A Democratic incumbent is hoping to further economic development as she prepares to seek a second term as Precinct One Nueces County Commissioner.
Peggy Banales, a former two-term trustee for the Tuloso-Midway Independent School District, announced her intention to seek re-election last year in front a group of supporters and other county officials.
Banales won her first term in 2004 when she defeated four opponents, including then-Democratic incumbent Frank Schwing for the Precinct One seat. She faces fellow Democrat Joe Benavides in the March 4 primary election.
Banales admitted that the jump to a county position from a school board was a large one, but added she was ready for it.
"The only difference is it's a broader area," Banales said. "The things I brought to the school board - the time and effort - I brought to Commissioners Court."
During Banales's inaugural tenure as county commissioner, she has played a role in the completion of a range of projects around the region in 2006, such as $738,000 in renovations to the Hilltop Community Center that helped improve the facility and its surrounding nature trail. There was also the installation of a skate park at Hilltop, one of two in Corpus Christi.
In addition, the commissioner recently saw the completion of the $118,000 Hazel Bazemore Hawk Watch Viewing Platform. Banales said she has long been a strong supporter of economic development, even before running for public office. After being elected and having discussions with park personnel, the commissioner said she felt more could be done to enhance Hazel Bazemore's image.
"When I first came into the office, I tried to find out what areas needed to be addressed," Banales said. "That was one of the things on (Precinct One's) radar scope that we wanted to get done."
"It's going to be wonderful for ecotourism," she added.
However, Banales has also had her fair share of criticism from unhappy constituents concerning her support for the Richard M. Borchard Regional Fairgrounds and the $5.3 million Keach Family Library, both separate projects.
The county has faced several lawsuits against the fairgrounds project, one of which forced the county to admit it had illegally awarded more than $50 million in contracts, including one for the recently-completed Equestrian Center. The project is being funded by Certificates of Obligation, which do not require voter approval.
Controversy still remains on the Heritage Center, a 4,500-seat arena, which is expected to be the final piece of the fairgrounds. A settlement for a lawsuit filed by local businessman Dusty Durrill requires a feasibility study and public hearing to be held on the need for the Heritage Center arena.
For Banales, she said it is understandable that people may be upset the county went the CO route rather than leaving the decision up to voters, but added the basis of the project was to help the county's residents better their lives.
"Whenever you try to do some positive things, you're going to have some pluses and minuses - we're not perfect," Banales said. "It's about quality-of-life issues and those always need to be addressed, no matter where you live."
The Keach Family Library was originally scheduled to be completed in December 2006, but massive weather delays and material shortages have led to a tentative opening in April. Despite the fact that the new library is located in Robstown near the fairgrounds, Banales was quick to point out that it will benefit the entire county, especially those within her precinct.
"When I think about the county, I think about the whole county," Banales said. "It's going to be top-notch facility and I feel it's going to be beneficial to the entire region in general."
Banales said she has also worked hard to listen to the needs of her constituents throughout her rookie term as county commissioner, no matter what.
"Everything, to me, is important," the Precinct One Commissioner said. "It can be something as simple as helping someone get trash picked up, or it can be something as major as a road project or fixing up the parks."
Banales also cited the upcoming clean-up at the Ballard Sand Pits, which are located in Calallen, by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality as an example of working with other areas of government to help resolve issues for residents.
When asked what differentiated herself from her opponent, Banales was quick to tout her experience as reason No. 1.
"I am the commissioner now and I have proven myself in dealing with the issues we have in providing a good quality of life," Banales said. "I have served the people and I am doing the kind of job the constituents want."
Benavides, who Banales also defeated in 2004 when she first ran for office, has declined repeated attempts to explain his candidacy to readers of the Nueces County Record Star.