Vince Puente, a business owner and member of the state’s finance commission, is the Tarrant County Commissioners Court pick to fill a vacant seat on the Tarrant Appraisal District Board Of Directors.
Puente is the co-owner and president of marketing and sales for Southwest Office Systems Inc., which offers IT services He was appointed to the Finance Commission of Texas in 2016 by Gov. Greg Abbott and reappointed in 2018.
The board vacancy was created by the recall and resignation of Kathryn Wilemon, who came under scrutiny following a series of missteps by the appraisal district and rising mistrust from residents. Puente will fill the vacancy until Wilemon’s two-year term expires at the end of this year.
County Judge Tim O’Hare nominated Puente for the board’s vacant seat. Puente acted as O’Hare’s campaign treasurer during his run for county judge in 2022.
In a statement to the Fort Worth Report, O’Hare said Puente wants to see taxes lowered and his nomination is “a home run for the taxpayers of Tarrant County.”
Puente is an active member of the Tarrant County Republican Party and part of its 2023 Chairman Circle for giving an annual, unrestricted $2,500 donation to the party. His nomination was approved by a 3-2 vote. Republican commissioners Gary Fickes and Manny Ramirez joined County Judge Tim O’Hare in approving the nomination.
Fickes and Ramirez could not immediately be reached for comment.
Keller Mayor Armin Mizani, who initiated the recall process back in March, said the nomination of Puente to the board is a step in the right direction.
“The city of Keller will remain vigilant in monitoring the district’s actions in the years ahead and will continue to be an unapologetic advocate for all taxpayers,” Mizani said in a statement.
Democratic commissioners Roy Brooks and Alisa Simmons voted against his nomination.
Instead, Brooks put forward Mattie Peterson Compton, a retired assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas.
“She’s an outstanding woman who grew up in the Stop Six area of Fort Worth,” Brooks said. “I’ve known her since we were children, and I can attest to her character, integrity and fitness to serve in this position.”
Tarrant County resident Jerald Miller spoke in support of Compton’s nomination. He pointed to the lack of Black residents on TAD’s board and ongoing homestead exemption issues within the appraisal district. Compton is a Black woman.
“I think that the candidate is exceptional, that she would be well qualified, and that there are a number of issues which the board has failed to address for TAD,” Miller said.
He also said Compton is qualified to serve “all constituents, not just the African American community or women that are homeowners, or minorities in the area.”
Compton’s nomination failed by a 2-3 vote. Brooks and fellow Democrat commissioner Alisa Simmons were the two yes votes. The three Republican members of the board voted no.
Tarrant County resident Daniel Bennett told commissioners the better choice for nominee would be Gary Losada, a former appraisal district board of directors member for two years. He cited Losada’s experience, which also included six years as a member of the Tarrant Appraisal Review Board.
“Does Vince Puente get it? I’ll tell you there’s one man who gets it,” Bennett said, referencing Losada. “Because this is a five-month appointment, you gotta budget in 60 days. It’s gotta be pushed to you on Aug. 15. You’re going to get on that board, you’re going to breathe in, and that budget’s going to be passed, like ‘What happened?’”
Tarrant County will now send news of its nomination to the appraisal district. Other taxing entities will also have an opportunity to nominate a board member, and then all of the taxing entities will vote to decide on a final replacement.
In a statement to the Fort Worth Report, Tarrant Chief Appraiser Jeff Law said the appraisal district will prepare a ballot for those taxing units to cast their votes for their selection. The taxing units will have approximately 15 days to cast their votes for the seat after receiving the ballot.
Members of the appraisal district board of directors are voted on by the taxing entities. Each entity gets a certain number of votes that can all be given to one candidate or split among several.
Per the appraisal district, here are the number of votes each taxing entity will have in the upcoming election. There are a total of 869 votes.
- Mansfield ISD: 41
- City of Grand Prairie: 60
- City of Hurst: 10
- City of Keller: 4
- City of Mansfield: 50
- City of N. Richland Hills: 35
- Tarrant County: 515
- Tarrant County College: 154
Emily Wolf is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com or via Twitter.
Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @ssadek19.
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