While bringing more jobs to the area will help Precinct 4, growth will not occur without one precious resource — water. The county has to secure its future water supplies now, Driver said.
Driver wants to see Bell County re-secure the water it lost when Georgetown appropriated the Chisholm Trail Special Utility District, a now-defunct rural water supplier.
“They’re not just going to give it back to us,” Driver said. “It’s going to take some maneuvering. It’s going to take some state action. I feel positive that we can get that back.”
Fisher has been leading the charge on the Chisholm Trail issue for years. Driver said the commissioner’s efforts are admirable.
Driver admits that he is not an expert in water. However, he said he’s learning more about it by attending local events, such as the recent Bell County Water Symposium hosted by the Belton-based Clearwater Underground Water Conservation District.
Looking ahead, the county needs to be better prepared in case of a major drought, Driver said.
He wants to see the county and other local government entities continue push what it will take to utilize aquifer storage and recovery — a method of storing excess runoff in an aquifer — in Bell County.
Up against an incumbent
Should Driver emerge the victor of the Democratic primary, he will face Fisher — a well known, longtime commissioner. Driver already has a strategy to win.
“How I go about defeating him is by being John Driver,” the Democrat said. “I will not engage in any derogatory rhetoric — that’s not me. I will express my issues on how we can regain water rights (and) how we can work together with outside agencies to bring more industrial companies … to the area.”
Fisher said he will need to work hard to convince the voters of Precinct 4 to give him one final term on the Commissioners Court.
“Hopefully, I gain the confidence of the other side of the constituency as I enter the November season — whichever Democrat opponent arises from the primary,” the incumbent said.
If Driver winds up on the Bell County Commissioners Court come January 2019, he would be the sole Democrat. That doesn’t bother him.
“What difference does it make? They put their pants on the same way I do. They breathe the same air,” Driver said. “I’m a Democrat, but I’m very conservative and I’m able to talk to anybody.”