Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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February 15, 2014

Candidate profiles: Navarro County Commissioner, Pct. 2

There are two candidates running for Precinct 2 Navarro County Commissioner in the GOP Primary Election on March 4 - incumbent Dick Martin and challenger Leon Tates. Here are profiles of the two candidates, appearing in ballot order.

Dick Martin

Dick Martin isn’t new to running for county commissioner, but this time he’s running as the incumbent. Martin ran against Faith Holt the first time, and when he lost he destroyed all his signs and resolved to stay out of politics forever.
Until the next time, when he ran successfully, and regretted destroying the yard signs, he admitted with a laugh.
“That was expensive,” he said.
Martin’s been on the commissioner’s court for a little over three years now, learning how the county works up close and personal. He’s involved with a variety of community efforts, serving on various boards, as well as fulfilling his commissioner’s duties.
“The reason I got involved was we’d moved here and the roads started getting bad,” he said. He said he tried to get the then-commissioner Olin Nickelberry to address the problem but with little success. Then Martin started attending the commissioner’s meetings and getting more involved.
“I decided I could do that,” Martin said. “I’d never entertained the thought of politics. It was a completely new venture for me.”
However, with more than 30 years of business experience, Martin found that being idle wasn’t what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.
“I didn’t do well in retirement,” he said. “You can only catch so many fish and hit so many golf balls.”
Since joining the commissioner’s court, the county has added a county court-at-law, passed a bond election, and is launching an extensive renovation of the historic courthouse.
“We have a certain amount of momentum going in our precinct. I’ve had to rebuild eight bridges and replaced 30-some odd culverts,” Martin said. The commissioners have purchased a reclaimer with which to do roadwork, and there are economic development projects on the horizon, and Martin is on that committee, as well.
“I want to see that to fruition,” Martin said. “I think my background makes me a useful resource on that.”
Martin said he enjoys the work, and the involvement in helping the county.
“My favorite part is when you finish a project you wanted to see done and you see something more safe than it was, like a bridge reconstruction. It’s good to know you had a part in putting something there that will be there for years to come,” Martin said.
His goals for the next four years are to see the completion of the courthouse restoration, see the construction of a county annex, and the creation of a strategic plan for the county, so the long-range goals are clearly stated.
Martin has a good working relationship with the rest of the commissioner’s court, and working well with other people is one of the secrets to success, he said.
“There’s some give and take but everybody has the same focus,” Martin said. “We want to do the best we can with the resources we have.”
Janet Jacobs may be reached via email at Want to “soundoff” to this article? Email:

Leon Tates

Leon Tates, 40, is taking another dive into politics, running for county commissioner for Precinct 2 against incumbent Dick Martin.
Tates, an African American, is seeking election to a seat that was traditionally held by a minority until Martin won it in 2010. But Tates’ background is not in government, it’s in the private sector as a businessman, eight years as the manager at McCoy’s Building Supply in Corsicana. Prior to that, he worked for Lowe’s, and other construction/hardware companies. In all, he claims 22 years of construction management experience.
His only previous experience in politics was a run for city council.
“I believe my background in operations, budgets, and working with managing people on a regular basis makes me the best candidate for the position,” Tates said. “I believe Precinct 2’s issues deserve a hands-on public servant.”
In his day-to-day work, Tates has experience both in helping the public, and in handling the budgeting and administration, he said.
Tates said the biggest difference between him and his opponent is in the issue of the courthouse reconstruction and how to pay for it. He would never support a tax increase, temporary or otherwise, Tates said.
“My opponent mentioned he expects a tax increase in 2015 to bridge the bonds for the jail and the first (courthouse) bond payment. As commissioner precinct 2 I’ll vote against any tax increase for Navarro County,” he said.
His priorities are in road maintenance and construction, and the sheriff’s office and fire departments, he said.
“Safety is first and everything else comes after our safety,” Tates said.
The job of commissioner is first and foremost a road and bridge job, he said.
“Any elected position has to be healthy but with 300 miles of road in the precinct, there has to be more time in the barn,” he said. “There has to be a fair balance between operations and administration. I do the same thing at McCoy’s.”
Tates agrees with Martin that the precinct barns should not be consolidated, although some equipment can be shared.
“I believe each precinct has a different set of needs, and also consolidation takes away accountability,” he said. “There needs to be accountability.
“What I wouldn’t shy away from is consolidating training for employees,” Tates said. “If elected, I’d like to make sure the employees are getting the best education and training so they can do the best job for the county.”
Although the county does have limits when it comes to amount of money to be spent on roads, Tates said he would emphasize getting more for less.
“Obviously, we’re never going to be able to meet all the needs, but how can we get the most labor we can with what we have?” he said.
“Roads are the number one issue at the end of the day,” he said. “We travel those roads every single day, and that’s crucial. As a commissioner, we have to find out how to meet those needs and it’s not sitting behind a desk.”
Janet Jacobs may be reached via email at Want to “soundoff” to this article? Email:

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