Image: Precinct 1 Montgomery County Commissioner candidate Robert Walker participate in a candidate forum at the Montgomery County Pachyderm Club on Tuesday, Novemer 26, 2019.
The Golden Hammer Staff Reports
Conroe, November 27 – During the first candidate forum of the election season, on Tuesday, November 26, 2019, before the Montgomery County Pachyderm Club, Precinct 1 Montgomery County Commissioner candidates Robert Walker and Billy Graff could not have shown greater contrast in style and in their political beliefs. “Man, we are on so different pages,” Walker remarked after Graff spoke in response to a question on fiscal issues.
Walker made clear that he intends to work closely with the three other Montgomery County Commissioners. “They’re doing as good a job as they possibly can,” Walker said of Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack, and Precinct 4 County Commissioner James Metts.
Graff was more critical and more blunt about problems inside of the Montgomery County government.
The candidate forum turned into a confrontation with the first question: whether the candidates would address the problem of the high salaries of County Commissioners. Graff and Walker provided radically different answers.
Graff answered right off, “I will take up to a 20% reduction in salary…I committed on day 1, because our goal needs to be to provide an example to lowers costs.” Graff further explained, “County Commissioners shouldn’t make a higher salary than the Governor of Texas.”
Walker made clear that he intended to be far more conciliatory to the other members of the Commissioners Court. “If you chose to do that,” Walker lectured Graff, “you would never be able to work with those other three guys…I would not drop my salary, because I’ve got to work with the others.”
On taxes, Walker and Graff showed enormous contrast in their approaches as well.
In his opening statement, Graff explained that he heads a multimillion dollar nonprofit organization which provides disaster assistance particularly after flooding. Walker has been a homebuilder, feed store owner, and a very successful businessman.
Graff said that he has spent his career “accomplishing great things without spending as much money. Our County government overspends, and we need to find ways to spend less money.” Graff also stated that “we pay very high property taxes and, if that continues, it will slow down the growth of our County.”
It was in response to the question on taxes where Walker made the comment about the contrast between himself and Graff. “We need good roads and we need good police departments. Reducing spending is difficult but it’s something we need to look at,” Walker told the crowd at the forum.
Walker stated that he supports tax abatements “to try to draw companies into your area.” Graff said, “tax abatements shouldn’t raise your taxes. If you get the right tax environment in place, companies will want to come without tax abatements.”
The moderator asked the candidates whether the Montgomery County government has a nepotism problem.
Graff said, “I think nepotism is the worst thing that can happen in a County government. If we hire people because they are family or friends, then they don’t qualify and take the place of the absolute #1 candidate for the job. Hiring must follow qualifications, education, experience, and ability.”
In contrast, Walker mentioned, “President Trump has got his kiddos working for him. In County politics, I don’t think there is an issue with nepotism.”
Walker added that the other members of the Commissioners Court “are doing as good a job as they possibly can. They’re very smart individuals and they’re excellent mentors for our community to watch. They got where they are because of their abilities.”
Walker and Graff seemed to agree that the Commissioner should focus on road and infrastructure projects. Walker added, “Flooding is a huge issue.” Graff retorted, “Commissioners don’t plan properly and sometimes they create flooding…Those sitting on the Commissioners Court need to know how platting and engineering works, because they’re the ones who actually sign and approve those documents.”
Walker and Graff are seeking the Republican nomination for Precinct 1 County Commissioner in the March 3, 2019, Republican Primary Election.