Promoting, Protecting Effective Local Government
The newly elected county judges and commissioners who took the oath of office at the first of this month will be immediately ensconced in an array of issues ranging from budgets to bridges and personnel to potholes…not to mention indigent health care, indigent defense, economic development, elections, property tax rate, public safety, public documents, fees and fines, the courthouse and court system, road maintenance…and the list goes on.
When it comes to addressing the wide spectrum of topics, the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas is a valuable resource. The purpose of the statewide organization is to promote the interests of county government through continuing education and active participation in governmental affairs.
With 254 counties in Texas, there are 1,270 members of the Association – four county commissioners and one county judge from each county.
The County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas is divided into three Regional Associations, with several sub-groups within the regional organizations.
Ø The North and East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association is comprised of 69 counties.
Ø The South Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association includes 67 counties.
Ø The West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association serves 118 counties.
The Deep East Texas County Commissioners and County Judges Association is a sub-group of North and East Texas, made up of 15 counties from Far East Texas.
On the opposite side of the state, the Far West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association represents the western-most counties, with a total membership of 35.
Also a part of the West Texas group, the Panhandle County Judges and Commissioners Association claims 34 member counties.
Each Regional Association and sub-group has elected officers. Though all groups work to promote good county government, some issues are more pertinent to particular groups or parts of the state, thus the divisions. For instance, many counties in the western part of the state do not have bridges to maintain. For commissioners in the eastern half of Texas, bridge repair can be a constant concern. Colonias are a significant problem for border counties in South Texas, affecting, among other things, indigent health care and education; however, colonias are not a burning issue on the High Plains.
Regional Associations are represented on the Executive Board of the State Association.
As the official publication of the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas, County Progresswas authorized by the organization’s constitution of 1923. The magazine covers all 254 Texas counties and is the only publication in Texas – and one of the few in the country – devoted specifically to county judges and county commissioners.
Wichita County Judge B.D. Sartin established County Progress, which published its inaugural issue in March of 1924.
After Sartin was elected district judge, he missed several months of publication during the early 1930s, and the magazine was sold to Wendell Mayes and Ruel McDaniel, who moved the publication to Brownwood.
John Blake became associated with the magazine soon after Mayes and McDaniel, and County Progress has been published every month since.
Clark Coursey was hired as editor of County Progressin 1941, a position he held until his death in 1978. Coursey bought a half-interest in the magazine in the 1940s and later purchased the entire publication.
After Coursey’s death, his wife, Melba, headed the magazine for about 18 months before turning over operations to their sons, Pat and Sam, who had been working with the magazine.
The Coursey brothers published the magazine until 1996, when it was bought by H.C. Zachry of Zachry Associates, and operations were moved to Abilene.
Julie Anderson serves as editor, and Amy Drennan manages all advertising. Additional staff members include Becky Frost, president; Garner Roberts, writer; and Katie Kaufman, art director.
All county judges and commissioners receive a copy of County Progress each month through membership in the Association. Every legislator in Texas also receives a monthly copy.
Editorial content includes articles on current issues, continuing education information, calendar of upcoming events and educational opportunities, report from the Association’s general counsel, and a monthly column authored by the Association president. In addition, the magazine publishes resolutions passed by the State Association and each Regional Association; these resolutions serve as a valuable tool when it comes to educating both the general public and Texas lawmakers on county issues and concerns.
For more information on County Progress, visit countyprogress.com.
County Progress also produces the Texas County Directory, a yearly reference booklet that includes the name, address and phone number of every elected county official in Texas, along with fax numbers, e-mail addresses and website information.
The directory is published every January and includes updates from the November elections.
For the past 27 years, the Association has retained a general counsel to expand its efforts to support strong county government. Jim Allison of Allison, Bass & Associates, L.L.P., in Austin fulfills this role.
As a former county attorney and assistant attorney general, Allison understands county government from firsthand experience. The primary purpose of his work is to increase the effectiveness of the Association in the legislative process. With a permanent staff to monitor legislative issues, the Association has earned recognition as an advocate for commissioners courts and county government.
Allison’s services also include free e-mail and telephone consultation, legal briefs, and organizational matters, such as preparing and revising contracts and other legal documents and making presentations at education conferences.
The general counsel also provides administrative support for continuing education transcripts and informational services through monthly columns in County Progress.
For more information on the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas, go to www.cjcat.org.
By Julie Anderson
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