By Elizabeth Varville
Richard Cortese held the seat for Bell County Commission Court for Precinct 1 for the past 23 years. Cortese grew up in the Little River/Academy area, attended Temple Junior College, and served four years in the Air Force.
“My Dad has been very active in politics for years. So it was naturally for me to get involved myself. In 1990 I ran for county judge, didn’t get elected but had a good race. I did not know very many people being from out in the country. In 1992, I ran for county commissioner. The rest is history; I took office in 1993. When I entered office, I spent a lot of time learning county government and trying to understand it,” said Cortese. “I am very proud of my part in Bell County’s accomplishments including remodeling Belton’s downtown buildings, the expansion of the courts and jail facilities, and the 911 unified call center.”
The run-off in the recent elections found Cortese defeated by former Temple Mayor pro tem Russell Schneider. Elected Belton City officials reflect on the dedicated service of Cortese.
“Cortese is conservative and an honest person. I believe he has done what he considers what is best for Bell County,” said Theodore R. (Ted) Duffield, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1 Judge. “I truly respect him in regards to his decision making and his ability to do what was best for the county.”
“I was elected to Belton City Council about the same time and so we have worked together for many years: he representing citizens of the county and me representing citizens of Belton,” said retired Mayor of Belton Jim Covington. “My main relationship with Cortese has been through public service. He is a fine man. He does good work. I was somewhat surprised to see that he was defeated in his last election. I believe the main thing that anybody will say about Cortese that is was very responsive to voters requests. He was always available. If he was able to give his support on an issue, he did. Our favorite quote is ‘It is surprising what you can get done as long as you don’t care who gets credit for it.’ Bell County citizens are definitely better off for his services.”
“He brought a common-sense approach to every aspects of county government. We could always rely on Cortese to have thought everything through and rely on him to provide good solid direction that we should take. We have relied on him to give us an historical perspective on a number of things. He has been a good visionary on the direction the court should be going. He is very thural, helpful, and intelligent. He was willing to help anybody on any problem they had whether they were in his precinct or not,” said Bell County Judge Jon Burrows.