1) Please tell us a little about yourself (current work, education, experience, background).
My name is Paul Cockerham. I grew up in Italy and graduated from Italy High School in 1987. I joined the US Navy and spent four years in submarine service as a missile technician aboard the USS West Virginia SSBN 736. I was medical discharged due to an injury I received during service. I worked in the fire protection field as an Operations Manager. I was laid off in 2010 and went back to school and will be graduating in May as a Registered Nurse.
2) How many council meetings did you attend in the last 12 months?
I have attended 7 meetings in the past 12 months.
3) Why are you seeking to be a council member?
I am seeking a position on the city council because I believe the citizens of Italy are calling for a new direction. The direction the council is going is not health for the city and people want some change.
4) What qualifications or experience do you possess that voters should consider?
I spent 4 years serving my country and I have a deep passion for the rights of every individual. Everyone in the city should have a voice and should not be scared to voice their opinion or feel no one is listening. I presently serve as the president of the Italy ISD School Board and have learned from the leadership of former presidents how important every person in the district is to the morale of the school. This is something the city is struggling with.
I have worked with and prepared multi-million dollar budgets and worked with other board members to build a united team for the betterment of the school.
5) What do you consider the most important issue facing our city today?
There is no transparence in the city at this time. This is just one example, look at the agenda items L, M, and N for the March meeting; can someone look at these items and understand the meaning of what was to take place in the meeting? According to the Attorney General an action item needs to state when items affect a person of interest like a principal or chief of police. The item N was directed at the Mayor, but the Mayor was not mentioned in the agenda item. This is not being transparent. Another item is item K. The police chief was to present a racial profile report. The report was handed to the council but, the public was not informed of any data on the report. I wondered if this was done on purpose? It may have been a glowing report or maybe not. This is why we need to be transparent. It will help to dispel all the unanswered questions and rumors.
6) What do you hope to accomplish during the next 2 years?
I would like for the citizens of Italy to be proud of their city government and not be the laughing stock of Ellis County. The people need to be informed of the budget expenditures and have confidence that our tax dollars are spent for the betterment of all citizens.
7) What do you consider the most important and least important duties a council member has?
The most important duty for a councilman is to be a servant leader. They must not get caught up in a “power trip” and be able to resolve issues with the best interest of The City of Italy and not personal agendas.
I do not think there is a least important duty.
8) What do you think should be the top priorities of the city after this election?
The council must be able to work together and put aside any past problems and move in a positive and united direction. We need short and long term planning and to set goals that point us in a direction of growth and financial stability.
9) Is there anything you would want to change about the way our city is run?
Yes, again I thing a transparent government must be implemented, so all citizens know what the city is doing.
10) What do you think could be done to cut expenses in the city budget if any?
The key to finding areas to cut expenses is to find waste and in extreme cases, cut personnel and services. I do not feel we are suffering because of lack of funds, but the unmonitored spending that is taking place. We are heavily taxed and that is okay when you are getting what you pay for.
11) What do you think the city should do to draw new businesses or industry to Italy?
There are many factors that people look at when moving a business to an area. Tax abatements are an attractive feature and works as a long term goal in growth. People also look at skilled labor to work in these new jobs. We must market our community as a great place to live and raise kids. Lastly, we must have the infrastructure to support that business, and that means roads water and other utilities.
12) What community service have you given any community in the past?
I have delivered meals for elderly residents in the Waxahachie area through the Meals-on-Wheels program. I have volunteered for Special Olympics and helped to train my special Olympian. I have spent two weeks in a reform school mentoring youth in Elkins, West Virginia. I served as a volunteer fireman/EMT for Travis County Fire and Rescue. I regularly give blood to Carter BloodCare.
13) What volunteer work have you done in the Italy Community?
I am an Engineer with the Italy Fire Department and work with a group of very dedicated firefighters. I am very active in my church (First Baptist Church) and work with the youth. I have also worked with the Italy Cemetery Association to place flags on all of our veteran’s graves to honor their service.
14) What do you want the voters to know that they may not know?
