A New Officer’s Perspective
By Johnson County Commissioner John W. Matthews, Newly Elected Second Vice President, North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association
In May, county judges and commissioners from around the State of Texas met in Nacogdoches for the annual meeting of the North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association. One cannot overstate the significance of these conferences. The educational value of the classes as well as the time spent networking with fellow elected officials from around the state is absolutely time well spent. It is during these Association meetings that we identify and discuss the common challenges that affect each of our counties and the opportunities those challenges present. We also come to realize the responsibilities our constituents placed on each of us by electing us into office. How fortunate we are to be in a position to be able to address some of these challenges and have a positive impact on our counties. The issues may appear overwhelming at times, but the fact that we have an opportunity to make a difference is a privilege. The glass is always half full.
It may be tempting to become discouraged by all the rhetoric; unfunded mandates, indigent defense, reduction in fee disbursement, mental health cuts, juvenile probation funding reductions…just to name a few can make one’s head spin. It would be very easy to just sit back and say, “Well, look what the Texas Legislature did to us this session,” and give our “gloom-and-doom” soapbox speech in commissioners court or at our local chamber functions. It’s my opinion that those who put us in office would rather see us present a positive outlook on our county’s future. New transportation projects funded, revenue cap amendments avoided, regional interoperability improvements, and a potential balanced budget are all positives we can present. Texas remains the greatest state in the nation with the greatest economy and the fastest growth rate. Still half full.
At our May meeting, I was humbled to have even been considered for an officer’s position, and to have been selected and confirmed was an unexpected honor and a great privilege. During the interview process, I was asked several questions that caused me to reflect on the past eight years in office and the obligations we have as officeholders who have served a term or two. Newly elected officials will be looking to us for leadership and direction. Our commissioners courts in all 254 counties have an obligation to work cooperatively for the benefit of our respective counties. Attending the CJCAT state and regional conferences and networking with your peers is an excellent way to learn that we all face the same challenges, and each of us has an obligation to provide positive leadership in each of our counties.
As elected officials, we never cease to be surprised with challenges and opportunities that come across our desk each and every day. From local issues to legislative contact requests, from budget challenges to federal grant programs, at times it can seem insurmountable. What a fantastic opportunity to be in a position to be able to make a positive difference each and every day. You win some and you lose some, but for me, the glass is always half full.