MEET THE CANDIDATES: Becky Brewster, Candidate for Mayor

Becky Brewster is running for mayor. Her opponents are Cary Robinson and Glenn Humphries.

Ms. Brewster wasn’t born in Van Horn. Her father, former Mayor Okey Lucas, was a career Air Force serviceman, and the family lived in the Philippines, England and later at Randolph Air Force Base in Schertz, near San Antonio.

After high school graduation in Schertz, Ms. Brewster attended Angelo State University and earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. She has a Masters of Arts in Public Administration from Sul Ross State University. She has also completed a paralegal program at University of Texas at El Paso.

Ms. Brewster arrived in Van Horn in 1977 when her father retired from the Air Force. She began her career with the Town of Van Horn shortly afterward in 1979. She was offered a job  “accepting water bill payments.”  She explained that she could not teach at CCAISD because her uncle, Don Collins, was a member of the school board.

“After about six months, I was the city secretary and the city administrator,” she said, “and I did that for 30 years.”

During her early years as administrator, Ms. Brewster explained that she learned to “ask a lot of questions and make phone calls” about her new role. During this time frame, she met with the town’s city auditing firm in Lubbock to get better grounded with the intricacies of municipal finance. She added that she had a great deal of support from the city council.

In early 1980, one of the issues Ms. Brewster dealt with was with an Urban Development Action Grant. She explained that the administrator had been debarred from doing grants and she “very quickly had to meet with government agencies, including HUD officials in Fort Worth,” she said. The city was in jeopardy of either losing grant dollars or having to pay back monies that had already been allocated to the Town of Van Horn. She referred to this incident as “trial by fire.”

After contending with this problem, Ms. Brewster knew that her job would very much be on-the-job training. She said it was not uncommon to receive letters from various governmental agencies alerting the city that something hadn’t been submitted for issues relating to water, sewer, garbage and emergency management.  She said that much of her education she received relating to these municipal issues was gained by attending Texas Municipal League and Council of Government meetings.

As for what Ms. Brewster would consider highlights of her career as Town of Van Horn administrator, looking back she said she feels personal satisfaction with the number of Community Development Block Grants that the town was able to procure for water, sewer and street improvement projects.

“Another thing that saved our town a lot money was the Arid Exemption grant application I wrote for the landfill,” Ms. Brewster, “which let us eek out another half dozen years of landfill operation at little or no cost. Other communities were paying consultants $5,000 to $20,000 to address landfill problems.” She said the town paid about $200 for a Sul Ross biologist to provide advice, and she traveled to Austin to meet with officials to get the Arid Exemption application.

As Ms. Brewster explained it, when the federal Sub-D regulations took effect in the middle 1980s, landfills were required to have liners to prevent leakage, otherwise known as leaching, methane gas monitors and sprinklers. For a small community, such as Van Horn, “these became cost-prohibitive,” she said.
Acquiring additional land for a fully operational landfill was not the problem at the time, Ms. Brewster said. During her tenure, she said that about every five years, the city investigated the feasibility for a new landfill. She said that it was never “economically feasible” for the city to spend money it didn’t have for a landfill that satisfied all of the regulations. She said that conforming to the regulations would have cost “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

The Arid Exemption application, she said, is what helped the city not have to comply with the much more stringent regulations. The exemption was based upon lack of rainfall and the type of local soil. In turn, the city did not have to install an underground liner. Without the exemption, the city would also be required to have a fairly substantial reserve of dollars set aside in the event of some type of unexpected issue, such as a methane gas incident. Ms. Brewster said that the last time she and the city council explored a new landfill, it would have cost about $125,000 in engineering fees just to do the permit application, and this would not have guaranteed that the town would have been granted the application.

She said that at one time, it was permissible to burn debris at the landfill. After the new regulations took effect, a six-inch ground cover had to be used on top of the debris being disposed. That would have entailed more than the current 10 acres that the Town of Van Horn currently has.

Mr. Brewster said that the town had explored a regional landfill that may have been located near Valentine that would have included Marfa, Valentine and Van Horn. However, this idea was not practical. “We’re better off going to Sierra Blanca not having to deal with the regulations. It doesn’t hurt to explore [a new landfill]. As regulations change, some of the regulations may be regulations that have been in place for some time.”

Ms. Brewster’s 30-year career at the Town of Van Horn had its low points and high points. She said that among her high points, a few projects stood out. For example, she helped with the 501c3 grant that helped launch the Boys and Girls Club off the ground (formerly known as Rural West Texas Youth Club). She said she particularly enjoyed working with the HOME program that helped build or renovate 49 homes. She added that during her tenure as administrator, Van Horn received about $12 million in grants of various kinds of projects. As for projects not related to the Town of Van Horn, Ms. Brewster said she enjoyed working at the ground level to see the new hospital built from conception to completion.

“One of the most enjoyable things working at the city was working with city employees to try and find solutions to problems,” Ms. Brewster said. “I always enjoyed the team

that I worked with and the councils willingness to do whatever it took to better the community. I was very lucky to have a lot of good city councils.”

She said she is running for mayor because “I’m excited about what we can do together as a community to better the town. I’m excited about all the projects we can do working within all the community groups to make the town better, and I think I can project that to make me an effective mayor.”

Ms Brewster said that if elected, she wants re-establish intergovernmental relations with the county judge and the CCAISD superintendent and/or president and nonprofit associations “so that we can all bounce ideas back and forth. It’s all the same taxpayer dollars and we don’t need to be duplicating efforts and that we can support each other.”

Although she has her own set of priorities as a candidate for mayor, Ms. Brewster said that she has been actively soliciting ideas from members of the community. “It seems that the majority of people I’ve spoken with are concerned about community cleanup and beautification.  People are concerned about street maintenance. People are concerned about elderly and youth needs, whether it be daycare or transportation. There’s been a lot of concerns voiced about small business development. From these, I’ve begun starting to formulate where we should be going as a city.”

As for her own objectives, at the top of her list is what she calls “fiscal responsibility while maintaining infrastructure.” She believes that unless the infrastructure that was paid for by grants is not maintained, it would be difficult for the Town of Van Horn to entice new businesses to the area.

“I would like to see transparency in government. I want everything to stay open to the public. With that comes the technology. When I go to the Town of Van Horn web site, it doesn’t work. Having a working web site makes sense because it makes better use of employees’ time.”



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