After receiving advice from the county's delinquent tax attorney, Houston County commissioners revisited the matter of whether to accept an offer from Zilkha Biomass Energy Crockett LLC (Zilkha) to donate its Crockett facility to the county and unanimously voted not to accept the offer and property.
The commissioners took the action at a regular meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 27, reaffirming a position they were leaning toward at the previous meeting on Dec. 13, when – after discussion – they tabled the matter for further research to obtain more information.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Willie Kitchen offered the motion to decline the offer at the Dec. 27 meeting, and County Judge Jim Lovell seconded it, after the commissioners heard from Attorney Tab Beall of Perdue Brandon Fielder Collins & Mott LLP, who spoke at the meeting. Zilkha executives recently extended the offer to donate the company's 13.125-acre wood pellet fuel manufacturing facility to the county in lieu of paying its 2016 property tax bill. Zilkha owes more than $290,000 in 2016 property taxes to Houston County, the City of Crockett and the Crockett Independent School District. More than $75,000 of the total is owed to the county.
Zilkha previously attempted to donate the property to the city, but city officials also declined to accept the offer.
The county commissioners first took the matter up for discussion and possible action at the Dec. 13 meeting, and it was at that time that County Tax Assessor-Collector Danette Millican informed them of the amount of Zilkha's 2016 tax bill.
After discussing the matter and leaning toward declining the offer, the commissioners felt they needed more information before they could make an informed decision and unanimously voted to table the matter. Bringing the matter back before the court on Dec. 27, Lovell said, "We were all going to kind of research this a little more. We tabled it at the last commissioners court meeting.
"I talked with a gentleman who was wanting to buy (the property), which would solve everything. I talked with him again this morning and he doesn't think he's going to get it done. But, he thinks they're about to sell it to someone else. All of that's hearsay, not fact. All we're looking at is whether or not to accept it as a donation. Does anybody have any discussion on that?" Noting that he was the one who offered the motion to table the matter at the Dec. 13 meeting in order "to gather more information," Precinct 4 Commissioner Kennon Kellum said, the information he wanted to gather pertained to what it would take to lay a rail spur to the facility (to enhance its usefulness). But, a rail spur would cost way more money than the county wants to spend, after I got to checking it out, he said." Lovell added, "And there are $290,701.09 in taxes owed on it for the year 2016, of which $75,726.74 are county taxes. So, (if) we were considering accepting (it), that (the taxes) would have to be taken care of, as I understand it."
Beall explained that there are two statutes in the Texas Tax Code that deal with this matter. The first one, he said, provides for a "medium of payment, and the medium of payment is money." "You really aren't supposed to accept property in lieu of taxes," he said.
"The idea being that your county budget is based upon paying your employees and your vendors with money, not giving them bartered goods or whatever property you may have. So, that's the reason for that provision in the Tax Code."
Beall added, "There's a second section in the code that allows for you to accept property. But, procedurally, it has to go to the district with the biggest levy, which in this case, would be Crockett ISD. So, Houston County shouldn't even accept the property.
"But, the school (district, if it accepted the property,) could then convey it to the county. And then, you'd have to essentially buy the property from the city and the school (district)....
"So, I guess my legal advice to you is if you want to acquire the property, buy it outright. Go into executive session and discuss the purchase of real estate. Don't accept it as a gift because it poses all kinds of problems." Beall continued, "Separately, and it's kind of related, they (Zilkha representatives) filed a suit against the (Houston County) Appraisal District challenging the market value of the property. And that's just another X factor out there in terms of them deeding the property to you (and) what it does to that lawsuit. And it would have the potential for a worst case scenario, setting a standard that would allow them to recover attorney fees from you for the suit that they filed against the Appraisal District. So, you don't want that to happen.
"Finally, the nightmare scenario is, you don't want somebody with toxic waste property to deed it to the county to get rid of a problem that they don't want to deal with.
