Since March 2007, I have had the privilege of serving as Harris County Judge. At no time during my tenure did I ever regret leaving the private sector to serve the residents of Harris County. As I will leave office on Jan. 1, it is appropriate for me to share some thoughts.
While I and other Harris County elected officials are in the news for better or worse, the employees of Harris County are remarkably dedicated servants of the residents of Harris County. I will always be proud to have worked among them.
Major events such as Hurricane Ike and the torrential rains of Harvey grabbed the attention of the nation, and Harris County’s response was seen as a model of emergency management. Yes, I received praise for my handling of such crises, but make no mistake, I was merely the face of an amazing team of professionals who train and prepare constantly to keep our community safe. Harris County has the best Office of Emergency Management in the nation.
Beyond the dramatic events, there have been other initiatives that were less noticed but made Harris County a better place to live.
My personal passion has been to improve the lot of those who suffer from mental illness. The major initiative has been to establish a jail diversion program so that those with mental health issues receive care rather than being incarcerated. Thankfully, the jail diversion program is in place, and I was honored to cut the ribbon at the October 1 opening of the Judge Ed Emmett Mental Health Diversion Center.
Many other accomplishments during the past 12 years make me proud of the job done by the county judge’s office. Allow me to mention a few. We worked with the Annie Casey Foundation to reform the county’s juvenile justice system. The Astrodome will become a revenue generator for the NRG complex. Riverside Hospital is on the path to restoration as a primary and mental health facility. The Harris County Animal Shelter is being expanded, and the survival rate for animals there has greatly improved. Harris County’s finances are strong. And voters overwhelmingly approved the $2.5 billion bond proposal for future flood mitigation.
Yes, I look back on my time as Harris County Judge with satisfaction. I was not pleased with the election results, knowing that straight-ticket voting skewed the result. I wish nothing but success for Judge-elect Hidalgo and Harris County.
In the future, I will be based at Rice University, my alma mater, where I will be a professor in the practice, a senior fellow at the Kinder Institute for Urban Research, and a fellow at the Doerr Institute for New Leaders. I will also be involved at other academic institutions, consulting projects and policy discussions as time allows.
Best wishes to all. I hope our paths continue to cross.
Harris County Judge
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