“The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience,” says Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird” – a remark echoed by Konrad Wert, a Tivy High School special education teacher running as a write-in candidate against Kerr County Precinct 1 Commissioner Harley Belew.
Belew, who made waves earlier this summer on his morning radio show with his controversial remarks about the death of George Floyd, was elected in 2016 and ran unopposed in the most recent Republican primary.
But for Wert, challenging the incumbent felt like the right thing to do.
“I think Kerr County as a whole is a diverse community, and when you hope for a County Commissioners court that represents everyone fairly, it’s important to see that you’re a servant-leader, you’re an active listener, you’re a mediator, you’re the one that is taking … community concern and speaking about it objectively,” Wert said. “That’s a big push for why we feel we need that representation for Precinct 1.”
Wert, who announced his candidacy in August, raised concerns about Belew’s remarks earlier this summer and noted that he was later publicly chastised as a private constituent on Belew’s private radio station – something he feels shouldn’t have happened.
Wert sees the position of County Commissioner as a full-time job, as it draws a $62,000 salary.
“This is a fulltime commitment and needs to be a commitment that doesn’t chastise its constituents,” Wert said. “It needs to be one of collaboration, as opposed to divisiveness.”
In his third year as a special education teacher and behavioral specialist at Tivy, with 13 years in education and 20 years working in the nonprofit sector, Wert plans to step down from his teaching position if elected and commit fulltime to his role as County Commissioner.
“(Running for office) feels like a way to say, ‘Let’s step up the expectation,’” Wert said. “We need someone there who’s really committed to work fulltime and do the due diligence that’s needed to take into account budget and emergency services, to be proactive with grant writing (and) to better represent Precinct 1.”
Running on an independent platform, Wert feels it’s important as a public official to take all the data and information and make objective decisions, without bias.
‘”Our intent is … to appeal to all voters,” he said. “How do we focus our energies on solving conflict rather than deliberately inciting conflict? Those principles, I think, are vital.”
After many years of teaching and working with nonprofits, Wert said he believes in a conservative budget as well as understanding expenditures, and that he has extensive experience in grant-writing.
He added that balancing the budget was an important priority for him, since a significant deficit has arisen due to COVID, resulting in cuts to necessary services like the volunteer fire department – while at the same time, nearly $250,000 a year is allotted to County Commissioner salaries.
Raised in the Mennonite tradition, Wert is committed to the twin-pronged principle of service and simplicity, and said that above all, Kerrville public figures owe their constituents respectful treatment.
“It’s not walking on eggshells,” Wert said. “There’s a difference between walking on eggshells and simply being courteous to your residents.”
Wert added that he is looking forward to the Nov. 3 election.
“This is how we celebrate our liberties,” he said. “This is how we celebrate our patriotism – by honoring one another’s convictions and honoring one another’s diversity.”
Ultimately, Wert said that, he feels confident in the support of his wife and two sons, 12 and 9, and feels strongly that challenging Belew is the right thing to do.
“A premise that I always believe in is, ‘It’s about the we, it’s not about the me,’” said Wert. “I think Kerr County deserves that. I really do.”
For more information on Wert’s campaign, visit votekonradwert.com.