"So, my advice to you is, if you want to buy the property, separately negotiate with them to buy it. But, don't accept it in lieu of taxes because it creates all kinds of problems. Not to mention the fact that the Tax Code doesn't allow it just as a wholesale quip pro quo acceptance of the property in lieu of paying taxes."
After Beall concluded giving his advice, Lovell thanked him and commented, "Well, that pretty well says it for us, unless we want to go into executive session and consider buying it. I don't think that we're there. This might be off the table anyway if they're negotiating with someone to buy (the property)."
At that point, Kitchen chimed in, offering his motion, reaffirming the position the commissioners appeared to be leaning toward at the Dec. 13 meeting, suggesting that the commissioners not accept Zilkha's donation offer and ending discussion on the matter.
After the motion was seconded by Lovell, all four commissioners and Lovell acted in unison in a show of hands vote to pass it, finalizing their decision to decline to accept Zilkha's offer to donate its property to the county in lieu of payment of property taxes.
The Crockett Police Department is investigating an armed robbery that occurred last night (Monday, Dec. 12) at approximately 7:57 p.m. at the Brookshire Brothers store located in the 400 block of North Fourth Street in Crockett.
The two suspects are believed to be Hispanic males or light complected African Americans, small to medium build. These suspects should be considered armed and dangerous. Any information about the identity of these suspects please contact Lt. Clayton Smith with the Crockett Police Department at 936-544-2021 or 936-546-1047. If you wish to give information and remain anonymous, please call Crime Stoppers At 936-545-Tips.
The suspects allegedly were in the store for a short time, casing the store, before approaching a cashier and holding her at gun point, Smith stated in a CPD press release Tuesday morning.
They allegedly escorted the cashier to the office where another employee noticed the suspects were holding a gun to her head. At that time the office staff opened the door and allowed the suspects inside the office.
The press release further states that the suspects allegedly ordered the two employees to the floor at gunpoint, threatening to kill them. After gathering the money into a bag, the suspects allegedly then walked out of the store and headed toward Third Street.
The exact amount of cash is believed to be substantial.
Three customers of Consolidated Water Supply Corporation (CWSC) say research they've conducted reveals what appears to be patterns of impropriety and mismanagement at the corporation. And they want corrective action – including the firing of General Manager Sherry Reed – to be taken.
The three customers – Kim Spellman, Kevin Holbrook and Kirk Brenner – whose status as customers also make them members of the corporation, aired their complaints through Spellman in an interview with the Courier on Monday, Nov. 21.
They had presented their case to CWSC's board of directors at a board meeting on Nov. 9. Asked what their main complaint with CWSC is, Spellman said, as she gave the Courier copies of documents she distributed to CWSC's board members at the meeting, "The biggest complaint is something is going on with our retirement fund, which is where I think a lot of money is going out – like the matching contributions.
"There's really no tangible evidence that there was approval by the board anywhere to increase the retirement matching. And then, when you look at the chemistry of the DNA of the demographics of the employees that work there, most of them are related. That's not a big thing in Crockett because all of us are almost related, right. It's what happens in Small Town, USA.
"But, when you think about doubling and tripling our retirement plan match for your brother-in-law, your sister-in-law and your niece, to the tune of 13 years at double what it should have been, and you had no approval to do that from the board of directors as your governing body, that feels like you're lining your own pockets."
Spellman added, "So, I'm not an investigator, but I am a bulldog. So, you've kind of got to look at these things. So, (we have) two complaints: Something's going on with the money – mainly here in retirement (fund). Next complaint: overtime."
Spellman and Brenner noted that when they looked at year-to-year increases in income, salaries increased 19 percent over (one) three-month period.
Spellman said excessive amounts of overtime pay went "mainly to relatives. But, again, there are only about 21 employees at Consolidated Water. Most of them are related to the general manager. People talk about nepotism. There wasn't a nepotism policy (at CWSC), but there is now as of about 18 months ago."
She said their research shows 23 employees have received $164,253 in overtime compensation so far in 2016. Those figures were $195,063 for 27 employees last year and $145,958 for 21 employees in 2014.
