Congratulations to the County Progress Awards Program 2005 recipients, who were honored at the CJCAT State Conference in October.
Community Service – Live Oak County Judge Jim Huff
Nominated by: Senator Judith Zaffirini
Judge Huff’s motivating, effective and innovative leadership truly has benefited our community. He has been very active in pursuing flood plain mapping for Live Oak County and traveled to Washington, D.C., to request the development and implementation of mapping. As a result of his efforts, Live Oak County currently has a comprehensive flood program.
Devoted to the families of Live Oak County, Judge Huff has been involved in obtaining and supporting the continuation of government funding for a wide variety of projects. These grants include two flood disaster buy-out grants totaling more than $1 million from ORCA and FEMA; the Live Oak County Library grant from the Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund; and three ORCA grants for water projects.
In the legislative arena, I am proud to count on Judge Huff as a trusted advisor who has suggested major legislation, including forming a statewide Emergency Medical Services network. Also, because school districts suffer financially when large companies dispute their property tax assessments, leaving them unresolved for three to four years and depriving schools of the income necessary to provide an excellent education, Judge Huff proposed Senate Bill 103, which prioritizes tax disputes in trial courts.
* It is with heartfelt gratitude that I thank the County Judges and County Commissioners Association of Texas, as well as County Progress magazine, for selecting me to receive the 2005 Excellence in Community Service Award. Due to a temporary medical condition, I was unable to travel to Lubbock to receive this much-appreciated recognition.
As county judge of a small, rural South Texas county, I am humbled as I look at those who have received this award in the past. I cannot claim this recognition alone, for it is only by the help of an outstanding commissioners court and the support of many others that we are able to excel in service to the public. Live Oak County Judge Jim Huff
Juvenile Impact – Navarro County Commissioner John Paul Ross
Nominated by: Navarro County Judge Alan Bristol
Active for more than 18 years in the organization, Commissioner Ross served as General Chair for the 2004 and 2005 Navarro County Youth Exposition and continues to serve on its executive board. The Navarro County Youth Exposition reached out to all students and children who are members of FFA Chapters or 4-H Chapters. While serving as chair, he was able to expand the show to include a carnival, midway, car dealership exhibits, ATV exhibits, and senior citizen activities. Through his leadership efforts, the Youth Exposition was able to increase its annual auction revenue by $50,000. All this money goes back to our youth for future projects.
Senior Citizen Impact – Parker County Commissioners Court
Nominated by: Joel Kertok, Project Coordinator, Parker County Judge’s Office
After the Texas Department of Transportation combined public transportation with a neighboring county, Parker County’s seniors were left without many of the services to which they had grown accustomed. Working with the Parker County Committee on Aging, Judge Mark Riley and the commissioners court decided to take action to fix this. They allocated $125,000 to purchase four public transportation buses, two with lifts for those in wheel chairs, and ordered the county purchasing agent to go out for bid on the vans. The court also allocated $20,000 for operation expenses.
The court’s idea was to contract with the Parker County Committee on Aging to provide the drivers and the pick-up and delivery service. The $20,000 was initial seed money to pay for the drivers and other operational expenses. The court also provides the Committee on Aging with fuel for the vans at the county’s cost. Parker County was able to find and purchase the vans that were needed. Experienced and background-checked drivers were hired, and on May 15, reliable, full-service public transportation for Parker County senior citizens at a level that met their needs was once again available. Approximately 800 rides were provided to Parker County seniors in the program’s first month of operation.
Mentoring a Fellow Official: Lavaca County Commissioner Charles Netardus
Nominated by: Lavaca County Commissioner Mark H. Zimmerman
Commissioner Netardus retired from the Texas Department of Transportation and is very knowledgeable in road and bridge maintenance and the operations of county government. When I took office on Jan. 1, 2003, Commissioner Netardus assisted me with county procedures and road and bridge planning, and he has never refused to help when called upon. In fact, he has always told fellow commissioners and myself, “Whenever you need advice or help, just call me.” This is not only true in Lavaca County; Commissioner Netardus assists commissioners in neighboring counties when called upon. I am in my third year as county commissioner, and I can attribute my success to Commissioner Netardus’ advice.
Going the Extra Mile – Bee County Commissioner Ronnie Olivares
Nominated by: Bee County Commissioner Carlos Salazar Jr.
