• Photo by Alexandra Cannon, Groesbeck Journal
    After opening statements were made by all candidates present at the Meet the Candidates Public Forum on February 15, moderators Matt Groveton (back left) and Richard Nelson (front left) relayed questions that had been submitted by email so voters could learn more about how each candidate plans to serve Limestone County should they be elected March 6.
  • Photo by Alexandra Cannon, Groesbeck Journal
    Candidates for Limestone County Judge, County Commissioners (Precinct 2 and 4), and Justice of the Peace (Precinct 2) each spoke to members of the county at the Meet the Candidates Public Forum on February 15 in hopes of winning votes for the upcoming Republican Primary election.

Meet the Candidates held in Groesbeck, allowing voters to hear what candidates stand for 

By Alexandra Cannon, Groesbeck Journal

Candidates for Limestone County Judge, County Commissioners (Precinct 2 and 4), and Justice of the Peace (Precinct 2) stepped into the spotlight Thursday night at Groesbeck’s Convention Center in hopes of winning votes in the upcoming Republican Primary. The public forum was hosted by the Chamber of Commerce, The Mexia News and Groesbeck Journal, and about 50 citizens from throughout the county were in attendance to participate in a conversation about the future of the county under leadership positions up for election March 6, with early voting starting February 20.

Candidates spent time addressing County concerns including the Texas Bullet Train, roads that need improvement, and the cyclical rise and fall of jobs with the County Jail. Each candidate spoke on their ability to work with the budget and how they plan to fulfill duties of their respective positions in a way that best serves citizens of the county.

Matt Groveton acted as the main moderator for the event, with Richard Nelson, publisher for The Mexia News and Groesbeck Journal stepping in to relay questions that were emailed in, as well as encourage questions from the audience after opening statements were made by all. Many of the candidates participated in the public forum hosted by the NAACP in Mexia the week prior and were given an invitation to participate in Groesbeck’s Meet the Candidates event. All other candidates were notified and invited. Ray Black, candidate for Limestone County Justice of the Peace, Precinct 2 was the only candidate not in attendance.

Below you will find the candidates organized according to the position they are running for, with their name, their headshot, a portion of their opening remarks, and their response to a question asked of all candidates: “What do you see as the most pressing concern for the business aspect of Limestone County, and how do you intend to address it? What makes you uniquely qualified to address that issue?”. 


Limestone County Judge

Michelle Latray

Portion of Opening Statement

“I am a municipal judge and attorney here in Groesbeck and I have over 20 years of experience in the legal field. A great deal of my time is spent in the courtroom here in Limestone County and surrounding counties. I would like to serve the citizens of Limestone County as your County Judge and I believe I am the most qualified candidate in part because I am an attorney. Although the law does not require an attorney to be in this position for judge, I believe it is extremely helpful and will be a great benefit to the people of Limestone County. I have that legal background and a great deal of experience in the field. I am currently the Municipal Judge in Riesel over in McLennan County. Having an attorney for the Judge would allow the Commissioner’s Court to have an attorney right there, who could answer those questions as they arise and be able to address it immediately as opposed to having to wait and seek counsel, thus delaying decisions possibly being made. I’m a fixer; you give me a problem and I am going to find a solution.”


What do you see as the most pressing concern for the business aspect of Limestone County, and how do you intend to address it? What makes you uniquely qualified to address that issue?

“The most pressing concern as far as the business aspect of Limestone County, I have to say, I agree with everybody, but other than budgetary there’s not one concern but a whole bunch of concerns. I believe they are the prison, the high-speed rail, our emergency and first responders and how budget affects them, how the high speed rail affects them. There’s so many pressing concerns. I feel my unique ability is my legal background, I also have a background in managing and working with non-profits and events, as well as running my own business here in Limestone County. It’s not going to be one big issue facing your County Judge, it’s going to be a whole lot of issues each and every day, and the County Judge needs to be there not only every day but also leading the Commissioner’s Court and helping make those decisions.”


Richard Duncan

Portion of Opening Statement

“Today I feel more as if I am an applicant for a job, and you folks out there will be interviewing all of us for our respective jobs. Make no mistake about it, the role as Limestone County Judge is big business. It’s a big $25 million dollar budget and it’s going to take someone that is going to be able to handle that budget and I hope that I’m the one to do it. As a resident of Mexia, I wanted to give more so I applied and was elected to the City Council. While I was a City Councilman, they elected me as their Mayor. Later I signed up for the Mexia School Board of Directors and the other folks on there selected me as their President. I’ve served as Municipal Judge there in Mexia, so I do have some experience as being a judge. I’m currently serving as the Mayor of Mexia. It is very possible that in the near future, whoever is elected will be dealing with less money to try and give the same services. There is a reason in the state of Texas that 75% of county judges are not licensed attorneys, and that is because this is big business.”


What do you see as the most pressing concern for the business aspect of Limestone County, and how do you intend to address it? What makes you uniquely qualified to address that issue?

