Brazoria County judge race a rematch of 2014 contest

January 25, 2018 GMT

Brazoria County Judge Matt Sebesta will face Democratic challenger Robert Pruett in the November election, setting up a rematch from a 2014 contest.

“In the last few years we’ve done a lot of really good things,” said Sebesta, a Republican. “We’ve had four major floods in three years in Brazoria County. We have gotten through those without any loss of life. I think that’s a major accomplishment.”

His biggest point of pride, though, is the downward trend in the county’s property tax rate since he assumed office.

“Each year I’ve been here I’ve lowered the tax rate,” he said. “I’ve lowered the tax rate 5.82 total cents over the three years.”

The rate is at just over 44.023 cents per $100 valuation.

“We’ve been able to do that because appraisal values have gone up and each year we have dropped down to the effective rate or below,” Sebesta said. “We’ve added services with new construction and added folks to sheriff’s office, road and bridge crews because we’ve seen new values added on to the rolls.”

The Angleton resident also cited the addition of toll lanes and related work to Texas 288 as one of the most beneficial projects he’s overseen.

“Brazoria County started back in 2003 talking about expanding 288,” Sebesta said. “Under my watch, it’s now under construction. By summer of 2019, it will be open to relieve congestion, which mostly serves the constituency of Brazoria County.”

The project includes four toll lanes (two each way) extending from the Harris/Brazoria County line south to County Road 58 for approximately five miles.

The incumbent has served in public office for 28 years beginning on the planning and zoning committee in Angleton in 1990. he subsequent held posts as a council member and mayor for that city then as Brazoria county commissioner.Sebesta defeated Pruett in 2014 by a margin of roughly 70 percent.

Pruett, a retired Galena Park police chief and former administrator for that city, is offering ideas such as a tax abatement to first-time home buyers for one year to help ease the financial hurdle into home ownership.

“Brazoria County is giving millions of dollars of tax abatements to companies to attract businesses and they say it helps the economy here,” the Brazoria resident said.

“I don’t have a problem with short-term tax abatement, but why can’t we give our young homeowners a one-year tax abatement to help them. I have children and I know how hard it is to get in their first homes.”

Pruett, a Army veteran, describes himself as a conservative Democrat when it comes to fiscal responsibility and personal freedom but argues that county taxpayers aren’t getting enough in services for what they pay.

One public service he wants to see gain more funding is transportation service for those who lack independent mobility, such as the elderly, the disabled or the indigent.

“Brazoria County is a lot more rural than Harris County, and we don’t have any kind of transportation system to help the poor or to help the elderly that can’t drive,” Pruett said. “You got have to have your road projects, but you’re not talking about a lot of cost to get your seniors around.“Pruett knows he’s fighting Sebesta’s name recognition and that some may remember Pruett’s from previous controversies while he was at Galena Park.

He overcame allegations that he assaulted a jail inmate in 2005. A grand jury cleared Pruett of all charges, according to Chronicle reports.

“I have found after being in law enforcement for 25 years that justice prevails,” Pruett was quoted saying at the time. “The facts are the facts. The cold, hard facts came out in this case. The grand jury saw that I was doing my job.”

In 2014, Pruett was fired from his post as City Administrator by incoming Galena Park Mayor Esmeralda Moya. He made headlines when he was vocal about the move being a violation of the city’s charter and refused to vacate the building the day he learned of the termination.

Other city commissioners agreed with his assertion, according to a Chronicle report at the time, but he was ultimately let go. Harris County Civil Court documents show there is a civil lawsuit pending over Pruett’s severance package due the nature of his termination.

Pruitt said his advocacy for using taxpayer dollars to fund services would be a needed contrast in the Commissioners Court, which includes no Democrats.

“There’s not a single Democrat in Brazoria County,” Pruett said. “Nothing against my Republican brothers and sisters, but I think if that was mixed, I think government works better that way. I think you need that to keep everybody down the straight and narrow. It brings everybody’s views together and makes them work together. You got a majority on one side, they’ll do what they want to do. They should answer to all the people, not just part of people.”