MILAM COUNTY — The integrity of county roads has emerged as the leading focal point among candidates for Milam County commissioner seats as the Tuesday primary voting date nears.
Milam County Precinct 1 and Precinct 3 each have three candidates running for the two open seats. All six candidates are Republicans.
Richard “Opey” Watkins has held office as Milam County Precinct 1 Commissioner for a little over six years and emphasized how he would love the continued opportunity to work with his constituents to fix and maintain roads in the county.
Watkins has two candidates running against him this March — Henry Hubnik and Ricky McCall.
Watkins said he will utilize whatever finances his budget allows him to complete this much-needed construction and maintenance. He also stressed how he plans to place extra emphasis on the most traveled roads — typically around the communities with larger populations.
“I kind of just stand on my record,” Watkins said. “I continue to try and get businesses to come to Milam County and try to support everything in Milam County. We’ve got technology and nutrition businesses in Cameron … and we’re in the process of getting solar farms coming to the county. I would just like to continue to serve the people in Milam County in Precinct 1.”
Hubnik — a retired Texas Department of Transportation employee — said 53 years old was too young to retire, so he decided to run for office as the next commissioner of Precinct 1. With more than 32 years in road construction, he believes he has the knowledge and connections to upgrade roads to meet the same expectations as TxDOT standards.
“I want to transition the old school county (standards) to TxDOT standards,” Hubnik said.
While most of the county’s roads are currently pit-run gravel, he hopes to make upgrades incorporating crushed limestone. However, Hubnik also wants to make changes to how constituents can communicate with county officials.
“People are calling in and not getting their problems resolved or even looked at,” Hubnik said. “I want to try and get a countywide website where you can call in or email in to voice a complaint.”
Hubnik has noticed residents want their voices heard, and hopes to be a vessel for conveying those messages in the meantime.
McCall — Watkins’ other opponent in the race — is relying on his experience in management. He has served on the Buckholts school board since 2015 and has experience in both road construction and maintenance.
“If elected, I want to improve the drainage on roads in Precinct 1,” McCall said. “I will work side-by-side with my employees and have an open door policy for all the citizens. I will want to hear their concerns and I will always vote for what is best for the citizens of the county.”
Charles Truitt, Frank Summers and Arthur Neal are running for Precinct 3’s seat as incumbent John “Barney” Fisher chose to leave office.
All three echoed concerns with the quality of the county’s roads.
“I’m running because we need a county commissioner who can get these roads straightened out,” Truitt, 67, said. “I’ve built and maintained roads in the oil fields and have experience running my own business so I know how to prioritize labor.”
Truitt — whose experience running a business came from his time overseeing an engine shop — emphasized how he lives on one of the worst roads in the area, County Road 342.
Although he noted how he would also try and get new industries involved within the county to help the population grow, his priorities remained with the status of roads.
“I think the people in the county should get what they pay for,” Truitt said. “Our school buses run up and down these roads. We have kids and grandkids that ride these buses. Our tax money goes toward the payment for repairs and I think we owe it to all of the community and county to get these roads right.”
Summers possesses that same desire, but shared a financing plan he hopes can benefit the funding of these road repairs. He cited the Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conservation District as a means for collecting funding, noting the extensive exporting of water that leaves both Milam and Burleson counties.
“My idea is basically to put a user fee on the water that’s leaving,” Summers said. “That money then comes back to the conservation district to be split evenly for infrastructure. My goal as commissioner would be to see that money be put toward roads.”
Summers, however, said he is opposed to raising taxes.
“I’m ready to go to work right away and go to work for the common good for all of the citizens, our taxpayers and all our residents of Milam County,” Summers said. “It’s my desire to see Milam County move forward in a way my constituents would like to see it go.”
Although Neal does not yet have plans to gain funding, he said his 25-plus years of experience building and maintaining roads can almost speak for itself.
“I would like to help in the commissioners court because I’m not a politician … My qualifications are that I have been in construction over 25 years in the maintenance of roads and in dirt work,” Neal said. “I have the knowhow of building roads and fixing the roads that exist. Not only to add more material to them but fixing the ones that are already there.”
Neal said he has been a resident in Precinct 3 since 1990.