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Primary elections approach for Elgin-area county positions

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    Top: Donna Snowden, Paul Mogonye. Bottom: Paula Birran, Joey Dzienowski.

Early voting in the primary election in Texas begins on Tuesday, February 18, with Election Day on Tuesday, March 3. In addition to state and national elections, two county positions for Precinct 4, which covers Elgin, McDade and surrounding areas, are contested in the primaries. The Elgin Courier sent short surveys to each of the candidates, with slightly different wording and one different question between incumbents and challengers. Their responses are below, edited for style. After the primaries are finished, watch out for our coverage of local elections in May and final county elections in November.

For the position of Precinct 4 commissioner, Cheryl Reese is running unopposed in the Democratic primary election; she will face the winning Republican candidate in November. Visit www.bastropvotes.org to find polling times and locations, your polling location, a full list of county candidates and sample ballots.

Precinct 4 Commissioner

Donna Snowden (R), Incumbent

  • What makes you want to keep this position? I want to keep this position because I have projects and roads that I want to complete in the next two years. I have done a good job and I love serving the people of Precinct 4-McDade, Elgin, Sayers, Webberville, Upper and Lower Elgin River Roads, FM 1704 and FM 3000, South Highway 95 areas, parts of Paige and more—all 212 miles of county roads.
  • What kind of experience do you bring to the position? I bring varied experience to the job. I taught school in the Elgin ISD for 34 years and was selected as Teacher of the Year twice. I was named Most Worthy Citizen of the Year in 2006. I have been involved in many aspects of Elgin life. I have been a member of the Elgin Historical Association since 1990, two years after it was formed. When the Elgin Depot Museum opened in 2002, I became the president of the Elgin Historical Society, the organization which operates the museum, for twelve years. I was a founding member of the Elgin Education Foundation and was president of the Elgin High School Alumni Association, an arm of the Elgin Education Foundation, for six years. During that time, I and the alumni committee organized the 2010 and 2015 successful Purple and White Jubilees. I was a founding board member of the Mary Christian Burleson Foundation. I was vice-president of the Elgin High School Athletic Booster Club when my children were in high school. My late husband, Bubba Snowden, and I have awarded scholarships to the Outstanding Male and Female Athletes of Elgin High School in memory of our son, Gary Snowden Jr., since 1992. Each year, my husband and I contributed to the Elgin Youth Livestock Association and to Music in the Park and I am on the board of the Elgin Chamber of Commerce. I have been president of the Pleasant Grove Cemetery Association since 1996. It is a small country cemetery where I have seven generations of family buried, including my son and my husband. Elgin is very important to me and I have always wanted to do my part to help it. Besides my involvement in the community, I was very involved with my husband, Bubba Snowden, when he served as Bastrop County Commissioner. Each evening, we discussed the roads, the problems and the events of the day. I helped him answer emails and whatever else I could do. Because of this knowledge, I was able to seamlessly step into the position of commissioner when he unexpectedly passed away in January 2019. This past year has been a huge learning experience. I enjoy learning something new each day, serving the people, working with the county crew and all of the county employees. I ride the roads most days either by myself or with Myles Milburn, the road foreman. We discuss right-of-way, paving, bridge repair and potholes! I am at the county barn, the Elgin Annex, the Bastrop County Courthouse or checking the roads daily.
  • What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Bastrop County and/or Precinct 4? The biggest challenge facing our county is growth. While we want and encourage growth, we deal with the problems it creates every day. Because Texas counties must abide by the Texas Constitution and the laws that our legislators create, we are very limited in our authority. We have no zoning authority over new developments, except the county requires septic permits and driveway permits. Growth puts added stress on our roads; it creates drainage problems and other problems. Counties have no zoning authority in unincorporated parts of the county.  Cities have much more power to institute restrictions on land, noise ordinances, etc. This is something I plan on working on if I am elected.
  • What is an accomplishment you are proud of during your time in office? I am most proud of what we have accomplished this past year: emergency road repairs, completing two low-water crossings, beginning hydrology studies on a much needed drainage problem to find a solution to help the people in a neighborhood in an unincorporated area of Elgin. This was a project that my husband initiated, but was unable to begin. I want to complete it. I always try to communicate to the citizens what Precinct 4 is accomplishing and I always want to serve these citizens.

Paul Mogonye (R)

  • What makes you want to run for this position? Serving as county commissioner will give me the great opportunity and privilege to serve our great part of Bastrop county.
  • What kind of experience would you bring to the position? I have had the privilege of working in the Elgin and McDade area for over 40 years. This has helped give me a unique view of our road system as well as the needs and concerns of our citizens. I have managed and owned a successful construction business that has given me the opportunity to lead crews on a variety of work sites, and I am familiar with the planning that goes into building and maintaining a roadway. I enjoy talking to people and getting their thoughts and concerns about the issues that are important to them.
  • What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Bastrop county and/or Precinct 4? I think a big issue facing our precinct is the rapid population growth that we are experiencing. With that, how we manage the budget and make sure we are giving our sheriff’s department as many resources as we can to continue to protect us as our population grows. We need to make sure that our roads and infrastructure are keeping up with the growing amount of traffic and ensuring that all citizens have access to EMT, fire and police services.
  • What is an issue you would want to fix or improve if you take office? I would like to improve the amount of posted speed limit signs on our roadways and the visibility of safety signs throughout our county roads to ensure safer commuting for citizens.

