Editor's Note: The following is from our Candidate Q&A series. We hope the series will allow potential voters the opportunity to become familiar with candidates for Huntsville City Council and the Walker County Commissioners Court. The following is from Walker County Precinct 1 Commissioner Danny Kuykendall and challenger Rosalyn Howard Kelly.
In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge Walker County faces?
DK: The biggest challenge that Walker County faces is all the new growth in the county, and with Walker County being one of the poorest counties in Texas. This is because of all the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Sam Houston State University and the National Forest land within the county. Because of this, we don’t have as large of a tax base as most of the other counties in Texas our size.
As our county grows it is important that we spend the money generated by new growth on things to move Walker County forward such as fire, EMS, police and roads. Therefore, it is especially important to have a very conservative court, one that watches all the funds that are brought in and spends the money wisely, while keeping a healthy reserve.
RK: There are several challenges that, if not addressed, would impact Walker County in the short and long terms. To prioritize those into a single biggest challenge is difficult, but I would have to say infrastructure. Walker County has seen phenomenal growth. Our future success requires present action to meet those needs. If we wait, it will be too late. We must make sure Walker County is prepared to make good on all othe promises of this great county. Great schools, lower costs of living, affordable housing and a great environment to raise a family.
Is there a need for improved communication between the City of Huntsville and Walker County? If so, what would you do as a member of the commissioner’s court to improve the working relationship between the City and County?
DK: Communication can always be improved in any situation. The city of Huntsville and Walker County have many joint agreements and they work very well together. One which is the dispatch department, of which I am a board member of. Walker County Dispatch takes all 911 calls for Huntsville Police Department, Walker County Sheriff’s Department, EMS and all six fire departments within the county. This department is funded jointly by the city of Huntsville and Walker County.
But, there will always be a push and pull between the city of Huntsville and Walker County, as I am sure it is in all counties, but as long as people are willing to sit down and talk, nothing is impossible.
RK: There is always a need for better communication between the city and county governments. We enlist to serve our fellow residents and that should be first in all our efforts. To assist in overcoming some of those communications barriers, I would reach out to the mayor and request a representative from the mayor’s office be present at all Commissioner Court meetings. In return, the commissioners court would do the same. The representation would be charged with speedy and accurate exchange of information between both groups including planning, logistics and upcoming events. As a start, I think this would go a long way toward making each group more aware of some of the day-to-day challenges in the hope the citizens benefit from the increased transparency.
We constantly hear about issues with county roads in rural areas of the county. Are there things that Walker County can do to upgrade streets across the county?
DK: There are only two things that Walker County could do to drastically upgrade our county roads. One is to raise taxes and the other is to go out for a road bond. Neither of these options I believe the present court is in favor of.
Commissioners Court is tasked every year with funding all departments within Walker County. If the Commissioners Court was to pull more money to fund roads and bridge, then the other departments would go without. Some of which we are statutorily obligated to fund.
Currently each road and bridge department receives roughly $5,500 a mile to maintain the county’s total of 549 miles of county roads. If this $5,500 a mile, we are tasked with buying and maintaining all our equipment, as well as buying the materials to maintain the roads of the county. The only thing we can do is spend the money wisely and do the best we can.
RK: Rural Walker County is what drew many of our residents. In my daily routes around Walker County, I have been witness to some of the issues surrounding the maintenance and upkeep on some of our less traveled avenues. All citizens, whether they reside in town or not, deserve the same level of reliable streets and infrastructure. I would solicit citizen feedback to start a list of the most needed repairs and initiate workday No. 1. This is not an issue we can afford to continue to put off.
Growth has continued in Walker County in recent years, with the addition of large subdivisions like Texas Grand Ranch. Is there anything different that the county should be doing to prepare for a population boom?
DK: There is no doubt that Walker County will have a population boom in the future. The concept is that as the population grows, it will bring in more sales tax as well as property taxes. This would then help offset the growing pains of the community, so that the current residents are not paying for the new growth and all the services that must be provided.
The Commissioners Court is constantly looking at different avenues to keep our taxes as low as possible, while providing all the services that the people of Walker County deserve. No one knows what the future holds, but Walker County is growing and will continue to grow. All the Commissioners Court can do, is do the best that they can do with what they have to work with.
RK: The recent growth is evidence that some people have discovered what many of our residents have already known. Walker County is a great place to live. Lower cost of living combined with a hometown to be proud of. Our goal as leadership, is to help make good on all those promises. I have spoken about the need for additional infrastructure investment in my previous answers. I would add simply that the investment can’t be limited to the traditional sources. It must be extended to communication as well as social and economic infrastructure to help the country become all that we imagine it could be.
What made you decide to run?
DK: I am a lifetime resident of Walker County and of Precinct 1. I worked for the former commissioner for 19 years before being elected in 2016. I ran for commissioner in 2016 and again this year, because I want to continue to make a difference and keep things moving forward not only as a precinct but also as a county. As a member of the Commissioners Court I take great pride in the accomplishments of the court.
I have dedicated a large portion of my life to serving the people of Walker County Precinct 1 and all residents of Walker County. With the help of the residents of Walker County Precinct 1, I look forward to continuing serving Walker County as Walker County Commission Precinct 1.
RK: I am a lifelong resident of Walker County. I support the Hornet green and the Bearkat orange. My family has a long history of service to Huntsville and the Walker County community. I thought it was my time to give back. My motto: It’s a matter of commitment and service.”