The Opening General Session of the 98th Annual County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas Conference was like no other. Some 365 County Judges and Commissioners gathered in Abilene for the Oct. 5-8 event, a carefully planned conference with CDC recommendations in place due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
Opening-day speakers – addressing a socially distanced audience – quickly acknowledged the key role county officials have played during the COVID-19 crisis and then looked ahead to how the Coronavirus may affect the upcoming legislative session.
“The one thing this pandemic has shown me is the value of local control,” shared Rep. Drew Darby.
The possibility of limited capitol access coupled with probable renewed attempts to limit local control led the CJCAT leadership and invited lawmakers to a strong conclusion: Connecting with legislators on county issues has never been more important.
“If they don’t let us in to the capitol, it will be more important than ever to become engaged,” emphasized Anderson County Judge Robert Johnston, chairman of the CJCAT Legislative Committee.
“The time to do it is now,” urged Robert Duncan, former state senator and former chancellor of Texas Tech University, during his keynote address on leadership and team building. “You make sure your legislators know what your problems are.” Duncan went on to discuss the importance of respectful negotiation.
Darby, joined by fellow Rep. Stan Lambert and Rep.-elect Dr. Glenn Rogers on a legislative panel, echoed Duncan’s advice to local officials and went a step further telling County Judges and Commissioners that “our job as legislators is to listen to you.”
Lambert presented the same message: “It is important for us to understand where you are coming from and to be good listeners.”
Rogers, looking to his first term, told the audience that before he headed to Austin, he would go on a “listening tour.”
CJCAT General Counsel Jim Allison suggested county officials use creative means to communicate with their senators and representatives, including:
- Review interim charges, submit comments to committee members, and send copies of your comments to your local legislators and legislative staff.
- Review resolutions adopted by the state and regional associations, and consider adopting these resolutions at Commissioners Court meetings. Circulate the resolutions to local media and through social media postings, and send a copy to your local legislators.
“Increase your personal communications to your legislators and other community leaders in the next few months,” Allison emphasized.
The 2020 State Resolutions will be published in the January 2021 issue of County Progress. All Resolutions passed in 2020 are available for download at www.countyprogress.com.