Who to Watch in 2023

By Gloria Roemer

  Several new faces, and familiar ones, will be active players in Chambers County politics in 2023. Longtime County Judge Jimmy Sylvia was reelected County Judge in 2022 but not after a hard-fought primary victory over political newcomer Rachal Hisler. Hisler won 47% of the vote. Questions have been raised as to how a 20+ year incumbent could have possibly lost an election to an individual who has never sought or held elected office. Was it simply a desire for “change”? Or was it deeper, that the citizens of the County are wary of the alleged nepotism and favoritism of the County establishment? Could it be that citizens are becoming more vocal about their sense that the elected officials do not “listen” to their concerns, and thus feel they have no “voice” when it comes to decisions being made that affect them?

So, the County Judge is one to watch in 2023. Sylvia has been a very effective administrator for Chambers County, but the people want more transparency and accountability regarding “deals” made between the County and industry, vendors/contractors with whom they do millions of dollars of business. The new baseball fields are a perfect example. The cost of the baseball complexes caused shock waves within the County. Each of the four planned baseball complexes average about $5million. Grateful to the County for building and replacing old, obsolete ball fields, several youth organizations and users repeatedly asked to meet with the “powers that be” to go over the plans and ensure changes/modifications would be made to meet the needs of the users of the fields. It all fell on deaf ears and numerous “mistakes” were cited with the first completed field. Will he start listening to his constituents, or will the next four years be just business as usual?

As for Rachal Hisler, Hisler has continued to advocate for transparency and accountability at all levels of government. She participates in numerous community organizations and has gained support for her activism. Hisler has a future in Chambers County politics, and it will be interesting to see what the future holds for her.

District Attorney Cheryl Swope Henry announced that she will be seeking reelection in 2024. Henry surprised us all with her announcement. Most observers were convinced that she would retire at the end of her current term. Henry said that she seriously considered retiring but with the delays caused by COVID-19, there are a lot of cases that she feels compelled to see to their conclusion. “I have forged relationships with crime victims, and this includes the victims in the latest sex cases (in Anahuac). I am very passionate about the victims’ getting justice,” said Henry. DA Henry is one to watch in 2023 as she is having to prosecute persons from area well-known families for alleged heinous crimes against children. With several new assistant district attorneys on her team, she is determined to punish any person who hurts our children. Henry is also investigating Trinity Bay Conservation District for how it “used” millions of dollars of federal money. “When federal dollars are in question, there is no statute of limitations,” reminded Henry.

State Representative-elect Terri Leo Wilson (D23) won a crowded primary to run in the general election to replace Mayes Middleton who is the State Senator-elect for District 11. Wilson and her husband David spent so much time campaigning in Chambers County during the primary that it was thought she lived in the County. She lives in Galveston but handedly won Chambers County in both the primary and general election. Middleton was a supporter of Wilson, and both are already working together on legislation for this year’s legislative session. Wilson is one to watch in 2023.

It only seemed logical that Ryan Dagley, former Mayor of Beach City, would run for Pct. 4 Commissioner when Billy Combs, also a former Mayor of Beach City, announced he would not seek reelection. Dagley, as Mayor, and Combs as commissioner, worked together on several issues including dealing with the unprecedented growth of industry in the southwest section of the County so he will be coming to Commissioners Court well versed on the problems facing Precinct 4. Dagley is one to watch in 2023.

It is a great feeling when the voters support your vision for their public school district and vote for a $47 million bond referendum. Dennis Wagner, superintendent of Anahuac Independent School District, came to AISD as a former middle school principal of the Barbers Hill Independent School District. He is familiar with rapid student population growth and the district’s infrastructure needs to accommodate the new student population. The district voters gave Wagner their “vote of confidence” on dealing with the anticipated growth and the planning has begun. Wagner is one to watch in 2023.

What is it like to jump into a firepit? Ask Bob Pascasio, the newly appointed Chief Executive Officer of Chambers County Public Health District #1 (CCPHD), now known as OmniPoint Health. Pascasio was appointed to replace the interim CEO Paul Aslin. His duty is to return CCPHD to responding to the healthcare needs of the community, work to improve staff morale, and return CCPHD to financial sustainability and accountability. Former CEO William Kiefer and former CFO Jay Hodges left CCPHD in such a financial labyrinth that it is taking a team of accountants and auditors to fix. Pascasio, by the way, is extremely familiar with the operations of CCPHD as he was CEO for 12 years before the last 10 years. Pascasio is one to watch in 2023.

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