Armed with words and a cowboy hat, former Sheriff, Rick Flores, was ready to duel with his opponent, Martin Cuellar. The Candidate Chat, held on October 10, 2012 at Texas A&M International University, served to inform TAMIU students on one of the candidates that
would be on their ballot. As part of a Voter Awareness initiative, 307 students were registered to vote. The Political Science and Student Government Associations hosted Flores in a round-table style debate consisting of questions from TAMIU students, staff, and the general public.
Domestic and foreign questions were asked by Jacqueline Verastigui, PSA president, and Jonathan Gutierrez, SGA president, who served as moderators. Rio Bravo and El Cenizo seemed to be a concern for many, as the lack of police surveillance in rural areas is largely
noticed. Although it was obvious from Flores’ response that he has vast knowledge of the Laredo region from his naming of Webb County communities, his answer left many in the audience with skepticism. The rest of the questions asked by the moderators were answered quickly and effectively. Among those questions were the increase of inmate deaths in the prison structure, penitentiary future maintenance, and surveillance. In the past three and a half years, there have been several inmates that have died while imprisoned with speculations of employee negligence. Flores is concerned that resulting lawsuits are multiplying at taxpayer’s expense, and he attributes the problem to a lack of training. “It starts with the sheriff. What is happening is a lack of training in officers,” he affirmed.
Flores also touched based on the community programs he created with forfeiture funds during his tenure as sheriff. Flores vowed to bring back his Hunting and Fishing Program, which was closed down by Cuellar. Flores also disapproved of the decrease in participation of the Sheriff’s baseball little leagues and boxing gym enrollments under Sheriff Cuellar. Flores further asserted that his opponent’s spending was focused on self-promotion rather than these crucial community programs. Flores found a way to not only defend his work as Sheriff, but he simultaneously attacked the Cuellar administration. The greatest criticism for Cuellar came from a helicopter seemingly piloted by unlicensed pilots. With approximately half a million dollars spent in maintenance and operation, citizens in the audience were concerned of where their tax dollars were being spent. Flores explained the solution lied in education and training. The crowd reacted in jeers as Flores explained that 5 out of the past 6 sheriffs possess an undergraduate degree; Cuellar only holds a high school diploma. “I am a strong supporter of academics and constantly work with employees’ schedules to allow them to continue their studies and create an educated workforce and professional environment,” Flores explained. He continued by explaining that ethics are a large portion of current problems in the sheriff’s office, as time after time employees have been subject to questioning and arrests from ethic problems. Overall, Rick Flores came prepared and with a deep knowledge of his trajectory and education. He was quick to answer questions posed by TAMIU alumni and Laredoans. Undoubtedly, the audience left fully informed on the platform of Sheriff Candidate, Rick Flores.