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Hays Commissioner Conley goes from lone voice to veteran on the Court

Friday, January 7, 2011 by Michael Kanin

For four years, Will Conley was the only Republican serving on the Hays County Commissioners Court. Following the 2010 elections, Conley now finds himself on firmer political ground, the beneficiary of a solid four-to-one party majority.


As a veteran incumbent with a strong majority, Conley appears set to headline court action in the New Year.


“What I’ve told my new colleagues is that I’m simply here as a resource for them,” he said. “I will continue to play a leadership role.”


Conley spoke to In Fact Daily just before the 2010 court retired. He gave us his take on how the new edition might operate and looked ahead to county policy making in 2011. Despite the events of the past few months, he remains realistic about the state of Hays County politics.


He said in his seven years on the court, he’d seen elections sweep both Democrats (in 2006) and Republicans (this past November) into office. “Hays is still very much a purple county,” he said. “It’s certainly not far right or far left.”


Still, there had been no small amount of contention emanating from the Hays County Courthouse. Former Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton’s successful primary challenge against sitting Hays Judge Liz Sumter was presaged by sniping from the dais, though he lost in November to Republican Bert Cobb. Conley, who seems to have had a good working relationship with the rest of his colleagues, would himself take shots at Sumter in open court.


“I’ve always been one to speak my mind,” he says.


Conley noted that he expected that animosity to dissipate. “You’ll see a whole lot more of a team-type attitude,” he said. “We’ve had some tough issues that have really divided the court and other elected (Hays) officials.”


Conley said that he knew each of the new members of the court. He called them “good people” and said that they have “good attitudes.” “I’m excited about them coming on board,” he said. “I’m excited about fresh ideas coming to the table.”


He then rattled off a list of policies that he felt that he and his colleagues would explore. Over the next two years, he said, the court would “need to focus on managing open-ended projects and issues.” Here he cited the work the old court had done on revamping the county’s criminal justice system, its ongoing effort to construct a new government center for the county, and projects associated with $207 million in road bonds that Hays voters approved in 2008.


“I would like for us to invest and develop the infrastructure in Hays County under the conditions that we can afford it,” he said. He added that he hoped the new court would have “more of a consensus. . .for developing infrastructure for the future.”


For Conley, that means achieving a careful balance between growth and the preservation of portions of Hays’ open spaces. “It’s not one or the other,” he said. “I believe. . .that we can have the best of both worlds.”

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