A Republican from Speegleville has announced she plans to challenge Ben Perry for the Precinct 4 McLennan County Commissioners Court seat in the March primary.

Mel Priest, 52, filed her campaign finance report with the county indicating her intentions to officially file in November. Priest said Tuesday she will make a formal announcement at noon Wednesday in front of the local Republican Party headquarters.

The first day to officially file is Nov. 11, and the deadline is Dec. 11. Priest, an accountant with Darden Building Materials, named Tommy Murphy as her campaign treasurer, which allows her to start raising and spending money on the campaign ahead of filing for the race.

“I think Precinct 4 needs to be represented by someone who will commit 100 percent of their time and work for the taxpayers and be fully committed to be a full-time commissioner,” Priest said.

She plans to step down from her full-time accounting job if elected.

“From an accounting aspect, I would like to see more accountability, more transparency and I want to remove any ideas of any conflicts of interest,” she said.

This is Priest’s first run at a political seat.

“I’m not a politician. I’ll tell you that right now,” she said.

Priest has lived in McLennan County her whole life and in Speegleville for three decades. She recently served as city secretary for the Gholson City Council, a role that taught her the importance of proper representation, she said.

“Those guys put the taxpayers first in every decision that they make,” she said.

Priest said she knows the race against the incumbent will be an uphill battle, but she’s ready for the challenge.

“If you don’t try you fail automatically,” she said. “I think that we deserve someone that will commit to the taxpayers.”

Perry was first elected to the seat in 2010 after beating 24-year veteran commissioner Ray Meadows by a 2-to-1 margin in the Republican primary and winning 76 percent of the general election vote.

Precinct 4 includes West Waco, Woodway, Hewitt, China Spring, Speegleville, McGregor and Crawford.

Priest is the first challenger to file preliminary paperwork for Precinct 4, but several have already filed campaign finance reports for the Precinct 2 seat.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Lester Gibson, the only Democrat on the court, plans to vacate the seat he has held for 28 years at the end of the term.

Potential Precinct 2 candidates who have submitted documents to name their campaign treasurer include:

  • Gina Ford, 44, of Axtell, a Republican and project manager for the Animal Birth Control Clinic
  • Travis Gibson, 46, of Bellmead, a Democrat and special education inclusion teacher and a football and powerlifting coach at University High School. Gibson is the son of Lester Gibson and a Bellmead City Council member
  • Norman Manning, 67, of Waco, a truck driver and Waco Independent School District trustee. Manning ran against Gibson in 2014
  • Patricia Chisolm-Miller, 58, a Democrat, who has served as Lester Gibson’s administrative assistant for 22 years
  • D.L. Wilson, of Mart, is a Texas Department of Public Safety sergeant.

Danny Volcik also filed a campaign treasurer report for the March primary. He named himself as his own treasurer in a run for the Precinct 3 constable seat held by David Maler.

Cassie L. Smith has covered county government for the Tribune-Herald since June 2014. She previously worked as a reporter for the Beaumont Enterprise and The Eagle in Bryan-College Station. Smith graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington.

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