Several months have passed since the El Paso County Commissioners began taking steps to have a larger role in selecting Emergency Service District commissioners.
ESD No. 2 has two new commissioners: Pam Padilla and Jerry Knotts. While the two were only appointed in June and sworn in over the next two months the Commissioners are already getting congratulations from County Commissioners who have seen changes in how ESD No. 2 is run.
“I want to publicly thank you and Mr. Knotts,” said Judge Veronica Escobar to Padilla during Monday's Commissioners Court meeting.
Two months ago Escobar was among the commissioners from El Paso County visibly frustrated with ESD No. 2 Board President Carlos Sandoval. Questions had arisen following an audit of the entire ESD. A 50 page report had a handful of red flags, including several discussed in court.
Fast forward to Monday and it was a different atmosphere. After mere months in their new positions, Knotts and Padilla brought forward a list of issues raised during the 2011 audit and remedies they had already implemented.
According to Padilla, ESD No. 2 wasn't in as poor of a shape as initially believed. She told ABC-7 that the real issue was one that had developed over a long period of time.
“The Emergency Services District grew a little at a time and became more, and more complex,” explained Padilla. “The procedures didn't keep pace with the growth.”
Padilla has zero fire fighting responsibility service, in fact, she said she's never needed the help of one. However, she does have an extensive background working with governing boards, including work in El Paso area school districts.
Padilla is using that background. She spoke with Commissioners on Monday about practices she picked up working in the education system. Commissioner Tania Chozet had previously made a comment about the issues she saw with the same auditors working each year with ESD No. 2.
“Every once in awhile, we need a fresh set of eyes,” said Padilla, pointing out a new plan to have revolving auditors working with the ESD instead of one auditor being used time after time.
“My focus is on the positive of the difference in leadership we're already seeing,” said Escobar following Monday's meeting.
According to Escobar, the county is looking for three additional ESD No. 2 Commissioners.
Sandoval has already decided to step down following this term, while a second commissioner resigned earlier this year. A third commissioner hasn't decided whether they would run again; however, Escobar said she'd be open to putting him back in his current position.