Precinct 4 Constable

Paula Birran (R), Incumbent

  • What makes you want to keep this position? I enjoy being able to serve the people of Precinct 4 and I would like to continue community involvement. It is my duty to know the rules, codes and laws and to execute those same duties in a fair and impartial manner. I have been in office almost six months and continue to make improvements. With additional time, my goal of community involvement would ensure my ability to work with other law enforcement agencies on issues of safety, protection and preparedness. I would like to engage the community by providing instruction, training and dialog in such topics as physical abuse, sexual abuse, active shooter and other public concerns. I have been involved with Active Shooter training for school staff in Bastrop and would like to bring that training to Precinct 4. I have taught on the topics of child abuse, grooming, physical abuse, sexual abuse and human trafficking.
  • What kind of experience do you bring to the position? I have a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and hold a Master Peace License. I have previous Constable Precinct 4 administrative assistant experience, which provides a complete understanding of the importance of timely processing of court papers. I have eighteen-plus years of law enforcement experience, which reflects interaction and contact with the public along with an understanding of the law. I have experience and training in civil process and court room security. My years as a criminal investigator handling crimes against children has instilled in me a sense of being an unbiased seeker of the truth supported by facts and evidence. This allows me to ensure the integrity of being fair and impartial. The continuous training requirements for constables ensure that my education and knowledge of learning will continue.
  • What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Bastrop County and/or Precinct 4? I would say that the biggest challenges facing Bastrop County and Precinct 4 is reflected in the rapid growth we are experiencing. The growth causes the need for homes, roads, schools, emergency and general resources, but also results in conflicts, irritation and confusion with understanding the changing issues with rapid growth. I witness and observe the changes first-hand while out conducting business in our communities.
  • What is an accomplishment you are proud of during your time in office? I would say that I am proud of everything I do because it reflects my character and dedication to service. As a result, I will proudly say that the Bastrop County Constable Precinct 4 office is up-to-date and in complete compliance. This means along with timely service of paperwork, I am now able to focus on more in-depth training and community involvement.

Joey Dzienowski (R)

  • What makes you want to run for this position? I am running for the office of Constable Precinct 4 due to my strong desire to further serve the people of Precinct 4 in Bastrop County. My desire is not only in law enforcement but also in community involvement. As I began this campaign for the office of Constable, the support has become unbelievable. I am heavily supported by local law enforcement and law enforcement throughout the state. I am also supported by the last three elected constables: Sal Abreo, Roy Pruneda and Dutch Walker. Community involvement is a big part of law enforcement. My past involvement includes the Elgin Little League as a coach, umpire and board member. I was also one of the founding board members of the Elgin Youth Football Association and coached for years. I have volunteered for the McDade ISD safety advisory committee and the Elgin athletic booster club. I currently volunteer for the Elgin ISD senior class project celebration.
  • What kind of experience would you bring to the position? Experience is the key to my qualifications. I have over 25 years of true law enforcement experience. I have worked everything from a barking dog to a triple homicide during my time of working the streets of Bastrop County. I have over 2,400 hours of continuing education in the law enforcement field. I hold a master peace officer certification through TCOLE. I also hold a police instructor along with a firearms instructor through TCOLE. I have received the Trilogy award, FBI LEEDA, leadership series. I have taken several leadership courses through the Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement management of Texas through Sam Houston State University. I currently hold an advanced SWAT certification through Texas A&M. I have numerous amounts of management experience during my employment with the Bastrop County Constables office Precinct 4 as the chief deputy and the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office. Currently, the two main primary responsibilities are the civil process from the Justice of the Peace court and that court security. I have received my advanced civil process certification, I have taken Executive and Dignitary protection classes and I have taken numerous threat assessment courses.
  • What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Bastrop county and/or Precinct 4? Growth—As more and more people continue to move to Bastrop County, our county services have to meet their expectations. Working the streets for 25 years, I have seen how the crime has grown. As your elected constable, I will work with our county leaders and other law enforcement agencies to ensure we are doing everything possible to make sure Bastrop County is a safer place.
  • What is an issue you would want to fix or improve if you take office? I would be a full time constable. The people are telling me they would like to see their constable out and about in the community. I would like to see the constable's office expand their services to include other areas of law enforcement. In many other counties in central Texas, the constable's office specializes in certain areas of law enforcement such as environmental law, mental health and cruelty investigations, just to name a few. It would be my desire to make the Bastrop County Precinct 4 Constable's office a professional law enforcement agency.