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 learned?
As President Harry Truman said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” A focus on results and outcomes is always more productive than getting caught up in who is getting the credit or getting their name in the local paper. As I always remind people, it only takes three votes to make big decisions on the Commissioners Court, so collaboration is critical.
To that end, I would also add how important it is to be willing to work across the aisle and find areas of compromise. You do not need to always agree with someone in order to find areas of mutual agreement and progress.
What is the best way for members of Commissioners Court to connect with other officials in the courthouse?
Relationships are built over time, but they don’t always require heavy lifting or a time-intensive commitment. One way to connect with other officials is to invite them to participate in events you are hosting in the community. For example, my office hosts an annual Back to School event, and we have worked closely with our tax assessor’s office to serve as a recruitment hub for the event. This is just one way we engage other elected officials to further a partnership and do work in the community. Of course, there is also nothing wrong with the “old school” approach of just stopping in to say hello during office hours. Taking a few minutes to visit with a colleague is a worthwhile investment that always pays off.
How do you connect with your constituents?
As Tarrant County continues to grow rapidly, communication with constituents through multiple outlets is critical. For years, I have published a quarterly newsletter (both an email version and printed copied) that provide updates, resources, and helpful contacts for our constituents. I have also hosted an annual “Senior Synergy” Expo, which is a chance for our senior citizens and caretakers to learn about resources and healthy lifestyle habits. Social media is also a valuable resource in reaching various segments of the population. Additionally, I give out my cell phone number to media outlets, which my staff just loves! Accessibility, coupled with proactive communication, is a recipe for success.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far as County Judge, and how did you navigate that challenge?
Unfortunately, many county officials will share the same answer to this question: The COVID-19 pandemic has been unlike any other challenge we have ever faced. From day one of the pandemic response, I chose to take a collaborative approach, even though much of the emergency management authority falls under the County Judge during a disaster. I began holding daily and weekly calls with stakeholders – hospitals, city leaders, schools, and others – to make sure my office was making decisions based on real-time information and to ensure that our partners had the resources they needed to lead their organizations.
In closing, what has been your most rewarding experience thus far?
This is tough to narrow down, but any time we see a project through to the finish line is extremely rewarding. If you’ve worked in government at all, you know how long infrastructure, economic development, or other types of projects can take to complete. Whenever I am able to “cut the ribbon” on a new road, building, or other type of project, it is very gratifying, as I know it has benefited the community and was completed with strong fiscal stewardship.
Another rewarding experience happens for me every month during our Commissioners Court meeting when we recognize employees for achieving employment tenure milestones. I take the time to talk to some of our longest-serving employees and hear about their experiences working for Tarrant County. I am always struck by their commitment to public service and their love of Tarrant County, as both an employer and a place to live. It makes me so proud of our county.