As Commissioner of District 2 entering my final year in office, I would like to express my opinion on public service in general and describe my experience as an elected official.
I was elected to this office in November 1978 and was officially sworn in Jan. 1, 1979. I have had the privilege and responsibility of representing this area since that date.
District 2 consists of nearly 500,000 people. It includes the Northeast sector of Dallas, including Lakewood, Casa Linda, Casa View and Lake Highlands – more than 240,000 citizens. Also included is the City of Garland, Mesquite Rowlett, Sachse and Sunnyvale. The 1990 census indicated that District 2 was the fastest-growing area of all the Commissioners’ districts.
Many do not realize that Dallas County contains 32 cities. Often people confuse the job of the Commissioners Court with the role of City Council members and do not differentiate between the roles played or services provided by the two different entities.
Cities are municipal corporations, either general law or home rule types with a charter. Dallas County was created in 1846 by the Texas legislature as a political subdivision of the State of Texas.
Like Texas’ other 253 counties, it is governed by a five-member Commissioners Court, which carries out the duties and responsibilities the state delegates.
In serving Dallas county, the state’s second most populous county, my job is a full-time administrative position. The Commissioners adopt the County budget and set the tax rate to raise revenue for county services required by state law. These services include human welfare, transportation, and civil and criminal justice.
We hold the purse strings in allocating staff, determining salaries and deciding line items for all county administrative departments and the departments headed by more than 100 elected County officials.
The Commissioners also approve the budget and set the tax rate for Parkland Hospital District, created in 1954 with voter approval to provide medical care for the indigent.
As your Commissioner, I have had the opportunity to serve in top leadership roles in the major areas of county service. For more than 10 years, I have served as a member and as chair of the Regional Transportation Council. This federally mandated group predicted the need for State Highway 190-E extension.
I currently serve on the NCTCOG Air Carrier Policy committee, which will determine within the next year the need for and location of the next regional airport. For 14 years, I have chaired the Dallas County Civil Service Commission, which hears grievances and applies personnel policies for many of our 5,200 employees.
As Chairman of the Public Health Advisory committee, I lead discussions on Learning to Give Becomes a Way of Life on epidemics, diseases and health matters with representatives of all Dallas County cities. I recently spearheaded a study that led to improvements in the handling of mentally ill and challenged inmates in the overcrowded county jail system.
Speaking of public service in general, one has to have a great interest in the well-being of the community, state and nation as a whole; derive satisfaction from working with all people; and the discipline to devote full attention to one’s responsibilities.
Many who want to be in public office believe it does not take many years of non-elected service. Those who are elected without a track record of voluntary public service and civic involvement are rare and do not remain in office long.
Before being elected to Commissioner’s Court, I served four years as a trustee on the DISD Board of Education. Before that, I was busy for 20 years in non-elected public service and was drafted to the positions I hold and have held. My family ancestors, back to the American Revolution, have held elective office.
The challenges of public service are greater than ever, and the need for positive enlightened leadership in addressing the issues for the future of our community and nation is critical.
I urge the many dedicated and qualified citizens of our district to offer themselves for public service.