Steve Aldrich, the incumbent Brazos County commissioner for Precinct 1, has drawn two challengers in the March 3 Republican Primary: Mike Ruesink and Michael Schaefer. Precinct 1, which covers the south part of the county, is the fastest-growing area in the county.
Aldrich is completing his first term as commissioner after serving 12 years on the College Station school board and three years on the College Station City Council.
Ruesink grew up in the Wellborn area and spent 33 years with the College Station Fire Department before retiring four years ago. He works part time with American Airlines at Easterwood Airport.
Schaefer owns Schaefer Custom Homes. He currently is president of the College Station school board.
All three are committed to public service and the residents of Precinct 1 and Brazos County would be well served by any of them.
Aldrich said he fell in love with the community while a student at Texas A&M. He graduated in 1978 and returned permanently to College Station in late 1979.
Aldrich said he decided to run for the Brazos County Commissioners Court four years ago because, he said, "The county needed to take a stronger role in the development of the county." For too long, he said, the county was content to react to actions by the cities of College Station and Bryan.
The commissioner said mobility still is the biggest issue facing the county and he is proud that he helped develop the idea of the Regional Mobility Authority to unify transportation needs and projects throughout the area. He said the county needs a mobility consultant.
He said road construction costs are going up faster than money is coming in to the county. "I brought the commissioners court and the judge to the realization it makes sense to borrow money to pay for roads."
Aldrich is a life member of the Bryan-College Station Chamber of Commerce, where he served on the Blazers, the forerunners of today's Ambassadors. He said, "I was Blazer president, member of the charter class of Leadership Brazos '83-'84, chaired the Chamber Health Services Committee, served on the Chamber Board of Directors and was recognized as Chamber 'Volunteer of the Year.'"
Ruesink said he has planned to run for the county commission for a long time. He had planned to run in 2016, but had a "gentleman's agreement" not to run against incumbent Precinct 1 Commissioner Lloyd Wasserman, who was seeking another term before being defeated by Aldrich.
Ruesink said, If elected, he said, he will be a full-time hands-on commissioner, similar in style to Walter Wilcox, who served as the county's Precinct 2 commissioner from 1971 to 1994.
He acknowledges he has the least government experience of the three candidates, but said, "They can set a budget, but have they ever had to work inside that budget? At the fire department, I had worked inside that budget and made that budget work and gave money back at the end of the year."
Ruesink said the county should enter into a purchasing agreement with the cities of Bryan and College Station to purchase basic equipment and supplies used by all three entities.
He said the biggest problems facing the county are transportation and emergency services. Noting that College Station Fire Station No. 5 on William D. Fitch Parkway doesn't have an ambulance, Ruesink suggested the county and the city enter into a partnership to add one to the station to serve south Brazos County.
Ruesink told The Eagle, "I am going to be averaging 85 to 90 hours a week, either in the office, available by phone." He said his phone number will be the number for his office also if he is elected. "… That's how people will get a hold of me if they need, and I will answer it up to about 11 o'clock at night and 6 in the morning. And weekends, there's no such thing as a weekend when you're a county commissioner. If they need me on a weekend, if it's that urgent enough, they can call me."
Although he never has served in an elected office, Ruesink said, "I have the people skills to get along with the county judge, the other three commissioners, and I have the ability to sit and talk with the laborers, not to mention the ones in between."
Schaefer grew up in Brenham and moved to College Station in 1988.
He told The Eagle, "What I think I can bring is, unlike the other candidates, I'm there with my business." Schaefer Custom Homes is located on Arrington Road. "My businesses are there; we build homes there. I drive those streets every day, from the rural to the city part. I think I'm much more involved in hearing what the needs of our constituency is."
Schaefer said one of the biggest challenges facing commissioners is the rapid growth, saying he has experience dealing with from his time on the College Station school board -- opening five schools during his six years on the board.
He said problems on Arrington and Greens Prairie roads must be addressed quickly. "When you have stuff that needs to be done, the cost of the construction, whether it's buildings or roads, it is going up faster than inflation, so if you wait 'til you have the money, there's two things wrong with that. One is it's going to cost more, and the second one is you're inconveniencing more people."
"Safety, I can't tell you how important it is," he said. "These areas don't have the city services, so we have to have the first responders. We have to have fire, the policing, the sheriff's department. The stress of this increased population base, trying to make sure that there's resources and that the constable and sheriff's department has enough resources to accommodate that."
Schaefer told The Eagle, "There's aspects of Precinct 1 where things are going good. My thinking is there's more things we can do better.
"Better communications with the constituents. I think that's my big one."
Schaefer said he would spend half the day in his commissioner's office and the other half out in the precinct, visiting with residents and seeing what needs to be done.
Both Mike Ruesink and Michael Schaefer would be fine commissioners for Precinct 1, but neither makes the case he would be better than Commissioner Steve Aldrich.
Aldrich is working hard to turn the Brazos County Commissioners Court from a reactive to a proactive agency. He deserves -- and the county deserves -- a chance to continue those efforts.
The Eagle recommends a vote for Steve Aldrich for a second term on the Brazos County Commissioners Court.