Precinct 4 County Commissioner dishes on challenges future commissioner may face

Monday, March 3, 2014 - 9:19pm

Election Day will whittle down the candidates vying to become El Paso's newest Precinct 4 County Commissioner. It's been almost a year since commissioner Dan Haggerty passed away and 8 months since Judge Veronica Escobar chose former Airport Eirector Patrick Abeln to take his place. But his appointment -- was only temporary.

Commissioner Patrick Abeln said a good commissioner needs to focus on much more than Precint 4. He or she must stay informed about the larger issues in El Paso. Including whether or not to spend money to upgrade the Downtown jail into a newer, more cost efficient facility.

Overlooking Precinct 4, you may hear the faint sounds of construction, a sign of growth for an area set to vote for a new county commissioner.

"If I were looking for a perfect candidate, I'd look for the person who could do that in the most effective way possible and communicate that back to their constituents,” County Commissioner Patrick Abeln said.

Abeln has been overseeing parts of West El Paso, Canutillo, and Vinton since he was appointed in August of 2013. He said the biggest issue the precinct faces is finding money to pay for necessary projects. "And what it becomes is a balancing act. There's probably not enough money to do everything we want to do."

His constituents have their own priorities.

"I'm literally super close to the bars, so it's always very packed,” Jennifer Lopez of West El Paso said.

"Healthcare of course, education for my children,” Todd Ramey also of West El Paso told us.

The new commissioner will have to keep West El Pasaons concerns in mind and heed Abeln's advice. "Understanding the nature of those challenges and being able to balance what are going to be very limited resources,” Abeln said.

He said one thing that's often overlooked is the importance of specialty courts. Which are funded by the county -- although commissioners are not required to fund them. "Things like the Veterans Court, that provide tremendous services to the population and may in fact, reduce costs."

Commissioner Abeln said he has no plans to return to the political realm once he gives up his seat come November but has plenty to say about precinct 4,"The best advice I would have would be spend a lot of time doing your homework."

Five people are vying for this seat -- Democrats Julio Diaz, Melodya Salacies, and Ric Schecter. Two Republicans Andrew Haggerty and Bruce King, also want your vote.


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