Commissioner Olivares truly is a “working county commissioner.” Commissioner Olivares does not only address the needs of his constituents, but he maintains his precinct needs. He approaches all his precinct projects with attention to detail. If that isn’t enough to keep any commissioner going 24/7, our county judge, knowing Commissioner Olivares’ drive and “get-it-done” work habit, assigned Commissioner Olivares the task to oversee our county coliseum/arena which is not even located in his precinct. Commissioner Olivares accepted this responsibility of the daily operation that included all maintenance, event bookings, and supervising personnel while wearing the hat of coliseum manager. Commissioner Olivares went the extra mile by being on call during all events. Many times you would find Commissioner Olivares at the coliseum grounds on weekends and evenings attending to the task at hand. He did this without hesitation, thus saving the taxpayers money for a period of two years. Recently (June 2005), the court hired a full-time coliseum administrator.
Without a doubt his actions not only served and helped Bee County, but more importantly, saved Bee County and our community money. Our citizens are proud of their new first-class facility and are fortunate to have Commissioner Olivares on the court.
Going the Extra Mile – Bell County Commissioners Court
Nominated by: Aaron Montemayor, Director, United Way, Greater Fort Hood Area
The Bell County Commissioners Court created the human services department in May 1993 in order to administer community-based health and human services to Bell County residents. Available services extend well beyond the administration of the state-mandated County Indigent Health Care Program. Community-based health and human services are provided to low-to-moderate-income households in order to intervene for short-term basic household needs with the primary focus toward long-term independence from public assistance.
The county provides the majority of all operational support for each center; according to specific community needs and resources, other support is provided through federal and local grants, the United Way, and donations from the community.
In February 2003, the Killeen Center adopted an outcome-based case management approach to provide services to move center clients from dependence on public assistance to productive and financially stable residents of the community. The Bell County Commissioners Court supports this model because the judge and commissioners recognize the importance of the “human” element in providing human services, where the most valuable resource is a caring and knowledgeable caseworker who mentors, guides, and encourages individuals to strive to their fullest potential.
Since the onset, the Family Support Services have maintained a 95 percent success rate; in the past six months, out of 263 families, only 14 have required additional financial assistance. The foresight of the commissioners court combined with the dedicated work performed by the Killeen Center county employees have proven that by working together communities truly can make a difference.
All Around Award – Anderson County Commissioner Joe Chaffin
Nominated by: Lynn Allen, Indigent Health Care Coordinator
Commissioner Chaffin has such a history of public service that it is difficult to pick the category which best suits him for these awards. First and foremost, he has been involved in youth activities for many years, serving on the Slocum ISD school board and taking an active role in the educational process for students in that district. Yearly, he oversees a fish fry and auction to benefit the youth programs. While other officials may show up in election years to shake hands, every year Joe Chaffin goes to town to buy the fish, and then he makes sure that everything is set up so that everybody has a great time, walks around serving fish, gathers auction items, and makes sure that it all gets cleaned up afterwards. The fish fry is always a delight. It serves not only to benefit the youth programs, including the 4-H and FFA, but it unifies the community. That is important in a small county area.
Joe is active in the community as a member of longstanding of the First Baptist Church of Slocum. He also participates in an annual barbeque and auction for the Slocum Volunteer Fire Department. He supports the South Anderson County Chamber of Commerce, and has served as director of the Farmer’s Co-op, and on the Slocum Water
Board. His work with the FFA has earned him the award of Honorary Chapter Farmer.
As senior commissioner, with 13 years as a commissioner, he has seen many commissioners and judges come and go. He has been available to each incoming commissioner or judge to serve as a mentor, always available to give suggestions and directions.
Commissioner Chaffin leads by example and is a hands-on supervisor. He wants the work done right and never expects his staff to tackle any project he will not willingly approach himself. One example is making hot mix; the commissioner likes to do this himself so that there is no risk to his staff. He recently sustained some burns to his eyes while he was making the mix. When asked why one of his staff was not doing this job, he said he was afraid one of them might be burned, so preferred to do it.
He always goes the extra mile. When storms strike the county, he is a 24/7 commissioner getting the trees and debris off roads and making them safe for travel. He is available for constituent calls about roads, culverts, and other concerns.
I have been privileged to watch Commissioner Chaffin at work for nearly two years. As the indigent health care coordinator for Anderson County, I have been able to ask Commissioner Chaffin for advice and direction. It has been a great experience to work in an environment with the kind of support he gives.
While I understand that there are many great commissioners who work hard for their counties every day, I believe that you would be hard-pressed to find any more deserving of these awards than Commissioner Joe Chaffin.