Democratic McLennan County Commissioner Lester Gibson plans to retire when his term expires next year, after 28 years representing Precinct 2, and a Republican community-service advocate has filed the initial paperwork for a run at filling his shoes.

Baylor graduate Gina Ford, of Axtell, has filed paperwork establishing a campaign finance manager, ahead of the start of official candidate filing in November.

Gibson has repeatedly said he is in his last term as a county commissioner. Precinct 2 residents will have a fresh face in the seat for the first time in almost three decades. Gibson, first elected to the Precinct 2 seat in 1990, was most-recently re-elected in 2014, beating Republican Tony Abad.

Gibson graduated from Baylor University in 1974 and served as a Waco City Council member from 1988 to 1990.

County Elections Administrator Kathy Van Wolfe said the first day to file for the March 6 primary election is Nov. 11 and the deadline is Dec. 11. Filing the paperwork to appoint a campaign treasurer allows a potential candidate to start raising money and spending money.

Danny Volcik is the only other person who has already filed a campaign treasurer report for the March primary. Volcik named himself as his own treasurer in a run for the Constable Precinct 3 seat, currently held by David Maler.

Ford, 44, Animal Birth Control Clinic project manager, named Mike Lee her campaign treasurer in her first run for office.

The move is a natural progression in her community service, Ford said. She said she has served off-and-on in private and nonprofit capacities in Central Texas for many years and would be honored to serve as commissioner. Living in Axtell, an unincorporated area, there’s no shot at running for mayor or a council seat.

Ford, who is married with three step-children, said she moved to the county from Oklahoma City to attend Baylor University in 1991 and has remained since. She graduated in 1995 with bachelor’s degree in political science.

With Gibson retiring, this is an opportunity for the county to choose new leadership and perhaps benefit from a new perspective, she said.

Ford said her experience as a former small business owner and her ties to the community through the various nonprofits she has served will help make her a good commissioner.

While a Democrat has held the Precinct 3 seat for almost three decades, Ford said she doesn’t believe Gibson’s work or legacy would be undone if a Republican takes over

“He’s done a lot of wonderful things for this community,” she said. “I want to be able to incorporate his good work. I feel my community background and service is going to help bring added voters.”

Ford said she’s interested in learning more about a recently discussed county proposal to unify the four precinct road and bridge departments into one unit.

The Humane Society of Central Texas fired Ford from her post as interim director in September 2012 for what the organization deemed unprofessional conduct. Ford sent a strongly worded email terminating a volunteer, according to Tribune-Herald coverage at the time.

Ford said she doesn’t have any regrets about the way she handled the situation. She said she was a “momma bear protecting her cubs” at the time.

“I guess it goes to show I’m not a meek individual,” Ford said. “I stand up for people when they need to be stood up too. I’m not afraid to stand up for myself.”

Ford said she fired in a volunteer for making disparaging comments about the Humane Society and its policies, violating the volunteer handbook. In the email, Ford told the volunteer she had “pissed me off for the last time,” according to previous coverage.

Ford said she still sees members of the Humane Society on a regular basis through her work at the Animal Birth Control Clinic, and everyone is on good terms.

“If people hold that against me, that’s their option,” she said.

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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