What do you look for in an elected official? Yeah, I know, most people have a negative impression of politicians, which, for the most part, is understandable. Hardly a day goes by that we don’t hear about corruption in some of the highest echelons of the executive, legislative or judicial corridors of power.
From the presidency on down, irrespective of political party, the people are often disappointed, if not utterly shocked, by the lack of ethics and/or morals of those entrusted with the power to govern. Political venality has gotten so pervasive that many people have lost faith in the system because, as far as they’re concerned, “they’re all the same.”
Let’s face it; we all feel that way from time to time. That’s why it’s such pleasure to write articles about people who not only perform their duties with the utmost integrity, but they raise the bar for others who would run for office.
One such person is Andy Eads, who’s starting his third four-year term as Denton County Commissioner, Precinct 4.
As one of five elected members of the Commissioners Court, (Denton County Judge Mary Horn presides and also has a vote) Andy has, among many other admirable traits, been fiscally conservative with taxpayers’ money. As the administrative governing entity of the county, one of the responsibilities the Judge and 4 Commissioners have is balancing the budget and setting the tax rate.
The Commish stopped over for an interview recently. “Our budget has to be adopted by the end of each fiscal year, which is October 1,” he said. “There are 254 counties in Texas and we are all pretty much governed the same. We start with budgets submitted to us by other officeholders who illustrate whether or not it will be a lean year.
“Our budget office will present a draft for us to review, also giving us information on what our taxes are going to be, based on appraisals. Then we get an idea of what the budget impact will be, based on info submitted. Then we hold public hearings and all residents are invited to attend. We also have workshops throughout the summer. The Sheriff’s office, Medical Examiner, Constables, etc., submit detailed justifications, which we look at very carefully. In addition, we examine the work flows to determine the need. Everything is performance-based. Each department fills out a performance measure and they have to justify their existing operations and any additional requests. This includes salaries.
We have final say about budget adoption and staffing. Salaries are increased through the county as a Cost of Living upgrade, and we try to be competitive with other counties.
“After we develop a proposed budget, all those officeholders or department heads that may be dissatisfied, have an opportunity to appeal to the Commissioner’s Court. We try to stick as close as we can to our budget, and we always vote in public. This is a transparent meeting,” he added.
By the way, in case you’re not interested in knowing how the sausage is made, here’s the good news; the tax rate has been slightly lowered to .272200. “We were able to lower it because of the population growth, resulting in new homes and commercial enterprises,” the commissioner said proudly. He talked about the opening of a new juvenile center in Denton and a new jail with over 300 beds. Hence, we have a tax decrease despite the increase in services that will be required. Not bad huh?
Each of the commissioners have both countywide and precinct responsibilities, including for construction and maintenance of county roads within their precincts. They have offices at the Courthouse-On-The-Square, 110 West Hickory Street in Denton. Other jobs they have include appointing county officials and hiring personnel; establishing voting precincts, appointing precinct judges and calling county bond elections; maintaining and improving county facilities; providing for veterans assistance and providing for data service and archival needs of the county.
I asked Commissioner Eads about the ongoing construction in the area. “I realize that Denton County has been suffering from ‘orange cone fatigue’ because there is so much construction going on at once,” he said lamentably. “It wasn’t planned that way, because some projects get delayed and some advanced. So, in a perfect world, it would be nice if it was very sequential, but that’s not how it goes. In the county, we took the lead and we built the Lantana curve by Bartonville. We built the curve now, inasmuch as it would be cheaper to do it now instead of in the future, because of inflation. We had it built according to the state standards and because of that we are ahead of the game, now that the large Kroger on FM407 is in development. This occurred because the county took the lead. And then we came in and did the other two segments. You do what you can when you can.” We talked about the massive new Kroger, within the Bartonville city limits, which will be 124,000 square feet. It is expected to be completed in the spring of 2015.
Eads grew up in Lewisville and worked for the town of Addison for a few years. One day, he was given a project; collect photos of the town for their archives. His supervisor told him there was probably a dozen or more old pictures of Addison that they’d like to have him retrieve for posterity. About 3000 pictures later, along with oral histories gathered by traveling all over Texas and meeting with older residents, some of whom had attics filled with memorabilia, he was able to put together a photo-filled book entitled, “Addison, Texas, a Pictorial History.” A few years later, he moved to Flower Mound and became a regular at civic and charitable events. A fifth generation Denton County resident, Andy said he has always had a love of history.
When he was 10, his grandmother died and it inspired him to build his family tree. A few years later, while in high school, he started using a tape recorder to interview his aunts and uncles about family history. As a result, he has several audio history tapes of those interviews that he’s saving for his children. He went on to interview his wife Ginger’s family as well, to add those audio history tapes to the family collection. “I wanted to preserve everything that’s breathing, because when somebody dies, a library dies,” he said.
One of the qualities I admire about Andy is his commitment to the community, as evidenced by his involvement in numerous business and charitable causes. His selfless devotion to the safety and security of those in need makes him one of the all-time good guys in our very fortunate orbit. There is so much more I could write about this very interesting and introspective community leader. However, due to space limitations, I’ll just conclude with my gratitude toward him for being a superb role model for others who may aspire to elective office.