Moreover, their search revealed that 57 percent of overtime pay has gone to 10 employees who are kin to each other so far this year. Those figures were 63 percent to 10 employees in 2015 and 58 percent to 9 employees in 2014.
"On average, a family employee received 586 OT hours versus 316 OT hours for a non-family employee," Spellman noted in one of the documents.
"So, chief complaint: mismanagement," Spellman said during her interview with the Courier, adding, "Now, what leader structures an organization built around a family tree for a non-profit organization, and then upticks the retirement policy to be double and triple? They don't. Not in a non-profit organization.
"The chief complaint there (also is) overtime. And then, there are some (other) issues. I'll tell you, as being a businesswoman and being a leader throughout my career, when I listen, for the first time – and (Wednesday, Nov. 9) was the first time I had ever gone to a board meeting – I was quite surprised of the general manager's business presentation of the status and state of the non-profit corporation.
"There just wasn't really preparedness. So, I feel like mismanagement is a huge issue. And the only people that can address that (is the board) because in the Policies and Procedures Handbook, it clearly states the general manager is responsible for running the business. And the governing body, which is the board of directors, is responsible for ensuring that the general manager is aligned and running the business in an appropriate manner. So, that's our point there."
Spellman said, "I asked some very specific questions to the board." Those questions include: "What are the elements of the (retirement) plan, (including) contribution limits, matching limits (and) timing of match? Was the change to the plan approved by the board? If so, when and where is that documented? Why was an insurance claim filed? What is the status of the claim? Has the provider offered settlement conditions?"
Three other questions regarding alleged "mismanagement" were: "Why is there so much overtime? What is the policy regarding nepotism? What specific processes have been instituted based on member feedback regarding harassment, lack of operational standards and misalignment of pricing practices?"
Spellman said CWSC officials have only answered her question about nepotism, informing her to her satisfaction that a policy addressing this matter was enacted by the board 18 months ago.
She said she, Holbrook and Brenner have started a Facebook group addressing the issues they've raised with CWSC officials. "Kevin actually went out and had stated some things and was very dissatisfied with pricing that he was getting (from CWSC staff) on a project that he's got going," Spellman said about Holbrook.
"And I told him at that time, 'I love you like a brother. If there's deceit going on, I'll help you find that deceit. And if there's just misunderstanding, I'll help you clarify that. And if you're just nuts, I'm going to tell you, you're nuts and that you're barking up the wrong tree.'
"So, a week before the board meeting, I said, 'Give me everything you've got.' And I shut down in a room and went through everything. I didn't know what I was looking for, but this is what I found. So, that's the basis of this, and that's how this came into play."
She added, "And I really truly believe that you have to be objective when you look at things like this because quite frankly we're talking about peoples' jobs. And she's been in that job for a long, long time. I don't want any ill will to anyone. But, I certainly don't want someone misrepresenting a nonprofit organization of which I'm a member of and have been a member of for many, many years in a manner that's lining their own pocket.
"If it's a for-profit organization, then okay. Those are the rules. But, it clearly states in their bylaws, in their articles of incorporation, in the meeting minutes that this is nonprofit. And these are not things you would expect out of a nonprofit."
CWSC information sources Spellman, Holbrook and Brenner researched included the Consolidated Shareholders-Public Facebook group, articles of incorporation, personnel policies and procedures, 2014-2016 payroll records, January 2014 to August 2016 board of directors meeting minutes, the Texas Rural Water Association 2016 Rate Study and correspondence with the Texas Public Utility Commission, she said.
From their research of the records, she said, one of the things they found was "that there are inconsistencies with the retirement plan." "For example, back in November 2015, there is a note that one of the board members made a motion to go back and renegotiate the retirement contract at the 2002 match rate – 13 years ago."
