My entire career has been in public safety. I worked in the Fire Service for 25 years, and I spent the last seven years as the Fire Chief and Emergency Management Coordinator for the City of Tyler. I then served as the General Manager for East Texas Medical Center EMS, serving 15 counties, including Smith. During my time in leadership of these fine organizations, I oversaw multi-million dollar budgets and led hundreds of employees. I even held a Peace Officer’s License to enable me to investigate fires.
During my time as Fire Chief, I had the unique opportunity to be part of the push to lower the ISO rating for the City of Tyler. The Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating directly affects the Homeowner’s Insurance rate in a community. We were successful and resulting in the City of Tyler rating dropping from a 3 to a 2. This collectively saved City of Tyler homeowners more than $1,000,000 per year.
The primary job of the Commissioners Court is to support the county’s many elected officials—the majority of whom are involved in law enforcement and public safety. Smith County citizens deserve to feel safe in their homes and confident that their first responders are just a phone call away. I am committed to supporting those who have dedicated their careers to protecting us.
We were able to show our support for law enforcement this past year by making some necessary salary adjustments during the budget cycle. I am so proud to support our Law Enforcement.
Our trust in our elected officials depends on government transparency. Smith County government does a good job with transparency, but there will always be opportunities to do more. Elected officials work for their constituents—it’s not the other way around. The voters deserve the entire story.
I am committed to a transparent, open government relationship with the citizens of Smith County. I realize that decisions must be made, and that you can’t always please everyone. But in my experience, I have found that an open, honest dialogue will always lead to better outcomes.
Local governments—including Smith County—require tax dollars to function. These are dollars that you and I both pay. I take the responsibility of spending these tax dollars very seriously. Strategic planning is paramount in the budget process. Expenditures must be vetted fully before tax dollars are spent.
We have a reserve fund and general fund. The reserve fund has a 25% minimum requirement which keeps a substantial amount for catastrophic events, and for grant matches like a previous TxDOT grant for major thoroughfares in the County.The General Fund budget is for recurring expenses, the working County budget.
My commitment to the voters is to always take a conservative approach to spending, digging deep to consider all aspects of every situation before simply writing a check.
The Commissioner's Court proposed a $39.5 million Phase 1 road bond in 2017. The citizens spoke, and it passed with 73% of the vote. We presented Phase 2 of the road bond this past year and it passed with approximately 2 to 1 voting in favor. Our goal is to continue increasing funding into the Road and Bridge Department to a sufficient level so that no more road bond elections are necessary. This is always an important issue to the citizens of our County. Roads and infrastructure are a quality-of-life issue to residents and are one of the keys to further development and growth.
A large portion of Smith County Precinct 1 is in the City of Tyler. I believe County and City government must work together. Each entity has certain skillsets that would benefit both groups when partnering. Purchasing benefits and legislative power are just two of many advantages to working as partners.
We drive the same roads, shop the same stores and eat at the same restaurants. We share in the benefits of growth. We must continue to work together as we build this incredible community that we are blessed to live in. Fostering relationships, new and old, is a key component to a successful future.
I am a firm believer that if it is not written down, it often does not get done. A large portion of my public safety career has been dedicated to planning. Budgets and emergency management require extensive planning.
A strategic approach can take an enormous amount of information, whittle it down and plug it into an organized system that is easily communicated. I actually assist other organizations with their strategic planning in my current position with Core Insights.
Smith County has done quite a bit of strategic planning, but there are opportunities to accomplish much more.
There is a strong chance that you know or know of someone who is dealing with a mental health issue. This is so prevalent in society and yes, even in Smith County. In fact, out of the top twenty most populous counties in Texas, Smith County has the highest suicide rate. I have been involved with the Smith County Behavioral Health Leadership Team since inception several years ago. We have recognized and addressed many issues but still have a long way to go to reach our vision.
On any given day, there are 100-150 inmates in the County Jail who are dealing with mental illness and should not be there. Our first responders and hospital emergency department personnel spend a lot of their time attempting to address the needs of these patients. The jail and the emergency rooms are not the answer. We must continue to work with our mental health community to give these patients and their families the proper care they need.