Yannuzzi Promises to Hit the Ground Running if Elected Precinct 1 Commissioner

Joyce Yannuzzi
Republican Joyce Yannuzzi is running to replace outgoing Comal County Pct. 1 Commissioner Donna Eccleston.

Republican Joyce Yannuzzi faces off Tuesday against Doug Leecock and Henry White in the primary election for Comal County Pct. 1 commissioner.

Neither Leecock or White has the experience it takes to hit the ground running, she said, and time is a luxury the county can ill afford as it stares down a double barrel of explosive growth and dwindling natural resources.

The longtime Republican activist and self-described policy nerd says she’s lived and worked in Comal County for 22 years and knows how state and local politics work.

Longtime friend Laura Buske describes Yannuzzi has having a “servant’s mentality” when it comes to politics.

“If you want someone to jump in there and get to work right away, she’s the person for the job.”

Yannuzzi began her political career stuffing envelopes as an eight-year-old for hometown candidate Kent Hance, who was running for first term in the Texas Senate.

Then President Jimmy Carter’s grain and fuel embargoes were affecting his livelihood as a farmer and rancher in the Texas panhandle.

“That’s when I started paying attention to what government can do and how their decisions can literally affect your livelihood,” she said.

When her former husband deployed as an officer in the U.S. Air Force in 2007, Yannuzzi got involved with the Comal County Republican Party, volunteering to work on campaigns.

Now she vets candidates herself.

“I don’t want to help or consult on a campaign that doesn’t align with my conservative values,” she said. “I was always paying attention to ‘do your actions match your words?'”

Yannuzzi also served as an elections clerk and election judge in Comal County, helping with special elections, runoffs, school boards and municipal elections.

She now works as district director for Sen. Donna Campbell, the Republican who represents Canyon Lake in Texas Senate District 25 and who is also on Tuesday’s ballot.

San Antonio resident Rob Gowan, a 26-year military veteran, worked with Yannuzzi as a volunteer during Campbell’s 2022 campaign primary.

“When I worked for Sen. Campbell Joyce was my first-line supervisor, she was the district director and I was the Veterans Relations director,” he said. “Personally, in my mind, she’s a very down-to-earth person…she’s learned a lot from her experience. She is very well-connected. She knows a lot of people.”

Yannuzzi met many of those people while working in various positions with nonprofits and serving on several local nonprofit boards.

She also commuted to Fredericksburg and Austin as a staff member for Republican Kyle Biedermann, who formerly represented Canyon Lake in state House District 73.

In both positions, Yannuzzi said her job is connecting with constituents and working with local elected officials and state agencies to find solutions.

“Sometimes they’re just needing an ear to listen,” she said. “Local officials need us to help them with a specific issue.”

Case in point, she said, was the City of Garden Ridge, which is dealing with the impact of concrete batch plants springing up just outside city limits and outside city restrictions in unincorporated Comal County.

“The city doesn’t have the ordinance to stop it, and was looking at us to see if we can meet at the table and say, ‘how can we make this a good situation and make Comal County a good neighbor to batch plants?’”

As a Republican, Yannuzzi said she is pro-property rights and does not want to impose restrictions on what individuals or businesses can do with the land they own in unincorporated parts of the county.

When she recently met with residents of Mystic Shore who are concerned about Canyon Ranch, another huge development of single-family homes planned along the FM 306 corridor, Yannuzzi told them there isn’t much the county can do about the situation except to make sure builders adhere to the permitting process.

“Outside of that, if they followed the rules if the application is completed correctly and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) did the right thing, there’s nothing we can do…It’s a really fine tightrope to walk between all these moving parts and these different entities that have different desires and different wishes.”

There are two sides to the development story.

Yannuzzi said she actually helped the developer speed up a public hearing and was upfront with the information she provided to residents of Mystic Shores.

And while she empathizes with grassroots groups like Preserve Our Hill Country Environment (POHCE), which has spent years fighting to keep Vulcan Materials from turning a former ranch into a 1,500-acre open-pit limestone quarry, Yannuzzi said people moving into the county are the reason for the quarry’s existence.

“…When people who have lived here for one to two years and want to close the gates, no offense, you’re one of the reasons the quarries are popping up. The aggregate is needed for concrete for homes, for new roads, and to expand existing roads due to increase in traffic.”

But there’s hope.

Through her work with Campbell, Yannuzzi said there might be a way to find a middle ground that would ease the county’s pain.

In a written response to questions by POHCE she said can’t discuss the particulars of a possible solution developing through Campbell’s office.

“Initially people move to the unincorporated areas of counties to get away from the tighter controls of city ordinances and enjoy country living,” she said. “But when there is almost zero authority for county government to establish limits on compact housing development, I do believe it’s time to ask the legislature to provide counties a few more proverbial ‘tools in the toolbox.’

“To be clear, I am a strong property rights activist and against growing government, however, because of my position on the senator’s staff, I’ve been tasked with compiling a list of suggestions and ideas for potential legislation that would benefit the county commissioners and am working on that without capitol legislative staff to finetune the suggestions.”

Yannuzzi said she is not a fan of giving any government entity more power than it needs and would limit the time the Comal Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (CTGCD) has in its ability to protect wells due to drought restrictions.

Wells drilled in the Trinity Aquifer in western Comal County are drying up due to overdevelopment.

“Texas courts have historically upheld the ‘Rule of Capture’ and these restrictions could potentially place the county in an unnecessary legal battle over which landowner has the rights to the groundwater below,” she said. “I would be in favor of CTGCD taking proactive measures to protect existing well owners during drought but with limitations implemented. I am not in favor of any government entity gaining more authority/power and not relinquishing it when the drought crisis is over.”

Growth isn’t the only game in town for Commissioners Court.

Yannuzzi said the San Antonio area is now a major hub for drugs and sex trafficking.

“For me it would be hard as a county commissioner or even a staffer to stop that, but if I can educate people on it or alert people to signs that this is going on…it is occurring in our backyard and it’s occurring in our community,” she said.

If she could “wave my wands and be governor for a day” Yannuzzi said she would close the state’s border with Mexico.

“Regardless of how you want to paint it we are being invaded,” she said.

As residents of Canyon Lake grapple with the new normal of living and working around a lake that’s only 60% full, Yannuzzi isn’t sure how to fix the county’s outdated boat ramps, which need repairs, better signage, improved parking and a myriad of other improvements.

“Now would be the time to get one or two of them repaired, but would that money be better spent on something else that is a needed issue? wish there was a way that we could use the out-of-county people to recoup some of that cost.”

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