"Are you guys saying that you didn't approve a 10 percent match?" Spellman asked rhetorically. "I work for a Fortune 50 company. My 401(k) matching is four percent at best. It has never been more than six percent. And we've got in Crockett, Texas, our nonprofit organization with 21 employees – half of which are related – at 10 percent. That doesn't add up.
That was one of the findings. The overtime, again, was another finding. She said some CWSC employees have clocked more than 30 hours of overtime in a single week, and the corporation has paid about $500,000 in overtime compensation over a two-and-a-half-year period. "Just excessive, excessive overtime," she stressed.
"For example, an office worker that makes $25,000 a year, then, turns around and gets $20,000 a year in overtime," Spellman said. "That's pretty sweet. How does that happen? We aren't structured to do that kind of a payment from the cost of the workforce. It does not make sense."
She continued, "I don't know Sherry Reed. I do see the result of the leadership under her for however long she's been (general manager), which has been a long time. I also believe this board has somewhat set her up for failure because you've got to think about, what kind of development are they offering her? Is she just being reactionary, so that we're going to continue to have poor water quality, continue to pay exorbitant amounts of overtime and our rates will continue to be sky high and we don't have any foresight in our future?
Spellman said the response Holbrook received when he requested CWSC service on property he owns is what prompted the three of them to conduct their research and learn more about the corporation. Holbrook "reached out to get a water connection and wasn't satisfied with the price he got," she said, adding, he "felt like it was overpriced."
At an Aug. 9 CWSC board meeting, Holbrook expressed his dissatisfaction with a $7,828 quote Reed gave him to lay the 1,260 feet of two-inch PVC (polyvinyl chloride) pipe, install a meter and related costs to connect property he owns to the CWSC system.
Asked whether they anticipate taking legal action against Reed and CWSC, Spellman said, "I sure do. I'm like a dog with a bone, and I've got a bone. We want to talk with the Attorney General (of Texas). We want to talk with our state representative, Trent Ashby (R-Dist. 57). I've already reached out to him. We're going to have a meeting with him, as well." In addition, she said they plan to present their information to the Houston County District Attorney and staffers at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
"I believe that there is foul play, but I'm not a forensic auditor. I am an executive with Hewlett Packard Enterprise. What I do for a living is analytics and data management. ... So, this fell right into my sweet spot. I think a forensic auditor looking at this information would say, 'Wow!'
"I sure hope there's no criminal action because that's even worse than losing a job. ... But, if there is, then, I would expect that our judicial system would handle it the way it should be handled. I hope there's not, but I think there is."
Asked what she's asking of CWSC officials, Spellman said, "I want them to take a really good look at the materials we presented and be real serious about them. And I want (the) ... board members to live up to the oath that they took when they ran for the board and they became elected by the membership to make sure that the general management of our nonprofit organization is run effectively and efficiently. And it's not happening.
"The thought process that we are Small Town, USA, and you can show up every second Tuesday of the month and sit around the big table and nod your head and look at journals and have someone say, 'Well yep, we paid $10,000 for this because we needed to and say okay.' Those days are gone. We're talking millions of dollars that we can't account for. That's some bad stuff. That's the situation that I believe that we're in based on the information that I have looked at."
She added, "Based on what I see, there's a lack of leadership in general management at Consolidated Water. And I believe it's time for change. And I believe that it's time for the board to identify a qualified, experienced general manager to run this nonprofit organization that services more than 15,000 people with 5,300 meters in 2016 and beyond. That's what my expectation is."
On a "call for action" page that was part of a document Spellman presented to the board at that Nov. 9 meeting, Spellman asked that board members to "Terminate the employment of the current General Manager."
Congressman Kevin Brady (District 8, R-Texas) told the Houston County Courier that his life "has gotten very exciting very fast," since the Nov. 8 General Election.
Brady took time for a whirlwind visit with the 8th Congressional District via a series of phone interviews on Monday, Nov. 21. Brady said priorities for the House Ways and Means Committee and for the incoming Trump administration include "fixing this broken tax code, repealing and replacing Obamacare".
