McLennan County Treasurer Danny Volcik announced Monday that he is relinquishing the post, setting off a hunt for a replacement that could allow longtime treasurer Bill Helton to return to the job.
Volcik, 66, a Republican, announced the move in a one-sentence letter to county officials Monday, more than two weeks after he briefly was hospitalized for symptoms related to high blood pressure.
Helton, a Democrat who lost his post to Volcik in the November 2010 election, said he is interested in returning, and he enjoys the support of at least one county commissioner.
“We’re going to need someone to come in and straighten things out,” said Commissioner Lester Gibson, the only Democrat on the five-member commissioners court, which will appoint the replacement. “Bill knows that office up and down and sideways. He’s very knowledgeable.”
County Judge Jim Lewis said Helton has the experience to run the office but that it was too early to speculate about the appointment.
Volcik is the second county elected official to announce that he is leaving his post in the past two weeks. Lewis, 66, a Republican, is retiring this month after 22 years in the county’s top elected position.
The county is accepting applications for county judge until 5 p.m. Thursday. Lewis said he did not know whether there would be a formal application process for the treasurer’s job.
“We will act on it as soon as possible and, hopefully, appoint somebody very quickly,” he said.
Volcik had indicated he was considering stepping down, even though he is only 20 months into his four-year term. In an interview Monday, Volcik said he needed to focus on his health and did not think it would be fair to taxpayers to take an extended leave.
“I want the county to have a full-time person,” he said.
Volcik said he intended to serve a full term until his health problems forced him to reconsider. He will turn 67 on Sept. 18.
“My wife said, ‘You’re older than Jim Lewis even,’ ” Volcik said. “ ‘You can retire.’ ”
Volcik has not worked for the county long enough to draw retirement pay, he said.
He previously retired from the Texas Department of Public Safety, where he spent 26 years as a trooper, and the Connally Independent School District police department, where he served as chief.
Volcik lost a series of races for county office spanning 14 years, including campaigns for sheriff, commissioner and justice of the peace.
His tenure as county treasurer was marked by criticism that he was unqualified for the job.
Volcik defeated Helton, a 20-year incumbent, with 57.5 percent of the vote, despite having no extensive financial or investment experience.
Commissioners moved quickly to pass new oversight controls before Volcik took office in January 2011, which limited his independence in carrying out financial transactions.
“I just don’t think that he was fit for the job,” Gibson said Monday. “He’s a good man, but I think the treasurer’s job was over his head.”
Some county officials expressed renewed concern about a lack of experience in the office when First Assistant County Treasurer Damon Anderson left his post last month.
Anderson is working part time through September to train his replacement, Ashley Barnes, who previously worked at Sterling Trust Co.
Commissioners had approved the hiring of Melissa Such, an administrative assistant in the juvenile probation office, as the new assistant county treasurer.
But Such changed her mind and decided to stay in the juvenile probation office.
Helton, who hired Anderson, said the first assistant has been handling much of the complex work of the treasurer’s office.
“There’s a new person there, but it’s unlikely that she’s going to be able to come right in and do what (Anderson) was doing,” Helton said. “I told Mr. Volcik before I left office that there was no way that he could learn what he needed to know. That’s just my evaluation of the situation. But you can see that situation and draw what would be natural conclusions.”
Volcik said his decision to quit is not related to Anderson’s exit.
Helton worked in the banking and loan industry for 12 years before winning the county treasurer’s seat in 1990. In a 2010 interview, he blamed his loss on voters caring more about candidates’ party affiliation than their qualifications.
Helton moved on with his life after the defeat, he said. He works part time maintaining records for a financial trust company and is pursuing teacher certification in mathematics at McLennan Community College.
He was in class Monday morning when friends started calling his cellphone with news of Volcik’s decision.
By lunchtime, he was writing a letter to commissioners expressing his interest.
“I worked real hard for about 20 years trying . . . to contribute as much as I could,” Helton said. “So the circumstances (of his exit) were disappointing to say the least. Certainly, I’m interested in continuing my work, if the commissioners and the county judge favor me in that way.”