1. What are the duties of county judge?
The county judge has a broad range of administrative and judicial duties and is often considered the county’s chief executive officer.
In that ‘CEO’ capacity, the county judge is responsible for setting a professional tone and demeanor for the entire county, both as a leader within our borders and as a face for Erath County to the rest of the state and beyond.
The specific duties and powers of the county judge are set out in the Texas constitution and various statutes and require the highest degree of diligence, preparation, and skill.
Some of the more familiar duties include things like:
Preside over commissioners court, ensuring Open Meetings Act compliance;
Prepare annual budget;
Provide general policy guidance for the emergency management program, working with the county’s emergency management coordinator;
Receive tax abatement applications for the county’s economic development program;
Serve on the county Juvenile Probation Board;
Oversee indigent health services;
Receive and canvass elections;
Serve as the authorized signatory on county contracts and agreements; and
Judicial duties as judge of the county court, which can include various things like magistrate functions, small claims, JP appeals, mental health hearings, and probate matters.
2. What are the most pressing challenges currently facing Erath County?
Erath County is growing in wonderful and exciting ways. With much of the development occurring in areas outside our cities’ limits, how our county manages and plans for that growth is an ongoing, significant challenge.
Recent estimates suggest that the county has seen around 15% population growth since the 2010 census, with somewhere around 43,000 people now calling our county home.
A drive around the county shows many projects underway. Attending regular meetings of the commissioners court, city council, and economic development boards reveals even more projects in the early planning phases.
While new development brings increased tax revenues, employment opportunities, and/or housing options, it is also placing increasing demands on infrastructure (like our roads and bridges) and on our personnel (from sanitation to law enforcement).
Meeting our growth challenges head on requires collaborative problem solving between our county departments, municipalities, other local government entities, and state agencies. It will require reviewing and updating our development rules; applying and enforcing our rules uniformly; partnering with other local agencies to identify and eliminate redundancies; and competing for appropriate grant opportunities to support our operations.
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?
First and foremost: thanks to a long history of intentional, fiscally conservative leadership, Erath County is financially strong and secure.
That said, every organization—private and public—has inefficiencies. More important than simply looking for ‘cuts’ is to continually look for ways to better use existing resources.
As taxpayers chorus frequently: ‘don’t tax me for two when one will do.’ Sharing equipment or personnel, unifying governmental offices, and developing strategic plans for services can result in meaningful intra- and inter-agency savings. We do some of this already, but we can do more.
A collection of small changes applied system-wide (like renegotiated third-party contracts, IT improvements, or moving select services in/out of house) can add up to real savings. I’ve implemented these changes in our businesses. For example, when a vendor cost was escalating, I developed a method to provide the service in-house, tailored it to our needs, and eliminated the outside expense.
Singular line item cuts will not cure complacency or inefficiency any more than pulling the flower off a dandelion eliminates the weed. Efficiency is not a destination, but a top-down, continual process of pulling wastefulness out by its roots and making fullest use of what we already have.
4. What is your stance on economic development? How do you feel Erath County can best attract such growth?
Economic development is a marathon, not a sprint, and for several years I have been running a steady pace as a founding director on the Stephenville Economic Development Authority (SEDA). SEDA directors are unpaid, appointed positions.
Since the voters created SEDA in 2015, we have held 44 formal economic development meetings and spent countless hours working outside those meetings in furtherance of development goals.
More than just attracting new growth, economic development is about proactive policies and programs that encourage stability in our tax base; help current employers retain and create good-paying jobs for our people; and expand infrastructure to support and direct future growth.
We must have a clear understanding of our heritage, strengths, weaknesses, and goals; and we must exhibit an ‘open for business’ atmosphere supporting our current employers and welcoming new opportunities that complement who we are.
As we heard from regional experts this January, one of the most important things we can do to foster economic development is to exemplify a unity of spirit and cooperation between our county, cities, chambers of commerce, and private economic development boards.
I am proud of the work we have already done and am committed to the marathon.
5. What makes you the best candidate?
To the county’s chief executive office, I bring a unique combination of education, executive experience, and proven leadership.
I am a 1995 Stephenville High graduate, with a bachelor’s degree in government, and a law degree from UT-Austin.
Since 2006, I have served as co-director of Slawson Roofing, and CEO of our rental businesses. My law practice has focused on representing businesses, property owners, and estates.
As an executive, I have first-hand, no-nonsense experience in budgeting, eliminating waste, managing personnel, implementing goals, and adapting to changing regulations and economics. I am frequently where the proverbial buck stops and our companies have thrived under my leadership.
A long-time community servant, I volunteer with numerous area organizations because I am passionate about making our home place a better place.
I’ve also been a frequent leader in addressing important local issues. Anyone following the recent tax annexation election knows two things about me:
(1)I don’t shoot from the hip—I come prepared for the job at hand; and (2)I don’t shy away from taking a firm stand for the people. This combination of education, executive experience, and strong proven leadership make me uniquely qualified to serve as your next county judge.