"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. By leading the Ways and Means Committee, it lets me the ability to make a huge difference in people's lives, and to do it on behalf of the 8th Congressional District, so, voters in Houston County will have a bigger say in how these issues are solved," Brady said.
"As chairman of the Ways and Means Committee," Brady said, "I'll be leading the effort on both of those, on behalf of the House of Representatives.
"In the first week (following the election), we were in contact continuously with the Trump transition team. They've set their priorities for the first 100 days of the presidency."
Brady also said, "They've only been in place 10 days (at the time of the interview). I think they deserve plenty of time to determine the timing of their priorities.
"I'm pretty confident that, for the first time in 30 years, we're going to see the opportunity to fix our broken tax code. And, for the first time in six years, the opportunity to give people the kind of affordable health care they deserve. Both of them are huge (issues)."
Brady discussed the impact of the new tax system on Houston County.
"In Houston County, local leaders are always looking for ways to grow the economy. I'm convinced the way Washington taxes our local businesses and families hurts the local economy," he said. "I'm convinced creating a fair, flatter, simpler tax system, we'll have the lowest rates on our local businesses in modern history. We've redesigned the tax code, so our local businesses can compete and win anywhere in the world, especially here at home.
"Our forms simplify the code, so 9 out of 10 Americans will be able to file their taxes using a postcard style system, and then busting up the IRS so it is a much smaller organization focused on customer service – those are exciting reforms." Brady said he is receiving a "fantastic response" from constituents at his recent town hall meetings across the 8th Congressional District.
When asked how long he thinks it will take to implement the new tax code, Brady said, "Because the House Republicans already built the Better Tax Code early this year -- we're finishing the work on it the end of this year -- we'll be ready for the new president to pick it up early in 2017. So I'm hopeful the new tax code can be in place next year, and I believe repealing Obamacare can happen in 2017 -- to make sure that Americans have plenty of time to transition to a new healthcare system."
Brady anticipates that replacing Obamacare will take several years. "Unlike Obamacare," Brady said, "the Republicans will not rip healthcare out of the hands of the American people. That was one of the big problems. Obamacare forced Americans to buy expensive healthcare that they didn't want and couldn't afford, and penalized them if they didn't. "
Brady emphasized that the Republican healthcare plan is focused on what families and local businesses need -- not what Washington needs. We create incentives to buy affordable healthcare and reward you when you do."
In response to criticism that Republicans cannot repeal and replace Obamacare if they wish to keep the parts they like, Brady said, "The Republican plan, and Mr. Trump has said as well, we will keep key patient protections, such as leaving kids on on your plan until they're age 26, covering pre-existing illnesses, and lifting the lifetime caps – so if you have a child that gets a costly disease early in life, they can have coverage throughout their lifetime...we'll keep those."
Plans for tax reform and healthcare reforms officially started earlier this year, in February, Brady explained. He said, "But we had worked on tax reform for five years and the Obamacare replacement for six. This was not an overnight thing at all.
We worked very deliberately over time, to make sure we have the right tax reform to grow the economy and the right health care to get families a plan they could afford
He reiterated that it has been three decades since America last reformed its tax code. Constituents at Brady's town hall meetings overwhelmingly have said it's time for a simpler tax code.
"It's time. It's overdue. It's amazing how complex it is," Brady said.
If Brady's predictions are accurate, Americans won't have to wait much longer.--
Americans had national media pundits scratching their heads, wondering what alternative universe they had fallen into as presidential election results started rolling across their computer screens. Even the conservative Fox News team appeared shocked.
All predicted a close election. Most predicted Democrat Hillary Clinton would become the first female president of the United States by defeating her Republican opponent, Donald J. Trump. Instead, at 1:40 a.m. (Central DST) Wednesday, Nov. 9, Trump had 276 electoral votes. He needed 270 to win. Clinton had 218.
This is a historic moment for the United States. One reporter for a national media organization described Trump's election as "the greatest political upset of our lifetime".
