Gina Ford

Gina Ford

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte

Gina Ford, 44, of Axtell, project manager for Waco’s Animal Birth Control Clinic and former businesswoman, is a Republican candidate for McLennan County Precinct 2 commissioner. Early voting for the Republican primary election begins on Feb. 20 with Election Day on March 6.

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Q    Why are you running for Precinct 2 county commissioner?

A     I have, in one form or fashion, been serving the citizens of Waco and McLennan County for most of my life. And whether that has been serving them at my small business [as owner and operator of The Grape] or showing them opportunities where they can help their pets stay healthy, some sort of service in a way of helping people, making their lives better, is what I’ve been doing. As county commissioner, I want to take it up a level and be able to serve the citizens in a different fashion.

Q    Is there a specific goal you’re thinking of?

A     Some efficiency areas that I think technology would help improve, so we could streamline some things. I think as a county, sometimes we’re a little bit outdated on some of our stuff. I think that would help in efficiency in the long run, save some money. So I think there is some technology enhancements that we can do.

Q    Is there anything specific you’re thinking of?

A     Oh, I just think . . . Commissioner Kelly Snell has been looking at a payroll system that I’d like to see a little more information on. Most businesses — again, a county is not a business, and you can’t run a county as a business, there is a difference — but I think there are some aspects of the business sector that we can implement, make things more efficient, make it easier for the county employees. The county employees are the lifeblood of the county. They’re the ones that keep everything moving. And if there are areas and methods and maybe some software that we can use to help the employees be better employees for the county, then that’s just a win for all of us.

Q    I know you work with the Animal Birth Control Clinic folks.

A     I’m project manager for the Animal Birth Control Clinic and have been for approximately five years. That encompasses many things. I’ve done everything from promote and create projects for spay-neuter issues, communications, social media. I’ve been able to do outreach, which is one of my favorite parts. Like being able to go to the Farm and Ranch Expo and talk to folks about their dogs and cats or their neighbors’ dogs and cats or whatever pet issue they may have. I’ve got the privilege of having the opportunity to be one on one with residents of McLennan County to help them solve their animal problems.

Q    Executive director Carrie Kuehl and her team at the ABC Clinic have done a fantastic job. Former Mayor Malcolm Duncan Jr. has spoken glowingly of what they do. Has the momentum of a couple of years ago been maintained or has it possibly slowed over time?

A     No, it continues. Just last year we continued another really good record in partnership with the city of Waco and including funding from McLennan County, which is a relatively new aspect. County commissioners have budgeted $19,000 a year for us to be able to reach out to the unincorporated residents. They live in the areas famous for dumped dogs, so it was really nice that Carrie and the board of directors were able to kind of push for this. Their rationale was: “Hey, guys, if we’re going to solve this problem, there needs to be multiple different aspects. The city of Waco can’t do it all by itself.” So that has been wonderful. It was a really wonderful year. We spayed and neutered over 12,000 animals this last calendar year and so we were able to reduce thousands of unwanted litters that would have otherwise gone to the Humane Society and would have cost taxpayers two, three or four times as much, rather than having the animals fixed.

Q    Why would you want to leave all this? It sounds like you’re all doing a great job.

A     It is wonderful and I really do love my job, but with my background, my skills, my small-business experience and working with government, municipal entities and boards and commissions, I think my talents could benefit all of McLennan County, those with pets and those without, and so that’s why I want to serve. And, yes, I would serve fulltime and I would leave the Animal Birth Control Clinic.

Q    Everybody seems to have an opinion on moving toward a unit road system. What’s your thinking?

A     I first need to learn a lot more. You kind of only have the tip of the iceberg when it comes to actual . . .

Q    You know, unit road systems have been around now for quite a while in other counties . . .

A     They absolutely have, but I’m talking about why they are having concerns — what closed-door meetings have been going on, the real reasons behind someone’s actual approval of it or someone’s being hesitant. So learning more about it, getting elected as county commissioner, I’ll be able to dive in much further.

Q County officials talk quite a bit about unfunded mandates from the state. What unfunded mandates most concern you?

