From the President
Well, here we go into the New Year. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas with family and friends, and that the beginning of 2011 finds you well. WOW…2011! It seems like only yesterday that we were all worried about Y2K and what it would do to our computers. Isn’t it strange how our problems and concerns seem so big when they are in the road in front of us, but most seem so small and insignificant when we move past them and look back? I think this is God’s way of allowing us to realize we need to keep our focus on the future and not the past, and if we do we can successfully meet the challenges we face. That certainly holds true for this upcoming year. There are many challenges ahead for counties, and we must be educated on the issues, focused on the goal, and fly in formation if we expect to meet them successfully. Thankfully, all the county officials I know meet these challenges head-on every day, and I have great faith we will continue to do so.
The New Year brings with it the Legislative Session that begins this month. This session promises to be a challenging one with redistricting and the budget deficit looming as the monsters in the closet; however, we must use every opportunity to move legislation forward that is beneficial to local government and oppose legislation that threatens to move local spending out of the hands of local officials. One issue that we need to address is the undervaluation of oil and gas. I believe we have an opportunity to bring this issue to light as a state problem, as well, because of the deficit. Counties are losing billions of dollars of tax revenue because of the comptroller’s undervaluation, but the state is losing even more revenue because of school funding. Jim Allison, our general counsel, is preparing proposed legislation that hopefully will correct this injustice for both counties and the state. I know you have heard me say this before, and you will probably hear it again, but we all need to be engaged in the process of working with the Legislature to promote county issues. There are 254 counties in Texas, which means there are 254 county judges and 1,016 commissioners who are the peoples’ representatives at the local level. We are the closest government officials to the people of Texas, and it is our responsibility to work with our state officials to express the needs that benefit our citizens. I hope all of you are ready to roll up your sleeves and go to Austin when needed.
To all of you new judges and commissioners: I look forward to meeting each of you and working with you as we serve the people of Texas. You will find your new job both difficult and rewarding, and I pledge my help in any way possible. One thing you will find is that your peers around you are always willing to lend an ear and assist whenever needed. I encourage you to quickly open up communications with those in adjoining counties as well as your regional and state organizations. The Texas Association of Counties is also a valuable asset that we in county government cannot do without, and I encourage each of you to get acquainted with and utilize their staff.
As the year begins remember this: “With great challenge comes great opportunity.” The challenges we face in Texas are real, but the opportunity we have to meet them is exciting.