As you look back on your years of service, what are some of the most valuable lessons you learned?
Even though the obvious makes perfect sense, is practical, and is the least costly, don’t assume the rest of the Commissioners Court (or even the majority) will support it. All the routine and procedural matters will be unified while the new substantial/impactful matters will come with five different ideas/opinions if not more. Try to leave your differences and frustrations at the table (very difficult). Listen to your constituents including your critics to acquire the real heartbeat of your county; view most all issues from their prospective. Do not let one individual or small group over-influence you, and be wary of those close who want to undermine you.
Remember, as County Judge you don’t control the agenda. You preside over and conduct the meetings and try to keep the court out of hot water, which is often difficult.
As County Judge, you are the emergency management director. This means that in your county, the buck stops with you! If needed, select an emergency management coordinator (EMC) who is not an elected official or an employee of an elected official (other than you), but a trusted and organized person capable of delegating duties and detailed in organization. The EMC answers only to you. Emergency management is a daunting task and easily slips through the cracks. The Texas Association of Counties (TAC) listserv is your resource for advice and ideas on handling challenging issues. Do not forget about the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas and TAC, for they are experts in county administration and law, and they will lead you in the proper direction. Keep the relevant codes handy at all times.
What is the best way for members of Commissioners Court to connect with other officials in the courthouse?
Personal visits, and group or individual emails. There are those who you may visit daily out of necessity, but make a little time for the others occasionally just to say, “Hello! How are things going?”
How do you connect with your constituents?
I give programs about county government and important issues occasionally to the various service clubs and other organizations in the county, and I attend various meetings and different awards banquets, church functions, and the like. Also, I have been known to write guest columns on different subject matters, and I usually give a State of the County letter to the public in January or February of each year which is printed in the local publications. I will give an occasional local radio and/or TV interview when requested. Other than that, I take the time to visit at the Quick Stop, grocery store, and other such places. I only post on or monitor social media during campaign years.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far, and how did you navigate that challenge?
These sudden emergency matters like the fires of 2011, floods of 2012, H1N1, Ebola, floods of 2015 and 2016, droughts in between, now the coronavirus and all its variants. For the latter, navigation was weekly updates to the public with my local colleagues, a good capable EMC and local health authority, calm resolve, and encouragement to the public to follow recommendations as reasonably as possible and to hold steadfast. I believe COVID-19, like the flus, will rear its head periodically and be with us from now on. Those are the things that initially come to mind. However, an even bigger challenge is dealing with the different personalities and their conflicts, personal agendas, jealousies, position jockeys, credit seekers, water carriers, and such; these pose a much more difficult challenge (of which I have not mastered).
What has been your most rewarding experience thus far?
Well, this is a tough question to answer for there have been many rewarding experiences. From a Commissioner’s position, a finished road project; the improvement made the road unrecognizable and users very happy. Or the assistance of getting a constituent to the proper agency or higher official to meet a need. As a County Judge: helping someone acquire a lost or destroyed vehicle title; having success helping a juvenile get back on the proper path; reliving old-time stories of families and friends at the conclusion of a probate hearing; getting the help a mixed-up person needed in an emergency mental health matter. I have relished the judicial duties of the County Judge as they are in Young County. It has been challenging, demanding, and time-consuming, but also rewarding…likewise for the office of Commissioner (although the two offices are quite different). With either office, it is the service to someone that takes a little of the load and worry off their shoulders that is the reward.