1. What are the duties of county judge?
The Erath County Judge is the presiding officer of the Commissioners Court. The Judge provides that their meetings are open to the public and therefore, are held as “open” meetings. As the county’s chief-executive officer, the Judge is responsible for working with the four county commissioners to manage county business in a growing county with small- town values. Each member of the Commissioners Court has one vote on issues that are brought before the Court. Other duties: Represents the county in many administrative functions, including various duties regarding elections (may order elections, certify elections results, allow for bilingual election materials, and may certify candidates eligible for a runoff election).
Serves as budget officer, with various responsibilities regarding financial matters, including preparing tax revenue estimates, filing of the proposed and approved budgets, filing reports of money collected by the county, approving a process for independent audit(s), and setting fees for court-appointed attorneys and physicians. .
Serves as head of emergency management for the County.
The Erath County Judge does NOT have judicial duties, such as presiding over misdemeanor criminal and small civil cases, probate matters, or appeals from the Justice of the Peace Courts.
2. What are the most pressing challenges currently facing Erath County?
The investigation(s) of the Sheriff’s Office: Erath County must face and answer the questions surrounding the investigations of the Sheriff’s Office. It has been since December 2017, and many unanswered questions remain regarding the results of the TCOLE (Licensing Agency) and/or the AG (Attorney General’s Office) investigation that was being conducted. If criminal charges are being pursued, that should be made clear; if no criminal charges are pending, then making the results public can help the County to regain the trust of its’ citizens and can let old wounds begin to heal.
County/City/Tarleton partnerships: We must continue to work with Stephenville, Dublin and Tarleton to make the absolute best use of our respective resources, and assist each other to deliver the best services possible. Some county-wide partnerships are already in place and may include partnerships in Fire Protection, EMS Services, and Animal Control. Development (i.e. sub divisions) that crosses jurisdictional boundaries will also need to be governed by a joint effort or partnership.
Compensation/Benefits: Most of an organizations’ resources go to compensate its’ employees. A competitive benefits package will allow the County to not only train, but retain the best employees.
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?
The need to cut expenses should be shared by all the Departments in your organization, if at all possible. Unless you have a Department that the Commissioners Court agrees is no longer necessary for the delivery of county services and could be eliminated, no single Department should be asked to make all the cuts.
EXAMPLE: If you must cut 5%, you make a plan for all Departments to participate. Each Department Head is asked to make two Department Budget proposals to the Commissioner’s Court. One proposal is to cut its’ budget by 3%, the other proposal is to cut its’ budget by 6%. The Department Heads identify and suggest the cuts to their own Department. Under this scenario, the Court could then pick and choose recommended cuts until the budget balances.
Adjustments made in this manner allow all Departments to provide input, while at the same time they can determine how to continue delivering the same level of services. Organizational budget cuts are best digested if they involve all the leaders of the organization. A County Judges’ role within this organization is to Govern, not to Rule. Effective governing requires that you implement processes that involve your whole organization.
4. What is your stance on economic development? How do you feel Erath County can best attract such growth?
Economic development thrives in the most favorable environment. If neighboring counties offer tax or other incentives that our county is not willing to offer, then our county loses out. Sometimes, there are state/federal incentives that can help growth, i.e. wind energy, recycling ventures. One recent example, Wind Energy came into our county and provided a huge boost to our local economy (apartment/hotel rentals, restaurants, trucking and other services). When completed, the infrastructure and its resulting production eventually go into the local tax base, benefitting the County.
Economic development can have both positive and negative effects. Local control (regulations) can help both to deter undesirable businesses and to attract businesses that shed a positive light on our county, employ our residents, provide competitive wages and become fixtures in our communities.
Attracting growth is a game that County leaders should all know how to play...but it takes time and hard work to become good at it. We have to identify key players including local bankers, utility companies, land companies, and any service providers that may play a role in providing incentives for new business. We must also monitor businesses that are growing, so we can keep them in our County.
5. What makes you the best candidate?
In 30+ years of working in the public sector you learn that you cannot achieve success without teamwork. The County Judge that is elected will be “given” a primary team of four Commissioners, but also a secondary team that includes all the elected officials, both groups serving the same constituents. “The smaller team governs; the larger team conducts daily business and provides customer service. Rarely does a government leader get to “choose” their work group. They must serve with the ream they inherit by bringing them together, governing from the center, ensuring that everyone is treated fair and equitably. This allows for maximum opportunities for everyone to provide ideas and input into the project(s) at hand.
Elected Officials aren’t necessarily good team players. I want a County Judge that understands there is no room for egos, political affiliations or personal agendas in the courthouse. You must choose wisely. I have been part of teams that have accomplished great things. In the end, it is the County Judge who presides over the meetings and announces the decisions to which county residents will be held. If you want a public servant; I am your best candidate.