BELTON — Killeen businessman and veteran Louie Minor could make history next November and become one of the first openly gay county commissioners in Texas.

Minor, a Democrat, is hoping to unseat four-term Republican incumbent John Fisher from the Precinct 4 seat on the Commissioners Court — a position that pays $74,518 annually.

One of Minor’s priorities he plans to run on is to modernize the Bell County Commissioners Court. He wants the commissioners to have a staff.

“You got to have staff to help manage the needs of the people,” Minor said. “If you break down the four precincts, there is roughly 80-something thousand people per precinct. I think that’s more than enough tax revenue to justify having a staff available.”

In addition to that, Minor wants to see the commissioners set up offices in their precincts.

“People in Killeen are not going to come all the way to Belton,” Minor said, adding Bell County is the 16th largest county in Texas. “It’s time we have that.”

Growing Bell County

A top issue for Minor’s campaign is jobs. He wants to bring more jobs to Precinct 4.

“Now you could say that’s not the role of a commissioner, but why not?” Minor said. “Why are we going to be reactive? Be proactive. We need jobs. We need manufacturing jobs and we need tech jobs in this area. That’s what I’m looking to bring.”

Minor wants to work with the city of Killeen and the Killeen Economic Development Corp. to talk to companies and lure them to Bell County.

“I’m sure with our cost of living being lower than Austin we could steal tech companies and manufacturing companies from Travis County, even Williamson County,” the candidate said, adding the county has the infrastructure and workforce to support it. “There’s no shortage of skilled professional labor. It’s here. We just need to get the jobs here.”

In addition to luring jobs to Precinct 4, Minor wants to focus on Bell County’s growth.

“The way I’m thinking of things is what is the county going to look in 50 years and how can I prepare the county for that 50 years of growth now?” he said.

One idea Minor wants the count to begin laying the groundwork for is a new transportation system.

“I’m thinking of some type of light rail or something to that effect,” he said. “We don’t want to get to the size of Austin and realize we should have put up something because people are stuck in traffic for hours a week and they’re so unhappy.”

Transportation is a quality of life issue, Minor explained.

Minor acknowledges that a light-rail system would be expensive, but it is realistic through partnerships with the federal government, the state, cities and the private sector.

One current project underway that Minor says will not add to Bell County residents’ quality of life is the $24.6 million expansion of the Bell County Expo Center. He describes the equestrian center as a “waste of money.”

“That doesn’t do anything for the quality of life of people in the county,” the Democrat said. “Yeah, it brings money in. But how many times are they going to have dog and pony shows before they recover that money back that they’re spending?”

Does he have a chance?

It took about 10 years for a Democrat to be elected to a Bell County. The 2016 election of Precinct 4, Place 1 Justice of the Peace Claudia Brown in Killeen proves Democrats may have a path to victory in 2018.

In November 2016, Brown won 52.2 percent to former JP Garland Potvin’s 47.8 percent.

Minor, who does not yet have a Democratic primary opponent, says his campaign will have a simple strategy to win: “We got to talk to the people.”

“If (Fisher) wants a final term, he will have to work for it or his final term will be up this year,” Minor said.

Fisher said he has been fortunate for the four terms voters have given him.

“However, anyone has the right to run,” he said. “I hope voters would recognize all the accomplishments that the court has done collectively to the point they would allow me one more term knowing that it’s going to be my last term.”

Fisher embraces that fact that anyone can run for office.

“I find it interesting that somebody who has lived most of their life outside of Precinct 4 now all of sudden wants to move into Precinct 4 to specifically make a run against me,” Fisher said. “I just hope based off of what I’ve done and what I’ve attempted to do will allow me to return.”

Minor was raised in Belton and said he moved to Killeen to run his family’s construction business.

Looking ahead to next November, Minor said he isn’t worried.

“I see an interesting dynamic forming with the elections coming up,” Minor said. “I just hope and pray we have more Democrats come out. We’ll see what happens.”

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