On Jan. 20, 2017, he will become the 45th President of the United States, and the first to have never held a prior elected office or to have served in the military. He also will take office with his party holding the majority membership in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Trump's running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (now the Vice President-Elect), said as he introduced Trump as the President-Elect of the United States, "This is a historic night. The American people have spoken, and the American people have elected a new champion. The American people have elected a new president."
Trump and his family joined the Pence family on stage, with Trump saying, "I just received a phone call from Secretary Clinton and she congratulated us. That's right, it's about us (as he motioned to include the crowd), and I congratulated her and her family for a very hard fought campaign. We all owe her a debt of gratitude for her years of service to our country." He spoke of the division in the country and said, "It's time to come together....I pledge to be president to all Americans, and that is so important to me."
He emphasized that "We must bind the wounds of our country."
He repeated what he has said previously, that his was not a campaign but a movement.
"It's a movement from all backgrounds, races and beliefs that want the government to serve them, the people," Trump said. "The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. We are going to fix our inner cities ... we're going to rebuild our infrastructure... and we also, finally, will take care of our great veterans....Our veterans are incredible people." The new President-Elect continued, "We have a great economic plan.... We will get along with all nations that are willing to get along with us."
Trump also spoke of the nation's unlimited potential, and the potential of all Americans.
"We must reclaim our country's destiny," he said, adding, "We will dream again." Trump said further, "We will seek common ground, not hostility, to form partnerships." In Houston County, Trump won an overwhelming majority of the 8,409 ballots counted on Tuesday night. Unofficial results show the Trump/Pence ticket received 6,205 votes; Clinton/Tim Kaine, 1,978; Gary Johnson/William Weld (Libertarians), 90; and Jill Stein/Ajamu Baraka (Green Party), 29.
U. S. Representative, District 8, Kevin Brady (District 8 - R-Texas) was unopposed and received 6,314 Houston County votes. Just prior to the announcement of Trump's victory, Brady issued the following statement:
"I'm honored voters sent me back to Congress to help change the direction of our country. As chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee I'm excited to lead the fight to fix America's broken tax code, repeal and replace ObamaCare, reform welfare and begin to save Medicare and Social Security for the long term.
"While the election for president is not yet determined as I make this statement, it has been a remarkable night and I am ready to work with my choice - Donald Trump and Mike Pence - to make America stronger, more prosperous and more secure."
Incumbent County Commissioner, Precinct 3, Pat Perry (R) won re-election with 1,124 votes in the only contested local race. His challenger, Reginald Berry (D), received 844 votes.
The unofficial results of other local races were: District Judge, 3rd Judicial District, Mark Calhoon (R), 6,242; District Judge, 349th Judicial District, Pam Foster Fletcher (R), 6,270; District Attorney, 349th Judicial District, Donna Gordon Kaspar (R), 6,313; County Attorney, Daphne Session (D), 4,461; Sheriff, Darrel Bobbitt (R), 6,485; County Tax Assessor-Collector, Danette Millican (D), 4,584; Commissioner, Precinct 1, Gary Lovell (R), 1,776; Constable, Precinct 1, Morris E. Luker (R), 2,981; Constable, Precinct 2, Kenneth "Red" Smith, 3,365. In the statewide race for Railroad Commissioner, Wayne Christian (R) won with 4,614,801 votes (53.18%). He was opposed by Grady Yarbrough (D), who received 3,324,884 votes (38.31%); Mark Miller (LIB), 457,894 votes (5.27%); and Martina Salinas (GRN), 279,779 