1. What are the duties of a county commissioner?
Collectively the commissioners and county judge form the Commissioners Court, the county’s governing body, with each commissioner representing one of four precincts. Most people associate a county commissioner’s job with the building and maintaining of county roads and bridges. This is accurate, however from 7 years of commissioner experience, I can tell you there are many other equally important duties associated with the position, including adopting the county tax rate and county budget annually, setting salaries and budgets for elected officials, outlining and approving all expenditures for the many departments under the direct control of the court, setting employment and benefit policies for county employees, filling elected and appointed county vacancies, and establishing the administrative duties and funding of the Sheriff’s Department, the county jail, and establishing partial funding for volunteer fire departments.
2. What are the most pressing challenges currently facing Erath County?
We must maintain the financial stability we have experienced during my tenure while holding or lowering the tax rate. As a result, I believe county growth (both urban and rural) is the most pressing challenge, with a focus on housing in general and specifically the amount of development in the county and the number of sub-divisions affects all residents. This growth requires experience in continually updating the rules for our county relating to water studies, state required septic rules, plats, etc.
3. You are faced with a need to cut expenses. What adjustments do you feel could make the greatest difference (cost savings) for the county?
We focus on the practical use of personnel and equipment, including joint purchases and projects. In addition, we could operate on a county-wide 10 hour, 4 day work week and use part time labor to utilize equipment and personnel more efficiently, which could lower labor costs, as we have seen in Precinct 2. Sometimes well trained personnel on overtime prove very effective because of their great work ethic. Our Precinct 2 employees take pride in our accomplishments, and I, too, am very proud of what we have accomplished, but I do understand that with me it was just a plan, but with this group of employees and the great people in this precinct it is becoming a reality.
4. How do you feel about the current condition of roads and bridges within your precinct?
The roads and bridges are in good shape following the repairs we have steadily made over the past 7 years. In spite of the flooding experienced in 2015 and 2016, the roads of Precinct 2 are equal to or better than roads in adjoining counties. Progress has been slow but steady for 7 years. Through careful budget management, the money is there to do things we couldn’t do when I first became commissioner of Precinct 2, because we had a system in precinct 2, we were able to report to FEMA and all work related to FEMA due to the floods is completed, and we required minimal outside help. Roads always need to be worked on, so there is no rest. All in all things are good, but we have a long way to go.
5. What makes you the best candidate?
Within the first few months of becoming a County Commissioner for Precinct 2 in 2011, I implemented a 10 hour day, 4 day work week for precinct employees and began utilizing part time labor, lowering labor cost and increasing employee productivity. I have implemented a computer system unique to Precinct 2 for the purpose of logging and tracking county road inspection and improvement data, which allowed us to quickly provide information to FEMA following the most recent flooding. During the past 7 years, we have rebuilt two maintainers and one loader – versus replacing with new – allowing 80% savings to be applied to other projects.
Serving as a county commissioner has been a wonderfully complex experience involving laughter, tears, satisfaction, sleepless nights, life, death and joy – but mostly joy if you love people and have a great rapport with your employees. As commissioner, I have organized and operated the precinct from a business perspective, using county resources responsibly and exhibiting good fiscal stewardship. To continue to improve Precinct 2, I ask for your vote on March 6. Herbert Brown/(254) 434-3454