DeBerry founded the public relations firm The DeBerry Group after a career as a television journalist. She ran unsuccessfully for San Antonio mayor in 2009, a race won by Julián Castro. In 2020, she was elected to the Bexar County Commissioners Court representing Precinct 3 before announcing in December 2021 her intention to run for county judge and resigning her seat as required by Texas law.
Hear from the candidate
The following questions were asked of all county judge candidates before the March primary.
What three issues do you consider to be most pressing for Bexar County and how would you address them?
There are many issues that need to be tackled head on, with total transparency and financial accountability. The top three issues to focus on in my first year as county judge will be:
- Completely revamping the county appraisal system. We were able to lower the taxation rate, but we must ensure property valuations are fair and reasonable and represent the accurate value of a citizen’s home. Citizens want property tax relief, and I will deliver.
- Fiscal accountability at the Bexar County jail. We are spending millions in overtime at the jail. Morale is suffering. The jail needs a complete review and upgrade of financial accountability and leadership.
- Fully funding domestic violence prevention. Domestic violence is a scourge on our community. We must fully fund the judicial system to remove any backlogs and bring justice to all victims.
Are you interested in continuing Bexar County’s spending on capital projects?
As county judge I will absolutely continue capital spending projects that are fiscally responsible and targeted towards the greatest capital needs in Bexar County: reducing traffic congestion, drainage and neighborhood infrastructure. As we focus on these items, I will ensure every dollar spent is accountable to the taxpayer. This means managing projects to stay on time and under budget, as well as causing minimal delays to the daily lives of Bexar County residents. Our infrastructure across the county is aging and presents potential public safety hazards. The investment is critical and will be a focus of my administration.
Should Bexar County continue to significantly fund greenway trails?
The greenway trails will continue to be funded when I am county judge. The trail system has provided our community an amazing outlet for our children and families. As we learned during the pandemic, the trails also provided a return to normalcy for residents and an outlet for their health and mental well-being. I will invest in the trail system and see the project significantly funded through completion.
How would you address the issues at the county jail, such as deputy staffing and overtime and inmate deaths?
The Bexar County jail must have a top-down review to ensure the health, safety and well-being of every deputy sheriff, employee and inmate. For our deputies, we must focus on a meaningful pay and benefits package that attracts and retains talent. Focusing on talent acquisition will decrease a devastating issue with overtime and deputy morale. We must also ensure a career path that allows for personal growth and pride in work. As for our inmates, we must create a humane environment that values human life and adheres to the highest levels of jail standards.
Given rising home prices in Bexar County, do you see a need to adjust the property appraisal/valuation system?
The property appraisal/valuation system is broken. We can lower tax rates, but residents are faced with skyrocketing appraisals that do not accurately reflect home values. These skyrocketing appraisals price people out of their homes and create a homeownership crisis of affordability. As county judge, I will convene a committee to begin the process of challenging the appraisal system in the state Legislature. The answer to our appraisal system lies in Austin and we should be gearing our local legislative agendas to advocate for true property valuations and protection of personal property rights.
What are some lessons Bexar County should learn in response to the coronavirus pandemic, whether it’s in the area of public health, coordination with state agencies, or determining how to spend federal relief funds?
The coronavirus pandemic exposed cracks in the city/county joint response, communications and health infrastructure. Throughout the pandemic, local leaders were making decisions during challenging times without a playbook to follow. We can learn valuable lessons from the last two years. First step: form a “After Action Committee” to look with a surgical eye on infrastructure breakdowns and opportunities. We must be honest with ourselves where we could have made a better decision. This should be a completely transparent committee, answerable to the public in a very open manner. Second step: consolidation of resources and management. We should thoroughly review merging the county’s health system with the city’s Metro Health department. City/county consolidation saves taxpayer resources and streamlines response activities. We cannot have competing agencies, with drastically different budgets and goals, coordinating response activities. And finally, a third step should focus on enhancing communication platforms. Local leaders must be able to deliver information quickly, efficiently, through multiple media platforms, in multiple languages. Consistency of messaging and total dissemination of clear and concise instructions will serve us well in future pandemics or any crisis threatening our community.