votes (3.22%). Those votes are based on 8,061 of 8,187 precincts reporting (98.46%). In Houston County, Christian received 5,890 votes; Yarbrough, 1,943; Miller, 187; and Salinas, 70. Results of other statewide races are as follows: - Justice, Supreme Court, Place 3 went to incumbent Debra Lehrmann (R), who received 4,772,493 votes (54.94%), with 8,061 of 8,187 precincts reporting (98.46%). Her opponents were Mike Westergren (D), 3,340,313 votes (38.45%); Kathie Glass (LIB), 345,042 votes (3.97%); and Rodolfo Rivera Munoz (GRN), 227,937 votes (2.62%). Houston County voted as follows: Lehrmann, 5,837; Westergren, 1,961; Glass, 183; Munoz, 54. - Justice, Supreme Court, Place 5: Incumbent Paul Green (R), 4,723,008 (54.40%); Dori Contreras Garza (D), 3,565,566 (41.07%; Tom Oxford (LIB), 285,837 (3.29%); Charles E. Waterbury (GRN), 106,335 (1.22%) with 8,061 of 8,187 precincts reporting (98.46%). Houston County voted: Green, 5,901; Garza, 1,922; Oxford, 136; Waterbury, 66. - Justice, Supreme Court, Place 9: Incumbent Eva Guzman (R), 4,843,761 (55.86%); Savanah Robinson (D), 3,407,499 (39.30%); Don Fulton (LIB), 301,658 (3.47%); Jim Chisholm (GRN), 117,449 (1.35%) with 8,061 of 8,187 precincts reporting (98.46%). Houston County voted: Guzman, 5,781; Robinson, 1,946; Fulton, 197; Chisolm, 89. - Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 2: Mary Lou Keel (R), 4,758,805 (54.91%); Incumbent Lawrence "Larry" Meyers, 3,467,264 (40.01%); Mark Ash (LIB), 318,986 (3.68%); Adam King Blackwell Reposa (GRN), 120,188 (1.38%) with 8,061 of 8,187 precincts reporting (98.46%). Houston County voted: Keel, 5,748; Meyers, 2,055; Ash, 184; Reposa, 39. - Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 5: Scott Walker (R), 4,750,416 votes (54.78%); Betsy Johnson (D), 3,482,829 (40.16%); William Bryan Strange, III (LIB), 247,258 (2.85%); Judith Sanders-Castro (GRN), 190,083 (2.19%) with 8,061 of 8,187 precincts reporting (98.46%). Houston County voted: Walker, 5,915; Johnson, 1,923; Strange, 111; Sanders-Castro, 65; - Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 6: Incumbent Michael E. Keasler (R), 4,753,026 (55.01%); Robert Burns (D), 3,529,187 (40.85%); Mark W. Bennett (LIB), 356,927 (4.13%) with 8,061 of 8,187 precincts reporting (98.46%). Houston County voted: Keasler, 5,786; Burns, 2,003; Bennett, 199. - Member, State Board of Education, District 8: Barbara Cargill (R) was unopposed and received 6,218 votes in Houston County. - State Representative, District 57: Incumbent Trent Ashby (R) was unopposed and received 6,461 votes in Houston County. - Justice, 12th Court of Appeals District, Place 2: Brian Hoyle (R) was unopposed and received 6,165 votes in Houston County. - Justice, 12th Court of Appeals District, Place 3, Unexpired Term: Greg Neely (R) was unopposed and received 6,139 votes in Houston County.
Houston County Judge Erin Ford announced this morning (Wednesday, Oct. 25) that he is resigning his position, effective Nov. 22, to spend more time with his family.
He emailed the following statement to area media:
Well, I've completed four years, the equivalent of a full term, as your County Judge in November. It is an awesome job. I have the greatest respect for this position and the people who serve our county. However, I have come to the decision to retire, effective November 22.
I've worked hard these last four years and I'm tired. When I took office in 2012, I had just retired from BP, after 38 years working for them. I want to spend time with my family now. So, I will remain in office this month until the Commissioners Court appoints my replacement for the unexpired two year term.
My plan is to update the new county judge on current issues affecting the county. Although this may seem sudden, I have been considering retirement since the first of the year but I wanted to complete a full term in office. I believe it is the right decision to make for my family and the county.
It has been an honor serving you and I thank you for your confidence in me during my term in office. I appreciate and care about all of you. I wish the best for Houston County.