I have many years of public service that demonstrate a proven ability to serve Hidalgo County as its next County Judge. But first, let me tell you more about what the job of the County Judge really is. A County government provides services to the Rural areas of the County and also provides the services that require a centralized government for the region. County Government structures and responsibilities are spelled out in the Texas Constitution (unlike cities who operate under a Charter), which makes Counties a functional agent of the State. Thus, Counties, unlike cities, are limited in their actions to areas of responsibility specifically spelled out in laws passed by the Legislature.
The development and management of the overall County budget is the responsibility of the Commissioners Court, as well as many other departments such as public health and human services, personnel and budget, public transportation and Emergency Medical Service. Some major areas of responsibility include:
Building and maintaining county roads –(not City, State or US Highways.)
Constructing and operating jails
Provide Law enforcement in rural areas
Operating and supporting the judicial court system
Maintaining public records such as deeds and other public documents
Developing and supporting Regional Transportation systems
Collecting property taxes
Issuing vehicle registrations and transfers
Provide Health and social services to many poor residents
Playing vital role in Economic Development to all areas of County
I have proven my ability to identify current and future problems and needs, to develop and implement appropriate and effective plans and solutions to address these needs and to develop, manage and oversee a budget that provides the necessary funds required to meet these needs while controlling costs and keeping carefully managing taxpayer money.
While serving on the Edinburg ISD Board Of Trustees, one of the most concerning problems was safety of the children. There were many fights and altercations with children and parents being afraid. We developed a program where we had two shifts of security officers on campus and on patrol at all times while children were in school. This effectively eliminated the problem of violence and fighting on campus.
I was next elected to serve as Hidalgo County Clerk. Within the first six months in office, under my leadership and directives, we had transformed the County Clerk’s Department to a modern and effective operation. We hired a full time accountant to oversee and review all the financial activity in the office. We upgraded the computer system for official records and vital statistics, and improved the efficiency and effectiveness of the reporting, scanning, searching and printing of documents and reports.
We also indexed all the vital statistics records (marriage licenses, birth and death certificates) from 1995 to the present and began the process of indexing ALL the older records that had been recorded. These are just a few of the accomplishments and successes of my leadership as the Hidalgo County Clerk. A more detailed list is available on my website in the About section.
I was next elected as Hidalgo County Judge and was immediately confronted with many serious problems facing the County. When I first took office, there was $75,000 in the General Fund. It was close to an emergency situation that required immediate action. Hiring and wages were frozen. Travel was cut by 50%, purchasing was restricted and many other measures were implemented to drastically cut spending. Within three months, the budget was stabilized.
It has always been important to me to have both a fair and effective pay scale for County employees that paid fair wages and that was also standardized and uniform. By September 1999, the County was able to begin the two year process of implementing a ‘living wage’ that kept County Employees in alignment with the Federal minimum wage.
By 2001, we were had moved to implement a pay scale system that would standardize pay rates for all employees based on education and seniority. Implementing this step and pay system for County Employees was important to me, but it was also important to so do in a way that used sound financial planning. More details and information about the County Pay Scale can be found on my website under the Issues Link.
Another very serious and urgent problem facing the County when I took office as County Judge was the over crowding of the County Jail. The Texas Commission on Jail Standards had been citing the Hidalgo County Jail for over crowding since 1992, causing the jail to operate with a conditional certificate and requiring that overcrowding be addressed by housing these inmates in the other facilities.
The County spent $2.1 Million in 1999 to house inmates in La Villa and other jails around the State. The expected cost of housing these inmates was expected to reach $3.5 to $4 Million by the end of 2000. In order to pay the $48 Million to build the jail, the County raised taxes 5 cents per $100 of valuation in 2000, for the tax year 2001. The new jail would initially house 1200 inmates, with infrastructure for expansion to 2,000 beds.
I was determined to keep the tax increase low as taxes among school districts had also been increased. With the increase in taxes within the school districts, we wanted to keep ours as low as possible.
I am still very committed to maintaining a conservative tax plan and to do what needs to be done to reduce County taxes in an effort to keep county taxes low and allow any increases that do occur to be available to school districts for education without causing an additional tax burden on our citizens. More on Taxes and Budget can be found on the Issues Link on my website.
During my four year tenure as County Judge I was able to accomplish many other things as I was a full time County Judge and if elected again, will remain a full time judge. A few of my many accomplishments include: building a new county jail, building a new Juvenile Detention Center, a new Adult Restitution Center, hiring additional deputies to patrol the rural areas of the county with additional vehicles, reduced unemployment by developing a Work Development Board, building a Veteran’s Cemetery and Retirement Home , enforcing zoning requirements for infrastructure needs in colonias, standardizing employee pay and benefits, creating the Hidalgo County Health Services District to be partially funded by proceeds from the tobacco industry lawsuit, aggressively working to attract new business and industry to Hidalgo County, and many other significant accomplishments.
Much of this can be seen on my website. But the important part to remember or realize from all of this is that I have worked hard, set ambitious and significant goals, accomplished what I said I was going to do while overseeing and maintaining a fiscally sound budget. This is who I am and what you can count on from me as your next Hidalgo County Judge.
January 19, 2017