What Do Our County Commissioners Do For Us Anyway?

For that matter, what all do they do?

Sure, the county runs the courts (some of them) and the jail. Fortunately, you and I don’t have a lot of truck with either of those, and I’m not sure that the County Commissioners Court does, either.

And then there’s Ascarate Park. Maybe I’d feel a little better about the Court’s recent pay raises if our Commissioners and the County Judge were out at Ascarate picking up garbage.

The County takes care of the parts of the county that aren’t part of the city, like what’s east of Avenue of the Americas. Mostly that’s empty desert, illiberally sprinkled with small towns and colonias. That’s Precinct 3, served by Iliana Holguin, the only County Commissioner who voted against the recent 16% pay hike for members of the County Commissioners Court.

There’s also a smidge of unincorporated county west of the city limits. That turf is served by recently elected Precinct 4 County Commissioner Sergio Coronado.

In 2021, there were only 162,018 people who lived in the county outside of the city limits.

Mostly, it’s the residents of the City of El Paso who pick up the tab for the County of El Paso.

So how can the County Commissioners Court justify a 16% raise?

Coronado told El Paso Matters that the increase wouldn’t seem so high had commissioners received smaller pay raises each year to be on par with what elected officials in other Texas counties are paid.

“I want to make sure that across the board every year we do these adjustments in order to prevent these kinds of appearances when in reality it’s making up for years of no increases,” Coronado said.

See, it’s what elected officials in other Texas counties are paid.

That’s like if you catch your kid shoplifting, and he tells you that all the other kids are doing it. Well, okay then.

Do you suppose that when our County Commissioners go to the statewide County Commissioners convention, the other County Commissioners ask them how big their raises were this year? Do the other County Commissioners make fun of them if they didn’t get a raise?

Commissioner Coronado took office in January. He’s only been there 7 months, and he already voted to give himself a 16% raise. Like he didn’t know what the salary was going to be when he ran for office.

Here’s what County Judge Ricardo Samaniego told KVIA.com:

But Judge Samaniego said his vote reflected his belief that raising salaries — to include his own — is about the bigger picture.

“There’s a process that looks at other counties, and tries to maintain the pay that can be competitive. We have such amazing things that are coming up. We’ve got the BOTA that’s almost $700 million, if not $800 million; we’ve got the expansion of I-10; we’re probably going to be one of the top aerospace communities in the country. And you really need high-caliber people to be able to manage these initiatives,” he said. “Going forward — whether it’s me or someone else — it’s not just about me. If I make a decision, it’s that I want to maintain the kind of pay that will attract high-caliber; and El Paso requires high-caliber elected officials. And you don’t want them to be discouraged of the sacrifices that we have to make in order to adjust to a different salary.”

See, it’s a process. It’s competitive pay. I guess so our County Commissioners don’t go get a job in some other county, God bless them.

Do you suppose that before they run for office, candidates go shopping around to see which counties offer the best pay and benefits?

Lemme tell you, everybody that will leave El Paso County for a better paying gig has already left, or at least they’ve packed.

And it’s not about the current Commissioners Court’s paychecks. It’s about everyone else who will come after them.

We’ve got BOTA, and the expansion of I-10, and “we’re probably going to be one of the top aerospace communities in the country.” And the El Paso County Commissioners Court is going to manage all of that. Doesn’t that make you more optimistic about El Paso’s future, that the Commissioners Court will be managing all of that?

Personally, I like Judge Samaniego. But when he talks about competitive wages for the County Commissioners Court, he’s full of horseshit.

And I think he probably knows it.

One comment

  1. “And you really need high-caliber people to be able to manage these initiatives,”

    My late best friend, Peter Cooper, who served as a Dona Ana County commissioner, told me that you don’t get the most qualified candidate for office under any circumstances. You get the person who had the most votes, qualified or not. In his case, his race was a tie and was decided by a coin flip per New Mexico law. It is up to the voters to decide who is qualified, not the salary of the office. If it is a coin flip, then Fortuna decides 🙂

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