When did you take office?
Jan. 1, 2015
As “they” say, hindsight is 20/20, As you look back on your years of service, what are some of the most valuable lessons you have learned?
Everyone is important, from the Commissioners and elected officials to the janitors/maintenance people, and they should be treated that way. Keep everyone informed of what is going on, good or bad, so they can take credit for the good and help to overcome the bad. Teamwork and trust are two lessons that make for a great workplace.
What is the best way for members of Commissioners Court to connect with other officials in the courthouse?
We have at least one annual meeting a year that is kind of a “state of the county” presentation. All elected officials and department heads are invited, and we try to make it a motivating meeting wherein all can visit and participate.
My human resources (HR) department is constantly involving everyone in “get healthy” contests and other similar matters trying to make it fun and get people involved. My HR director makes it part of her job to visit all departments on a regular basis and thus keeps them and me and the Commissioners Court informed on what is transpiring around the county.
I also keep my Commissioners informed on matters that affect their areas of the county and ask them to take part in as much as they can, and they do.
How do you connect with your constituents?
I maintain an open-door policy for county personnel and the public. I try to maintain a very good relationship with the press and keep them informed on matters the citizens should know about.
We have formed an economic development corporation on which I serve as the chair. I work alongside the mayors of our six cities and other business leaders. We have quarterly meetings open to the public; in addition, we have regular discussions on matters of importance in the county and ways to improve the county and cities.
I make myself available to speak at chamber, rotary, city council, and other organizations. I also have no problem giving out my cell number to my constituents, and as a result, I receive a lot of calls.
I do not do Facebook, Twitter, or other social media. While it may be informative, I do not have the patience or time to waste on that 10 percent of the people who can make the rest of the conversations intolerable.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far, and how did you navigate that challenge?
There are two. COVID was the biggest challenge. We have now tried to minimize the relevance of it and are operating as before. My emergency management coordinator and public health director met on a weekly and sometimes daily basis to figure out how to guide the county through the pandemic. We had weekly calls with the press. Besides my citizen’s health, I had great concern for the businesses in the county. We followed the governor’s orders.
The biggest obstacle to us was trying to figure out who on the national stage was correct. COVID became way too political in Washington, D.C., and therefore the mixed messages for proper treatments were hard to sort out. Trusting and following the federal directions was sometimes difficult. We had a local doctor who had a treatment plan that was very successful but not recognized by the people in D.C. We tried to encourage treatment from his and other local doctors’ plans and had success with those who followed them. A lot of what they did is now being recognized. Interestingly enough, one of the doctor’s initial treatments included all over-the-counter meds, and to my knowledge, he never lost a patient.
Subdivision growth is also a very large challenge. We currently have as many as 17,000 to 20,000 residential lots in some form of being developed. My Commissioners have come up with a very good set of subdivision regulations, and they follow them. Our goal is to have quality subdivisions, and so far it seems to work very well.
In closing, what has been your most rewarding experience thus far?
My goal was to leave the county better than when I got here. When I came into office, I was fortunate to have a very successful predecessor who left me in a good situation.
My biggest reward is being able to work with the employees of the county, and I am proud of the successes they have all accomplished. I enjoy people who take pride in their work, as they are generally happier, more productive, and less likely to look elsewhere for work.
We have also built a new annex, doubled the size of the jail, bought or built seven or more buildings, and purchased most of the land around the courthouse/annex in anticipation for growth. We have accomplished all of that, and our fund balance is almost double what it was when I came in. I think I will leave the county in better shape than when I got here. Goal accomplished.