I strive to have an open mind and place value on the relationships I have been blessed to be a part of here in Italy. I love Italy and hope we can make a change we can all be proud of!
Comment from Italy PD Chief Diron Hill – 4/8/2014-2:26pm
I would like to respond to Mr. Cockerham’s answer to question #5 What do you consider the most important issue facing our city today?
Another item is item K. The police chief was to present a racial profile report. The report was handed to the council but, the public was not informed of any data on the report. I wondered if this was done on purpose? It may have been a glowing report or maybe not. This is why we need to be transparent.
I would like to clear up any possible misunderstanding that Mr. Cockerham is trying to portray to the public.
First… The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Section 2.132 says…
(7) require the chief administrator of the agency, regardless of whether the administrator is elected, employed, or appointed, to submit an annual report of the information collected under Subdivision (6) to:
(A) the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement; and
(B) the governing body of each county or municipality served by that agency, if the agency is an agency of a county, municipality, or other political subdivision of the state.
I was just following the guidelines of the Code of Criminal Procedure and not any conspiracy as portrayed by Mr. Cockerham.
As a matter of fact, during the Council Meeting, someone mentioned about the publication of the report and I explained that the report can be viewed by any member of the public on the TCOLE (Texas Commission of Law Enforcement) Website http://www.tcleose.state.tx.us/content/racial_profile_report.cfm?county=ELLIS
I have also included the report with this response to be publish by the Neotribune. I don’t want for any of the public to get the idea that the Italy Police Department is trying to hide anything. We have always prided ourselves with being transparent to the citizens and maintaining a professional image.
Chief Diron Hill
Italy Police Department
Comment from Paul Cockerham, 4/9/2014-9:07pm
Again, you have taken an issue that is directed at the city council and interjected your comments when I was directing the need to be transparent at the city government as a whole. If you would take the time to visit the Italy ISD website https://v3.boardbook.org/Public/PublicHome.aspx?ak=1000963 you would find the school districts attempt to be transparent. This allows any citizen to view what the board views and not have to do an open records request and wait 10 days. I also went back and reviewed the meeting where you said your racial report was on the TCOLE (Texas Commission of Law Enforcement) Website and could not find your comments in the video.
I was not trying to mislead the public or create a conspiracy as you stated. I made a simple remark that if the public is not afforded an “openness or degree of accessibility to view” (The definition of governmental transparency) then the city of Italy is not being transparent with its citizens. Furthermore, I am glad you posted the website for our review.
Comment from Italy PD Chief, Diron Hill, 4/10/2014-7:52am
Mr. Cockerham… these are you words….“I wondered if this was done on purpose?” That statement was embedded in the passage regarding the racial profiling report and how it was presented by myself. It does not differentiate what you wrote in your response to my comment nor does it indicate you were referring to the City Council only.
Furthermore, just because you didn’t hear me advise the public about the website and the report, doesn’t mean it wasn’t said. As a matter of fact, another candidate has indicated that they heard the statement in the meeting and they were in attendance of the meeting.
Lastly, the City’s website does need improvements and I have made some suggestions over the past 2 years of how the website could be used more effectively for citizen convenience.
Comment from Paul Cockerham, 4/10/2014-9:24pm
First of all I am not running for police chief, I am running for City Council. If you want to quote me make sure you do not pick and choose a single sentence. I stated “The report was handed to the council but, the public was not informed of any data on the report. I wondered if this was done on purpose? It may have been a glowing report or maybe not. This is why we need to be transparent. It will help to dispel all the unanswered questions and rumors.” The “we” refers to the city. Secondly, once again this was not directed at any one individual, it was a statement about the overall transparency of the city. If I give an example it is merely that, an example.
To give you the benefit of the doubt, I went back and reviewed the video of the council meeting again and could not find your statement. https://italy.neotrib.com/stories/531e895a1043ccfdef000001.
As Shakespeare said “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” Or as defined "where the speaker who “protests too much” is in disagreement of some claim puts into others’ minds the idea that the claim is true, something that they may not have considered before."