As hundreds of new and returning county officials take the oath of office this month, dozens of issues wait to be tackled including local, state and national concerns.
When it comes to addressing the wide spectrum of topics, the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas is an invaluable resource. The purpose of the statewide organization is to promote the interests of county government through continuing education and active participation in governmental affairs.
With 254 counties in Texas, there are 1,270 active members of the Association four county commissioners and one county judge from each county.
The County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas is divided into three regional associations, with several sub-groups within the regional organizations. The three regional groups are:
North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association with 68 counties;
South Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association with 68 counties; and
West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association with 118 counties.
The Deep East Texas County Commissioners and Judges Association is a sub-group of North & East Texas, made up of 15 counties from far East Texas.
On the opposite side of the state, the Far West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association is made up of the western-most counties, with a total membership of 34.
Also a part of the West Texas group, the Panhandle County Judges and Commissioners Association has 31 member counties.
Each regional association and sub-group has elected officers. Though all groups work to promote good county government, some issues are more pertinent to particular groups or parts of the state, thus the divisions.
For instance, many counties in the western part of the state do not have bridges to maintain. For commissioners in the eastern half of the state, bridge repair can be a constant concern. Colonias are a big problem for border counties in southern Texas, affecting, among other things, indigent health care and education; however, colonias are not a burning issue on the High Plains.
Regional associations are represented on the Executive Board of the State Association.
County Progress Magazine
As the official publication of the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas, County Progress was authorized by the organizations constitution of 1923. The magazine covers all 254 Texas counties and is the only publication in Texas and one of the few in the country specially devoted to county judges and county commissioners.
The founder of County Progress was Wichita County Judge B.D. Sartin. The first issue of the magazine was published in March of 1924.
After Sartin was elected district judge, he missed several months of publication during the early 1930s, and the magazine was sold to Wendell Mayes and Ruel McDaniel, who moved the publication to Brownwood.
John Blake became associated with the magazine soon after Mayes and McDaniel, and County Progress has been published every month since.
Clark Coursey was hired as editor of County Progress in 1941, a position he held until his death in 1978. Coursey bought a half-interest in the magazine in the 1940s and later purchased the entire publication.
After Courseys death, his wife, Melba, headed the magazine for about 18 months before turning over operations to their sons, Pat and Sam, who had been working with the magazine.
The Coursey brothers published the magazine until 1996, when it was bought by H.C. Zachry, president of Zachry Associates, and operations were moved to Abilene.
Julie Anderson serves as editor, and Amy Brittain manages all advertising. Becky Frost runs the business side of the publication. Additional staff members include reporter Tammy Wishard and designer Katie Kaufman.
All county judges and commissioners receive a copy of County Progress each month through membership in the Association.
Editorial content includes articles on current issues, continuing education information, a calendar of upcoming events and educational opportunities, a report from the Associations general counsel, and a monthly column written by the Association president.
Information also is available on the magazines Web site, countyprogress.com.
Each county receives a complimentary copy of the Texas County Directory, a bi-yearly reference that includes the name, address and phone number of every elected county official in Texas, along with fax numbers, e-mail addresses and Web site references.
The directory is published every other January and includes updates from the November elections.
For the past 19 years, the Association has retained a general counsel to expand its efforts to support strong county government. Jim Allison of Allison, Bass & Associates, L.L.P., in Austin fulfills this role.
As a former county attorney and assistant attorney general, Allison understands county government firsthand. The primary purpose of his work is to increase the effectiveness of the Association in the legislative process. With a permanent staff to monitor legislative issues, the Association has earned recognition as an advocate for commissioners courts and county government.
Allisons services also include free telephone consultation, legal briefs and organizational matters, such as preparing and revising contracts and other legal documents and presentations at education conferences.
The general counsel also provides administrative support for continuing education transcripts and informational services through monthly columns in County Progress .
CURRICULUM 2000 PROGRAM
The Curriculum 2000 Program was adopted by the membership of the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas (CJCAT) in October 1992 to provide curriculum for an advanced study of county government by county commissioners. While state law only requires 16 hours per year of continuing education, the Curriculum 2000 Program provides for certification upon completion of a 64-hour course of study as follows:
Phase I Orientation – 16 hours
Phase II Basics – 16 hours
Phase III and IV Electives – 32 hours
Upon completion of the 64-hour curriculum, a county commissioner will receive a certificate of achievement from the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas.
Phase I Orientation courses are currently offered at the LBJ School of Public Affairs Seminar for Newly Elected County Judges and Commissioners. Attendance at this seminar has traditionally been limited and restricted to new judges and commissioners. Since it is not feasible to require experienced county commissioners to attend the LBJ Orientation Seminar, any county commissioner who assumed office prior to Jan. 1, 1995, may substitute 16 hours of other approved instruction for the orientation course.
Phase II County Government Basics includes instruction concerning the duties and responsibilities of all county officers and departments. Phase III and IV include advanced instruction in the functions of county government. These courses are offered at the annual County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas regional and state conferences and the annual V.G. Young Institute of County Government Continuing Education Conference.
Credit for Curriculum 2000 courses will only be awarded once to each commissioner for the 64-hour Curriculum 2000 certification.
For more information, contact Bell County Commissioner Richard Cortese, chair of the CJCAT Education Committee.
Julie Anderson, Editor