ERATH (March 3, 2018)– This article is part of a series on Erath County judge candidates. All interviewees were asked the same questions, and the interviews will be presented in Q and A format.
Q: What is your current career?
A: “I’m a custom home builder.”
Q: Do you have a degree? Where from?
A: Koonsman completed the majority of his coursework at Colorado State University, but did not complete his degree.
Q: Are you married? Do you have children? What school district do they attend?
A: Koonsman is married to Jennifer Koonsman. He has two adult sons, Garrett and Cody Koonsman, and a six-year-old daughter Brazos. Brazos attends Stephenville ISD.
Q: Where are you involved in the community?
A: “I’m a volunteer firefighter in Seldon. One of the founding members of our critical list incident and management team for emergency services. I work with Meals on Wheels. I’m the reigning handsome hunk of Erath County. I don’t think handsome hunk is really a qualifier. We have helped with fundraisers for the Foster Home and stuff like that.We don’t live in the city, so as far as city council or SEDA or anything like that, I haven’t been involved in anything like that. I’ve been involved with economic development all over the state.
Q: How long have you lived in Erath County?
A: “I lived in Colorado for a few years while I was in school. But other than that I have lived here.”
Q: What area of the county do you live in? Do you own the property you live on?
A: “I live between Seldon and Duffau. We call it the greater Seldon—Duffau greater metropolitan area. My family has been out there for 150 years or so.The property is in a trust. The ranch has been in my family since the 1800s.”
Q: Why are you qualified to be the county judge?
A: “For the last 20 or so years I’ve managed multi-million dollar projects in about 12 different Texas counties and four different states, sometimes many at a time. I’ve worked as a consultant for failed projects and helped get those back on track. I’ve been the head of emergency management for three decades. I understand the fundamentals of construction and infrastructure and master planning and pre-planning. I think I’m uniquely suited to work from that standpoint.”
Q: Why are you running for county judge?
A: “I think there are several reasons, one being that I think the county fiscally has done pretty well for a lot of years, and I would like to see that continue. My initial interest is that I think we do a very poor job in cooperation between the county and Stephenville. We have interlocal agreements all over the county. In 15 years, we haven’t been able to get one between the City of Stephenville and the county. Honestly, Stephenville probably needs it worse than the county does. That is something I think is a little bit endemic all over the county. We’ve had an adversarial relationship between the city and the county for 15 years. They need each other. If we’ve got a failure in Erath County, that is it. That was what initially gave me some interest in running for the position.”
Q: What are the responsibilities of the county judge?
A: “He is the head of the emergency management for the county, the chief budget officer for the county. In some counties in Texas, they have judicial responsibilities. In Erath County, they do not. He is the presiding officer of the Erath County Commissioner’s Court. He has a pretty diverse and broad range of duties. Some people call him the mayor or manager of the county.”
Q: Do you view the county judge as a full or part-time job?
A: “It needs to be a lot more full-time than it is now.”
Q: How would being elected affect your current career?
A: “I would leave my current job. I was self-employed for years and years until a few years ago when I, in my opinion, went to work for the best custom home-builder in the business. My wife and I talked about it, and I didn’t want to run if I couldn’t commit myself to [the position] completely. It wouldn’t be practical for me anyway because I travel too much.”
Q: How do you view the pay scale of the county judge position?
A: “It’s probably about right. I think if you look statewide it’s kind of in line with other places. I think it’s fair. It’s something my wife and I considered at length because we have the same practical considerations as everyone else. I think government should not be people’s retirement plan.”
Q: What would your number one priority be if you were elected?
A: “It would be improving the relationship between the city and the county and allowing each other to access those resources without having to duplicate those resources. You don’t want to pay for the same thing twice when you are already paying taxes for it.”
Q: Are you a conservative or liberal?
A: “Fiscally I am quite conservative. I think you ought to live within your means whether you are a person or a municipality or a county. I’m fairly moderate as far as social issues go. I am kind of one of those that thinks the government ought to mind its own business. Unless something is a clear constitutional mandate, it’s none of their business.”
Q: In the last statewide primary, did you vote in the Republican or Democratic primary?
A: “I voted in the Republican primary. I’ve never voted in the Democratic primary.”
Q: What are your credentials in the Republican party? Have you read and do you agree with the party platform?
A: “I’ve given to several candidates over the years – mostly locally. I am a believer that the general Republican party has abandoned Republicans. In Washington, it’s all pretty much the same party as far as I’m concerned. Yes.”
Q: Rank the following levels of government by importance: federal, state, county and city.
A: “County. City. State. Federal. That is in order of effectiveness. The further you go along, it seems the more cronyism that you have and the more separated they are from their constituents.”
Q: Confederate war monuments continue to be an issue across the nation. What is your opinion of the Confederate war monument in the courthouse square? If there were in initiative to remove it, who should decide?
A: “I think that would be up to a public referendum if it were going to come down. I will say something that is probably not popular to hear. I think that is the cause of the day. I think we have run out of real people to offend us and now we are digging up dead ones. I think that is something that will blow over like other things have. I have family that fought on both sides of the Civil War. I think we have a tendency to really look at history through a modern filter. I think that is an unfair way to look at it. I am not in favor of slavery, but it was complicated. I think six months from now nobody is talking about it.”
Q: Texas passed a law to move from concealed handgun licenses to licenses to carry. What is your opinion of this change?
A: “I support it. I think fundamentally with any second amendment issues you are regulating law abiding citizens. You aren’t going to change illegal gun owners opinions or actions.”