Meet the Primary Candidates: Denton County Judge

Denton County Judge Mary Horn is being challenged by Highland Village attorney Sherman Swartz and Corinth Mayor Paul Ruggiere in the March 4 Republican Primary Election. Early voting runs from Feb. 18-28 and The Cross Timbers Gazette asked each candidate to answer a short questionnaire to help you make an informed decision at the polls.  Here are their responses:

Mary Horn (I)

Age: 68

City/Town of Residence: Sanger

Current Occupation: Denton County Judge

Education: Graduated from Minnesota School of Business

To what religious and civic organizations do you belong? Member First Baptist Church – Denton; I have volunteered for at least 10 years for Denton Arts and Jazz Festival, served on Keep Denton Beautiful Committee, Volunteered to work the polls numerous times, Received Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award from Denton County Republican Party, Member Denton Republican Women’s Club & numerous other Republican Clubs.  I volunteered for many years at my children’s grade school, junior high and high school.  I was the Cheerleading Mom, involved in Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Sunday school teacher.

Why should you be re-elected? I believe my 17 years of customer service management related experience, 10 years managing my own business, 9½ years as Denton County Tax Assessor Collector and almost 12 years of experience as Denton County Judge combined  with a tract record of strong fiscally conservative leadership best qualifies me to serve as County Judge for the next  four years.

What are the main challenges facing the county, and how would you resolve them? The main challenge facing Denton County is addressing needs as a result of rapid population growth.  My top priorities are first to maintain a very low tax rate and continue the innovative thinking, frugal budgets and policies that keep our AAA Bond rating and at the same time meet the necessities of the County.  I will continue to diligently work to attain the necessary funding to continue progress made for transportation funding within Denton County.  Mobility attained through improved infrastructure in the County is one component that attracts businesses to locate in Denton County and expands our tax base giving tax relief to homeowners. Since I became County Judge in 2002 Denton County has realized a 307% increase in commercial taxable value (from $4½ billion to over $14 billion).

Paul Ruggiere

Age: 48

City/Town of Residence: Corinth

Current Occupation: Evaluation Consultant

Education: B.B.A. Marketing, M.S. Sociology/Organizational Behavior, PhD Sociology. All from the University of North Texas.

To what religious and civic organizations do you belong? Member of Faith United Methodist Church in Denton. Member of the Staff Parish Relations Committee.

Why should you be elected? I have been part of Denton County for nearly 30 years. For 20 years, I ran a business operation at UNT that partnered with government entities to help them improve their responsiveness to the people they served. I was elected to two terms on Corinth City Council and have served nearly 5 years as Mayor. I have been elected and re-elected because I have a record of bringing people together and finding the right solutions to the complex issues in a rapidly growing community. I will bring those same skills to serve this rapidly growing county as County Judge.

What are the main challenges facing the county, and how would you resolve them? I care deeply for the future of my community and the legacy we leave our children. I cannot remain silent as I watch Denton County flounder under its current leadership. Denton County’s rapid growth presents a tremendous opportunity if it is managed correctly. If not, we will experience added burdens for our current and future taxpayers. The incumbent has worked deals where commercial interests develop without paying property taxes to the county for 40-years. She has signed-off on rural, high-density developments that impose additional taxes on residents. Denton County has the highest operations/debt-service tax rate and the highest per-capita debt level in the Metroplex. Under her leadership, I see no end in sight. Even more disturbing, she has reaped nearly $1 million dollars from a $72,000 property that she sold to TXDOT for the I-35E project. She continues to take tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from those doing business with the county. She has even steered the selection of a contract to a campaign contributor. What Ted Cruz did statewide in 2012 we must do in Denton County in 2014. We needed more forward-thinking, experienced leadership for this county. I am that proven candidate.

Sherman Swartz

Age: 55

City/Town of Residence: Highland Village

Current Occupation: Attorney

Education: BBA Management – NTSU and Juris Doctorate – Baylor University

To what religious and civic organizations do you belong? I attend First Baptist of Lewisville

Why should you be elected? Denton County is no longer the sleepy, rural community that it was just a few short years ago. Since Mary Horn was first elected County Judge in 2002, our population has grown nearly 50% to almost 750,000 residents. Denton County government is now a quarter-billion dollar a year “company,” and we need to start running it more like a business. Unfortunately at the moment, it is a bloated government bureaucracy where taxes and spending and debt keep going up, year after year.  In the long run, that is not sustainable and irresponsible decisions made today will be laid at the feet of our children and grandchildren.  It is time for New Conservatives to be involved and for Denton County to elect a new county judge who believes it is his personal responsibility to control government spending, reduce the tax burden on our citizens and work to reform the property appraisal process.  That is my pledge to the citizens of Denton County, and my conservative values and faith in God are the foundation of this commitment.

What are the main challenges facing the county, and how would you resolve them? I sharpen the pencil on the front and seek to insure that the County is doing its best to wisely spend the dimes and dollars collected from the taxpayer.  Moreover, I would seek to diversify the tax base of the county.  Encouraging qualified new businesses to locate into Denton County.  This businesses also would help keep the taxpayers dimes and dollars in the taxpayers pockets while providing services necessary to the county they also provide jobs and enable the growth of Denton County to be managed and match the other surrounding counties and their cities for value such as Forth Worth in Tarrant, McKinney in Collin and Dallas in Dallas Counties.  We in Denton County know this is a great place to live and should encourage quality growth and need to bring an end to Denton County being the source of support and funding (through our spending) in the surrounding counties.


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