When people decide to run for public office, the need to advertise, create and post signs and travel extensively to meet with potential voters are necessities that are often funded, at least in part, by supporters through campaign donations.
During the election process, it is obvious where the campaign funds go. Afterwards, however, what happens to the money that is not used?
“There are strict guidelines as to what campaigns can do with the money that is leftover,” City of Alvin Chief of Police Mike Merkel, who ran for the Brazoria County Sheriff position in 2004 and 2008, said.
By law, candidates and newly elected officials cannot use the money for personal reasons and can only distribute the funds in limited ways, including giving it to a political party, another candidate or charities.
Although many office-seekers usually keep the extra money for possible future campaigns or transfer it to other elections, Merkel opted to make a difference in the lives of students at Alvin Community College by creating a trust fund for scholarships.
“With all the options available, I thought I would provide the money for the future for scholarships. I’m a very strong proponent of action and this is better than it just sitting in an account,” he mentioned. “I really think individuals who invested in the campaign will be glad to know that their hard-earned money will go toward helping our youth.”
According to ACC Foundation Executive Director Wendy Del Bello, Merkel’s donation of $20,701.89 will create a continuous, annual scholarship for a second-year criminal justice student.
“This endowment scholarship will allow students an opportunity to complete their education for years to come,” she said. “Education helps improve the lives of individuals, families and communities and scholarships help make that happen for people who would not be able to afford it otherwise.”
“We are very grateful to Chief Merkel for his generosity and commitment to our students and Alvin,” she added.
Merkel, who has been Alvin’s police chief for a record 17 years, has a long history with ACC. In addition to earning two associate degrees from the college, he has been a faculty member, teaching classes in the Law Enforcement Academy and sociology, for over 30 years.
He has a master’s degree in social psychology from the University of Houston and is a graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy.
Throughout the years, Merkel has received numerous accolades for his impact on the community through his profession, including the Professional Achievement Award by former governor and President George W. Bush, statewide Law Enforcement Leadership Award, University of Houston Top 25 Distinguished Alumni Award, ACC Distinguished Alumni Award and a statewide award named in his honor for efforts to help victims of crime by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
He has served as a guest lecturer throughout the state and initiated many programs designed to help the elderly, youth and victims of crime within Brazoria County.