“I think it’s interesting that one of the most pressing things is how we’re going to spend your money, and this is your money. Just a little less than a month ago we all went into our pockets and paid Limestone County real dollars. So the most important thing is we have to do is figure out how are we going to continue providing services with the money that we received, knowing that that money may be going down. Another big issue that Limestone County has is that we’re having a real tough time paying a fair wage to all employees. I can’t stand here and promise that we’re going to give everyone a raise, but there are people barely making enough money to make ends meet in a lot of departments in Limestone County. Now when people get paid, that money circulates throughout each community and people don’t usually just sit on their money. When that money is spent, it generates sales tax, all the cities benefit. I’d love to see a way that we can try to make sure somehow or another to boost pay just some because most departments haven’t had a pay raise. The most pressing thing we have though, is this budget. It’s easy to spend money when it’s not your money. I look at this as your money and I’ve always done that, no matter if I was the mayor, school board, this is your money that we’re spending. So, do we need this service? In the business world I get by with a lot less than that, I don’t know why taxpayers have to be buying possibly excess. I took at $2 million dollar cut in Mexia ISD and I went line by line to balance that budget without raising taxes or cutting jobs. I know how to do it.”


Mark Roark

Portion of Opening Statement

“I’m not a politician by any means but I am a candidate for Limestone County Judge. I’ve been employed by the Limestone County Sheriff’s Office for the last 17 years. I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of people in this county; I know the elected officials. My employment has also put me in the position to make some tough decisions out there in the field and I believe it provides me the opportunity to be a firm and fair judge as far as the criminal side, if elected to the position. I want to invest our county time into our biggest assets, which are our communities and our towns. I would love to see more county involvement in our city, with city administrators and the Economic Development Committees. Every time a town succeeds with another project, another business that comes in and brings more jobs in, the county succeeds as well.”


What do you see as the most pressing concern for the business aspect of Limestone County, and how do you intend to address it? What makes you uniquely qualified to address that issue?

“One thing I want to remind everybody is what Matt touched on earlier; the County Judge position is not somebody with the checkbook. They do not have the magic pen to write and cover all expenses. The budget is divided up between approximately 20 elected officials and administrators, they control their department budgets which are set in Commissioner’s Court by the Judge and Commissioners. The thought that one individual up here has the power to control that $25 million dollars is incorrect. This is a group effort, this is a community of people that run our county business. We have to be in a position up here to work with those people. It’s nothing I can do or anyone elected to this office can do, it’s what we do. I always tell everybody if you’ve got an elected official in office that is wasting money, it’s time to pull them out. We can guide ‘em from our positions and try to work with them, and that’s the key point of this, working together. We cannot go in there and tell somebody what to do. Our assets are our communities and towns. Our jobs are generated in our cities. I want to see more county involvement with our local government, with the city administrators, the mayors, the Economic Development Committees. If it’s nothing more than a presence and support by Limestone County elected officials, we need to be more involved in our local communities and at their functions from the city level government. I would love to have the opportunity to get there and support those people.”


Daniel Burkeen, Incumbent

Portion of Opening Statement

“I’m in my 12th year as judge. I’m very proud of our county and what we’ve done. We’ve gotten through some pretty good times and we’ve gotten through some tougher times and we’ve done it without substantially cutting services, we’ve done it with expanding a lot of things like the fairgrounds and the airport. I have a more positive outlook I think for the county than most people have. Natural gas is coming back, those things are always cyclical, our prison is coming back, that’s more jobs for the county and more money coming in. A lot of things are looking good and I’m excited about what’s going on in the county. I think a lot of people don’t realize all that goes into this job, it’s not just meeting two times a month at the Commissioner’s Court, it’s day to day management of the budget and of the facilities. I look forward to your support.”


What do you see as the most pressing concern for the business aspect of Limestone County, and how do you intend to address it? What makes you uniquely qualified to address that issue?

“Several people have said county government is big business and it is, by necessity it becomes that, but the job of the county is to serve the citizens, that’s what we’re here for; we have to do it in a business like sense as efficiently as possible. Somebody mentioned employees. One of the things that I’m proud of is that we’ve cut down on turnover in the county and the courthouse, we have virtually no turnover except for retirement and that means better service to the citizens, that’s what we’re here for. We still struggle in the Sheriff’s Office, trying to compete with what law enforcement people can make in the big cities. Our biggest asset I think is our people. We’ve got growing retirement communities at our lakes and those people aren’t just more taxpayers, they provide a lot of services, look at the Blessings in October program. The County Judge is the county budget officer, by law, they are in charge of preparing a preliminary budget every year, and then presenting it to the Commissioner’s Court, administrators kick around ideas to get the budget done. It seems like the past three years every year I thought ‘it can’t get any worse than this,’ but we made it through those times and I’m very proud of that. I spent a lot of hours at the courthouse looking at every nickel I could trim off so we wouldn’t sacrifice services but keep the budget lean and we’ve done that. We’ve got a lot of positive things in the future.”

To read more on what the candidates below stand for, pick up a copy of Thursday's edition of The Groesbeck Journal! You can also subscribe online or call 254-729-5103.


Limestone County Commissioner, Precinct 2

Andrew Taulton, Sr.

Bennie Kirven

W.A. “Sonny” Baker, Incumbent


Limestone County Commissioner, Precinct 4

James Wiley

Larry Black

Randy Bostain

Bobby Forrest, Incumbent


Limestone County Justice of the Peace, Precinct 2

Mike Bell, Incumbent


Groesbeck Journal

P.O. Box 440
Groesbeck, TX 76642
Phone: 254-729-5103
Fax: 254-729-0362