In two terms on the five-member Harris County Commissioners Court, 60-year-old Sylvia Garcia has been an energetic and innovative representative for Precinct 2. The Chronicle strongly urges voters to return her to office.
Garcia is an experienced fiscal manager, having been elected Houston city controller twice before winning her current post in 2002. She was also city municipal courts director and presiding judge for a decade.
The eighth of 10 children born into a low-income farming family in Palito Blanco in South Texas, Garcia earned a scholarship and social work degree from Texas Woman's University and a law degree from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University.
She is the first Hispanic and woman elected to the court and represents nearly a million residents, supervising 500 employees and a $65 million precinct budget. As a member of the court, she also oversees the county's $1.3 billion annual budget as well as sitting on numerous county boards. Those responsibilities make Garcia one of the highest-profile Latino elected officials in the United States. She is currently president of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.
The 435-square-mile Precinct 2 spans most of the county's east side, from Aldine to Baytown to the Galveston County line. It includes the San Jacinto Battleground, the Houston Ship Channel and the Port of Houston, as well as NASA's Johnson Space Center.
Garcia has worked hard to improve infrastructure and health care services in the precinct. During her tenure, six parks, two park-and-rides and eight school-based health clinics have been created, as well as the new John Phelps Courthouse Annex 4 in Pasadena. It will house offices for the tax assessor-collector, the juvenile probation department and the county's environmental services division of public health.
The project came in under budget and ahead of schedule. According to the commissioner, "The residents of Precinct 2 deserve the best in customer service, and the Phelps Courthouse Annex addresses that need directly."
The commissioner has stretched her budget by partnering with local, state and federal agencies to bring in approximately $111 million for projects to be completed over the next two to five years. She cites improvements to Fairmont Parkway in Pasadena and Space Center Boulevard, as well as repairs and renovations to the Washburn Tunnel and historic Lynchburg Ferry.
Garcia supports a new jail booking center to help alleviate overcrowding in the county jail and improved services to get mentally ill inmates the treatment they need. She has pressed for better air quality monitoring of industrial facilities and hired a full-time precinct director to focus on environmental issues and work on security concerns for the region's petrochemical complex and Ship Channel.
Garcia's Republican opponent, Jack Morman, is a 32-year-old civil litigator in former County Attorney Michael Fleming's firm. Fleming defeated Garcia in 1996 for that post. Morman had not voted in the Republican primary here until running for office. His campaign has targeted national issues and President Barack Obama and has offered few specifics on county matters.
Commissioner Garcia has a rich record of achievement and experience that clearly makes her the best choice in this race. By voting for Garcia, residents will also be upholding their own best interests.