Precinct 2 Commissioner Sylvia Garcia held an informal meeting with local media last week, to give her an opportunity to thank the community for the opportunity to serve, and to reflect on her 8 years in office, with work done and also some projects not finished.
After a surprising defeat by newcomer Jack Morman in last Novembers election, some of the questions she fielded were about her campaign and the results of the vote. She attributed her defeat to three factors: straight ticket voting due to the unpopularity of the current administration, her association with Obama on some issues, and her Hispanic family name at a time when immigration is an unpopular issue. Although Precinct 2 is an Hispanic district by population, its voter roles are only about 25% Hispanic, suggesting she did not get enough of that support. In fact she lost by 2,310 votes out of about 130,000 that were cast.
She discussed the accomplishments of her two terms in office, such as the Port Authority, NASA, establishment of the Independence Parkway and the Stars project, new county parks, a master plan for the future of Precinct 2, work with the Economic Alliance and local industry, establishment of a Precinct wide bus transit system, work with seniors, youth, veterans and the hungry in Precinct2gether, establishment of a LifeFlight heliport in Baytown, survival and rebuilding after Hurricanes Ike and Katrina, and improvement in the environment, in the rivers and in the air quality.
Asked what she liked most about her job, which she has been quoted as saying I love my job, she said it was the people, getting to know them and interact with them in many activities. I love mixing with people.
She said she was glad to continue the work of her predecessor, Commissioner Jim Fonteno, who established many of the community centers and parks to serve the communities.
Garcia said she did not have any immediate job plans, and would be happy to relax with her family. Although single, with eight brothers and sisters she said that family has always been important to her.
She is also concerned about her Precinct 2 staff, and whether they will remain or move on to other jobs. Precinct 2 has over 500 employees, and a budget that was as high as $65 million dollars. She was also busy packing for her departure, and archiving some of the material she has accumulated in eight years.
When asked about any ambitions for office, she said she did not know if she would run for commissioner again. It depends upon what happens, and I will look at all decisions. Garcia did not indicate any interest in state or national office, directing most of her comments to Harris County. However, she is president of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) and has gained national attention.
She also expects to stay involved in some of the projects she started, such as the STARS or Independence Parkway project. She is on the board of the Economic Alliance, which has spearheaded this project.
As for the future of the county and the precinct, she thinks the new commissioner, Jack Morman, will face a challenging set of problems in the current economy, since the budget must be cut by a sizable amount. Other problems he will face include Mobility, including rail, Metro, and the port; and air quality versus the needs of the petrochemical industries. Morman has issued a memo to Pct. 2 staff, indicating he does not plan on any significant changes at this time.
Garcia expects the east side of Harris County to continue to grow, with the Port Authority and the chemical complexes as major factors to spur this growth. She cautioned that the county must think regionally, not locally, to solve their problems properly.