County Judge Lonnie Hunt, Newly Elected Officer, North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association
It’s an honor to join the team of officers for the North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association. I appreciate the confidence placed in me, and I look forward to working with the other officers and members to address issues of common concern to our commissioners and judges.
I am currently in the home stretch of my first term as Houston County judge, and I am blessed to be unopposed for a second term. A lifelong East Texan, I’ve lived in Crockett for the past 35 years and grew up in the Polk County town of Corrigan. I am a licensed insurance agent, but most of my career has been spent as a radio broadcaster, and, yes, I still do a morning radio show on KIVY in Crockett.
I have two grown daughters – one married (Cari) and one available (Leslie). I also have a five-year-old granddaughter (Lexi), and a special dachshund named Oscar. Oscar and I have been through a great deal together. Five days prior to my 2006 election, we lost my wife, Linda, to pancreatic cancer. Oscar and I had the unique experience of living in the nursing home with her for eight months.
I believe you can have all the education and experience in the world, but the two most important qualifications for serving in public office are: (1) old-fashioned common sense, and (2) the ability to relate to people and put yourself in their shoes.
I feel like I have the best job in the world because I work for the best people in the world. I hope you feel the same way about your job and your constituents. I am also blessed to work with four outstanding commissioners. We don’t always agree on everything, but we support each other and work together as a team.
The North & East Region is made up of 69 counties. While all are unique, we share many common challenges and concerns. To be successful, we must work together, learn from each other, and draw on each other’s strengths.
Over the past few years, county officials have been successful in shining the spotlight on unfunded mandates. But we cannot afford to rest. With the state facing a large budget deficit, legislators will be under more pressure than ever to cut state spending, and that will increase the temptation for them to pass more unfunded mandates down to local governments.
Many of our counties have lost significant revenue due to an inequity in the way oil and gas properties are valued. We need to make every legislator aware that this is also costing the State of Texas dearly, too. Because of the way Texas finances public education, when the oil and gas properties pay less than their fair share of property taxes, the state has to make up the lost revenue to our school districts. Thus, for every dollar we lose in county taxes, the state loses close to three dollars.
Transportation is always a hot-button issue. And every 10 years, so is redistricting. Guess what? Next year is a redistricting year, and TxDOT is also up for Sunset Review (again). If ever there was a time for you to get involved in the process, this is it.
Since we are so dependent on the Legislature, it is imperative that we develop and maintain a good relationship with our state representatives and senators. Don’t make the mistake of waiting until you really need them to begin developing that relationship. And don’t forget about their staff members. Staffs control access and often wield considerable influence.
We’re all in this together. We need all 69 judges and 276 commissioners in the North & East Region to take an active role in your Association. This is an excellent organization that has a great deal to offer its members. But like anything else, the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it.