1. What are the duties of the County Judge?
The Texas Legislature affords broad ranging judicial and administrative functions for County Judges based largely on the size and resources of the county. In Erath County those responsibilities are almost exclusively administrative. Among other functions, the County Judge is the chief budget officer for the county, the presiding officer of the Commissioners Court, the head of Emergency Management and is ultimately responsible for certifying elections.
It is important that the County Judge be versed in a wide variety of functions - public works, emergency services, law enforcement, master planning, economic development, and most importantly building relationships. I’ve built bridges – both literally and figuratively.
Those aren’t skills I learned on a Google search. They are skills I’ve learned in three decades in the fire service and the construction industry. I’ve worked with city and county officials on projects in over a dozen Texas counties and four states - and I’ve learned with dirt under my fingernails and a sore back. Those are lessons you don’t forget.
2. What are the most pressing challenges facing Erath County?
I believe our most pressing challenge is restoring the relationships between the County and the City. For years Erath County and the City of Stephenville have regarded one another more like uncertain neighbors than strategic partners. It’s time to move on.
The skepticism has been systemic at times, infecting relationships in Fire/EMS, Law Enforcement, and Economic Development. These relationships have tangible consequences. For instance, when the county fire department was formed some 14 years ago, a simple economic decision for the county resulted in a rift between the SFD and the newly formed ECVFR.
There has been an organic movement among the rank and file to mend these relationships over the years - and it’s time for some leadership. Despite employing exceptional firefighters, the SFD remains understaffed with 7-9 firefighters per shift. But staffing isn’t just a public safety issue – it’s an economic one.
Fortunately, we have a well-equipped and well-staffed county fire station just across town. A simple mutual aid agreement could remedy this issue. A piece of paper.
We share a town. We share a vision. Maybe it’s time to just get over it.
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?
I would first encourage those efforts at cost savings already taking place in the county. For example, though each precinct must operate within the confines of its own budget, Commissioners Joe Brown (Pct. 3) and Dee Stephens (Pct. 1) have combined their resources to purchase 4 separate pieces of equipment. Certainly, each precinct must maintain an inventory based on its individual needs, but responsible leadership should promote efforts to avoid unnecessarily duplicating resources whenever possible. Not only does this save on capital outlay, but maintenance costs as well.
Similar cooperation could and should take place between Erath County and the cities of Stephenville and Dublin as well. On occasion we’ve seen collaboration on storm clean-up and other efforts, but there are undoubtedly other opportunities to partner our efforts. Frequently these cooperative efforts are driven from the bottom up; and though that speaks well of those that serve our communities, we should take this election as an opportunity to demand it of our leadership.
No candidate has previously been a County Judge. It is imperative that one learn the nuances of running the county before making uninformed claims as to how it has been run in the past.
4. What is your stance on economic development? How do you feel Erath County can best attract such growth?
Erath County is going to grow. Our challenge will be in determining what that growth should look like.
Much has been discussed about incentivizing businesses to relocate to Erath County. Most frequently financial incentives lead the discussion. Certainly, these are arrows in our quiver, but each should be carefully structured for the long-term economic benefit of the county.
Many considerations drive a company’s decision to invest in a community. Schools, cost of living, existing resources, public safety, restrictions and regulations are all important considerations. Do we treat businesses like a necessary evil or a potential partner and neighbor? Do we place onerous restrictions on them or do we help them navigate the process?
The best indicator for a potential new business is in how we treat our existing businesses. Perhaps we’ve stifled their ability to grow or vertically integrate? I think we should ask them.
I do believe in incentivizing new businesses to invest in Erath County – but not blindly. Before incentivizing new businesses, let’s first make sure we’re fostering a healthy business climate for those who have already demonstrated their commitment to Erath County. If we want to promote our business-friendly community, let’s make sure we walk the walk.
5. What makes you the best candidate?
I have honed a set of skills particularly adaptable to the office of county judge.
These skills have proven invaluable in both construction and emergency services, but that’s not where I learned them. I learned them growing up. And at their foundation is honesty.
In my family we are honest. Even when it hurts.
I don’t do drama. I don’t play silly games. And I don’t abide either. I identify problems and I call them by name. Sometimes that’s somebody’s name. Sometimes that name is a process that has failed - or has been poorly implemented.
I've taken over many failed projects for investors. They’ve been mismanaged, over budget, and behind schedule. My remedy is simple. Identify the problems and call them by name. Formulate a new plan, a new budget and new schedule - and see them through to completion.
I was disappointed to learn that many times investors and contractors knew the problem, but didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to call it by name. And if you’re not willing to identify it – you’re never going solve it.
Research. Develop winning strategies. Formulate a plan. Identify strategic partners. Recognize your problems and call them by name. It’s that simple.