It may be considered a “down ballot” race, but the contest for Travis County Commissioner, Precinct 3, is vitally important. First elected in 2008, Karen Huber has amassed a distinguished record as an environmental conservationist and an organizer of effective coalitions to make government work efficiently and effectively.
A sixth generation Texan, Huber has more than two decades of experience in economic development, real estate development, business management and electric and water utilities management consulting. And she has put that experience to good use on the Commissioners Court, dealing with issues so complex they’ll make your head spin — and make you grateful we have her brains and dedication representing us in Travis County government.
QUESTION: This race is picking up steam and getting quite a bit of media attention. What would you say are the main issues facing voters in Precinct 3?
HUBER: We polled, and I’m hearing, no matter where I go, that water is the No. 1 issue. It’s something I’ve been working on during my first term, and one of the reasons I ran for office in the first place. We’ve made some headway, but we’ve got a long, long way to go.
QUESTION: Since your election in ’08, what do you consider your main accomplishments?
HUBER: Nothing I’ve done has been simple, so let’s see … There was nothing in the county subdivision regulations that required proof of adequate supply of water in well-water areas. Every time we had a minor draught, those subdivisions were in danger of running dry. We worked to put in subdivision regulations that prohibit that kind of practice. Now you have to prove water supply in well-water areas before development takes place.
Also, I pulled together a coalition of all the communities around the lake to fund a study on the economic impact of Lake Travis. That was significant, because when LCRA did water management planning, they weren’t taking into account the impact of the economy. We have $8.4 billion in assessed property value around the lake, and that generates a lot of tax revenue. Taking into account the economic impact allows policy makers to make better decisions.
We still have that coalition, by the way, and we’re able to head off some problems. For example, the LCRA notified us that they were going to give permission to build a floating condominium on the lake, and we were able to stop it. That was huge.
QUESTION: Western Travis County, like the rest of Central Texas, is experiencing explosive growth. How do you and your opponent, Republican Gerald Daugherty, differ on dealing with growth?
HUBER: He’s all about no-holds-barred growth. That’s how I got support the first time I ran against him. He never met a developer he didn’t like. He really served special interests, without keeping broader interests in mind. He’s all about pavement. One of the things he didn’t do but is taking credit for doing is the improvement of Highway 71. He said it was going to have to be a toll road. His camp wants to build highways so that developers can build subdivisions further and further out. There’s no sensitivity to or understanding about planning for infrastructure. That’s a real distinction, because I bring that.
QUESTION: How would you describe your campaign vs. Daugherty’s campaign? The tenor of this race, a rematch of ’08, seems to be pretty hot.
HUBER: He’s been angry ever since I beat him. He never actually conceded. He said I rode in on Obama’s coattails, but we had crossover votes in that down-ballot race. My campaign is focused on the greater majority of constituents’ interests — water, prudent fiscal management, law enforcement, safety and transportation. He’s all about (Highway) 45 Southwest. That’s his primary focus. We’re on offense with our campaign, but we’re campaigning with the facts.
QUESTION: So how does the race look to you right now?
HUBER: Everybody’s got to go to the polls. The partisan split in this district is close and appears to favor “red” by a couple of points. I need everybody I had before and also some crossover votes. We’re at the bottom of the ballot, so what happens in the Presidential race influences how people will pull the lever on our local races. And by the way, the Coordinated Campaign is doing an absolutely dynamite job. They’re really working hard for us, and that’s going to make the difference. I’m optimistic.