A     I think a lot of it . . . the last legislative session, I believe, [involved] part of the social services for the juveniles, and I believe there was a heavy load of case workers that were approved, which I absolutely agree with. The foster system is completely underfunded with the amount [of cases to be handled] and our population exploding in Texas, but then again it was unfunded and so . . . Yes, I would love to serve, but we’re going to have to figure out [expenses] between that and Twin Peaks and who knows whatever else and the downtown corridor. I mean, we have a lot more things and we have to be very strategic in our planning to make sure that we do take care of everyone. With the state directing us on what we should do, maybe [Waco Family Health Center executive director Dr. Roland] Goertz and another team and panel here in town that locally serve with the Family Health Center and other local entities, maybe they have a better plan [for local health-care needs] with county funds, because they are there daily, they’re seeing it.

Q    You seek a position long dominated by Democrats and a strong African-American presence. How do you plan on representing African-Americans who sometimes feel they don’t have much representation? If you look at the Waco ISD school board, we have one board member who is black. With the Waco City Council we have one. Have you thought about this?

A     It is more of a balance. Looking at Precinct 2, the population is about a third African-American and a third Hispanic. And we’re a third Caucasian. And so I go back to my experience in service. I have been working with these communities — everything from Bellmead National Night Out to going to Shepherd’s Heart [food pantry]. I am community oriented. Like Commissioner Lester Gibson is always championing the community and making sure that the community is properly represented, I want to continue that, I want to continue that opportunity to help everybody, whether it’s in the rural area — because there is not just the urban poverty, there is rural poverty as well. So you have to take all this into consideration.

Q    You’re a Republican. I don’t really know what a Republican truly is anymore. What does being a Republican mean to you?

A     My degree from Baylor University is in political science. The original — you know, like Abraham Lincoln. One of the founding principles of being a Republican is equality and justice. Those were some of the basics that started the Republican Party. It goes back and forth, but I go back to the basic, original principles.

Q    So how would you apply such principles to the job?

A     Making sure the roads are fair and safe and just [showing concern] for everyone. And making sure that those departments that do need changes in their budgets and adjustments, to make sure that we provide the correct services. Also taking a laser approach to some of these budget-line items. As a county commissioner, I’ll be able to bring a fresh perspective, a new set of eyes, to that seat and be able to take a look at it from a different perspective. That’s why we have Prosper Waco. To make sure that all parts, every perspective is at least being looked at, listened to and respected, because it does take all of us. At the end of the day, I have to represent everyone. I have to represent and make sure that every Independent, Republican, Democrat, everyone is represented. Do I have to pick a party? Yes, of course, and I am fiscally conservative, so I know I’m going to make some fiscally conservative decisions when it comes to the budget and I hope that the citizens want [this] as well.

Q    How are the roads in Precinct 2?

A     Oh, not good.

Q    Have you gone out and looked at them?

A     I live in an unincorporated area. I live them. I drive them. My service manager for my auto is thrilled I live out there because of all the repair work. There has been, I believe, and I understand and I’m learning and I’m studying the soils and the different situations, but when you don’t have consistent maintenance — when you just see the little patch here, the little patch there — people tell me, “This is dangerous. This is not safe. ” And they’re just like, one more pothole and they’re going off in the ravine. It’s things like that. That’s why I go back to the roads because I believe that’s the foundation. The foundation [of county service] starts with the roads. So people can get their children and grandchildren to school safely. So they can get to work safely.

We’re going to figure out which ones are the most hazardous. I’m going to go with safety first. I’m going to figure out which ones need to be done based on safety. Is it going to cost? I’m going to look at the budget and see what we can do. I’m not going to increase any costs or anything like that, but I know there’s got to be some more efficient ways that we’re going to be able to improve these roads. The citizens deserve it.

Q    What’s the best advice you’ve gotten?

A     The best advice? Learn how to count to three. To collaborate, to work with the other commissioners, to be able to move forward and to get initiatives done, you do have to have a majority vote.

Interview condensed and edited for clarity and space.