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County split on creation of new county office, shoot down proposal 2-2

Published On: Aug 05 2013 01:59:33 PM CDT
Updated On: Jan 15 2014 10:49:21 PM CST

ABC-7s Matthew Smith reports.

EL PASO, Texas -

Commissioners were split right down the middle when it came to a proposal to create a new management structure within the county of El Paso.

On Monday, El Paso County judge Veronica Escobar presented an item to be discussed which would create a new office of administration within the county. If approved, the office would be headed by a new position called the county administrator.

Instead of having all department heads answer to commissioners, the new power structure called for department heads to answer to the administrator, who would in turn answer to the commissioners.

“We have a history of members of the court that are part-time,” said Escobar, questioning how the county can be run without more oversight.

Escobar has spoken about this appointment for the past several weeks. Her goal is to create continuity from commissioners court to commissioners court between election cycles.

Several groups are now used to oversee expensive projects by the county. Smythe told commissioners a creation of an office of administration would streamline those decision, and free up department heads who are doing that work in addition to their typical job responsibilities.

Ellen Smythe, Escobar’s current chief of staff, broke down the new position for commissioners. She promised that the position would save the county money and streamline efficiency.

“I promise you, you will save taxpayer dollars,” said Smythe. “I promise you you will be able to look at the long view.”

Her words were not enough to sway commissioners. Commissioners Carlos Leon and Sergio Lewis both had negative opinions about the position. While Smythe argued that El Paso County was the only county in the top-10 most populated within the state without a county administrator, Leon and Lewis argued that most of those counties had a larger budget and more departments.

Leon told commissioners he was philosophically against the position, calling it an extra layer between him and county department heads.
"I will never delegate my authority," said Leon.

Escobar told ABC-7 after the meeting she was not opposed to bringing the item forward in the future, however, she said she wouldn’t do it anytime soon.

The discussion surrounding this agenda item continues. Follow ABC-7’s Matthew Smith on Twitter for live updates at @MattSmithABC7.

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