Commissioner races are heating up in Comal County.
The precinct three race is getting extra attention as New Braunfels voters analyze the names on the ballot.
The Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership New Braunfels Alumni Association hosted a candidate forum via Zoom on Wednesday. Kevin Webb and Colette Nies outline their goals for Comal County’s precinct three, while Donna Eccleston and Lindsay Poisel did the same for precinct one.
But, it’s what’s buzzing online that people in the community are talking more about.
Precinct three incumbent Kevin Webb has been criticized for not doing more to stop a controversial quarry that could create environmental concerns.
A statement Webb sent to KENS 5 in response read in part:
“As a County, we have done what we can within our authorities to help the people potentially affected by the quarry. I’m motivated to do what I feel like is the right thing for Comal County.”
His full response is published later in this article.
Nies says she feels called to run in an effort to make a mark on areas of disparity she sees in her community. She’s also addressing recent community concerns stemming from some social media posts circulating online.
“I've been attacked brutally over the last week for things that are completely preposterous,” said Nies in the forum.
KENS 5 reached out to Nies for more information. While she didn’t confirm if she made the posts in question, Nies did say she has been the target of online and in-person harassment.
“One took a couple of Instagram posts from 2017 way out of context and created this story that I'm some kind of drug dealer or do illicit behavior,” said Nies. “There were six or seven groups that really perpetuated that kind of harassment.”
Nies also provided context to jail records that have surfaced.
“I got caught with a joint. I paid my misdemeanor fine and did a year [of] probation. That was 19 years ago,” said Nies. “The pervasiveness of the kind of demonization of recreational cannabis use, it needs to be decriminalized in Texas.”
A link to her full response is posted later in this article.
Voters will now decide whether her past is in the past or something they’d rather not accept.
Chapter one: Candidate Forum Link
To watch the candidate forum and hear comments by candidates for precincts one and three, click here or watch below: October 14th Zoom Candidate Forum
The Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce posted this web page with important voting information.
Chapter two: Kevin Webb Response
Kevin Webb’s full response to media questions:
KENS 5: Some people have criticized your vote on a resolution pertaining to the Vulcan quarry and some claim you’ve not done enough to protect natural resources. What is your response to these views?
Webb: As a County we have done what we can within our authorities to help the people potentially affected by the quarry. We are not an affected party as defined by the TCEQ and as such would not have been granted status in a contested case hearing as Comal County. The commissioners for the precincts nearest to the site (about ten miles from any part of precinct 3) did write letters on behalf of their constituents supporting their inclusion as affected parties and their rightful claim to a contested case hearing.
Air quality issues are regional so the State and the TCEQ have authority over them while counties generally don’t. The resolution we passed here asked the State to take care of their responsibilities in this regard. In short, we found that counties aren’t given the authority to take care of these matters and our resolution asked the State to take care of what the law says they should. The fact is that the current laws are set up to allow for this type of development and if we want to change it, it will have to happen in Austin, not New Braunfels.
Even though Precinct 3 is the most developed and is mostly within in the City of New Braunfels, I’ve worked on several environmental issues and spent a lot of time last summer and fall exploring ways to use our regional habitat conservation plan (RHCP) to preserve open space in the wider county. I met with several stakeholders and had the area US Fish and Wildlife officer come to meet with myself and the county engineer to explore possibilities. However, because of the 500 acre requirement of our particular RHCP, we have been unable to put together a tract of the right size with substantial suitable habitat and the funding for that tract. It is a difficult proposition when we have so many other needs, but it’s something I’m working on and hope to see through. We considered a grant application through the State and we will work on that again, but it’s a complex puzzle to pull together the partners, funding, and opportunity at the same time.
While that longer term work continues, we did have a small success as we were able to work with some of our local partners to put together an explanation of our regional habitat conservation plan that is now part of a packet given to anyone developing land in areas that possibly have critical habitat. They are now very clearly made aware of their responsibilities in regard to the Endangered Species Act. It’s a small step, but a great one that will help expand the use of our RHCP.
I had no idea I’d have an opponent as I worked on these things and didn’t do any of it for political reasons. I’m motivated to do what I feel like is the right thing for Comal County and our people and in the instance of looking into preserving open space, by my education. I have a Bachelor of Science degree from Texas A&M University in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism and so I believe that I can be of some use in this pursuit and will continue working on it. Because of my role at the MPO and where these issues like the quarry are located by precinct, my primary work areas will remain transportation and county infrastructure, but I am very interested in seeing what we may do to preserve our Hill Country.
KENS 5: Have there been instances this campaign season of any other criticisms you would like to address?
Webb: No, ma’am. It’s been an honor to serve in this position in my hometown and people are very supportive.
KENS 5: Your opponent has received criticism over some of her social media posts and past encounters with law enforcement. Do you think this impacts the race in any way?
Webb: Though these things are set up as campaigns in opposition of one another, I don’t really see it that way. I’m going to continue to talk about the good work our elected officials, department heads, and employees have done together here for Comal County. I’m going to continue working hard to keep my role here serving the people and doing what I love to do. So, it doesn’t impact the race in any way as far as I’m concerned.
KENS 5: Is there anything else you would like to add that may not be addressed in the forum tomorrow?
Webb: I’m looking forward to this election period being over and for us all to get back to working on important issues side by side, together.
Chapter three: Colette Nies Response
Colette Nies chose to send this video response to media questions.
Questions asked of Nies include:
- Some folks are alleging your social media accounts have a few concerning posts. One picture circulating is an Instagram post from 2018 where the caption mentions paying for a cab ride with Adderall. Another post describes Trump supporters as “dumb as f***.” Did you make these posts? If so, is there background info you think is important to provide context?
- What would you like people who are upset by these posts to know?
- According to Texas Department of Corrections records, you had an assault causing bodily harm offense in 2007, sentence in 2008. In 2002, you pled no contest for possession of marijuana in exchange for 12 months of probation, community service hours and a few other terms. Can you explain what happened in these cases? What would you say to voters who use that information when forming an opinion of who to vote for, or about your ability to carry out duties as an elected official and public figure?
- Your opponent has been criticized for his vote on a resolution regarding the Vulcan Quarry and some allege he hasn’t done enough to protect natural resources. Do you think these claims impact the race in any way?
- Is there anything else you would like to add that may not be addressed in the forum tomorrow?