By Smith County Judge Joel Baker, Newly Elected Secretary/Treasurer, North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association
I want to thank the members of the Nominating Committee of the North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association for their confidence in giving me the opportunity to serve the Association as an officer. I also want to thank the Smith County Commissioners Court, the court staff, and my family for their willingness to support me in this endeavor.
In January 2015, I will begin my third term as County Judge in Smith County, having won re-election in the recent primary election. Prior to serving as County Judge, I practiced law in my hometown of Tyler, and I previously served as an assistant district attorney in the Smith County District Attorney’s Office.
I am married to my wife of 19 years, Melanie, and we have three children: Coleman, 16, Mallory, 14, and Griffin, 9.
Smith County was established in 1846 when the Texas Legislature divided Nacogdoches County. It is made up of beautiful rolling hills, spring blooms of azaleas, dogwood and redbud trees, and, typically, an abundance of water. We have a rich history and economy based largely on agriculture and the oil and gas industry, and Tyler is the hometown of football greats, our own “Tyler Rose,” Earl Campbell, and Johnny “Football” Manziel.
Smith County is ranked as Texas’ 22nd most populous county with a population of more than 215,000, while our county tax rate is among the lowest in the state. We are the regional economic, educational, and healthcare hub, and home to the Rose Capital of the United States, our county seat of Tyler. Smith County contains 11 incorporated cities, 18 taxing entities, and 1,178 miles of county roads within its 932 square miles.
Despite the economic downturn of recent years, Smith County is now exploding with growth. Along with that growth comes increased demand on county road infrastructure, and an increased demand for additional employees to serve the various functions of county government. As County Judges and Commissioners, we are all familiar with the challenge of balancing the needs and wants of the community with the available funding for county expenditures.
In 2010, the county implemented its “Striving for Excellence” initiative, focusing on the core values of:
- Honesty and Integrity
- Concern for Others
- Positive Attitude
- Professional Conduct
- Excellence in Service
It is through this initiative that the Smith County Commissioners Court has been successful in developing an even higher performing workforce, which provides outstanding service to its citizens and constantly seeks to improve the way business is conducted.
I believe it is a primary responsibility of Judges and Commissioners to serve as ambassadors of their respective counties. Each of us strives for improvement. We want what is best for our counties, and we represent our county’s interests in seeking out new industry and development.
It is my hope that I will be able to assist my fellow officers in the same manner as we seek to make the North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association the best such organization in the State of Texas! H