The residents in McLennan County Commissioner Precinct 1 are fortunate to have two strong Republican candidates in their commissioner race — two-term incumbent Kelly Snell, 57, and challenger Cory Priest, 49. Priest, a rancher, offers some good ideas, including the county’s going to a cost-efficient unit-road system, but Snell gets the edge in our book for demonstrating fiscal conservatism daily on behalf of the taxpayers.

Commissioner Snell has been a driving force for balanced budgets, building up the county’s once-exhausted reserves and paying down millions in county debt, while at the same time helping to address major expenses, including work to make county property compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act. To fail could mean the loss of federal funding for the county. Other successes: Snell’s longtime push for a more efficient payroll system over one that, incredibly, issued paychecks to county employees before their time worked was verified — which sometimes meant employees got more money than their hours justified.

Priest charges that his opponent outspent both fellow Republican commissioners on the court by more than $4 million on road maintenance in the past four years. Snell counters that he has the second-largest precinct, so naturally his spending is higher. And he says the soil on which his county roads are built and maintained is more subject to geological shifting than the hard rock that represents much of Precinct 4. Result: Crews are more often maintaining those Precinct 1 roads.

The race has been a nasty one, drawing in everyone from the county treasurer to the Precinct 1 constable to commissioners not even running. However all this ends, let’s hope county efficiency and fidelity to the taxpayers are neatly balanced in the final equation.