By LIZ SUMTER
Hays County Judge
As I reflect on the last four years and all that we have achieved together, I am amazed. We made major progress in protecting our natural resources, and we made major gains in infrastructure development. We also increased the accessibility and affordability of healthcare.
Those gains were matched by the steps we took to develop a more forward looking county government. For example, we developed a strategic plan for our future, and we updated and streamlined internal administrative processes. Equally important, we increased the participation of our citizens on numerous committees. The list of accomplishments goes on and on. I never dreamed that so much could be accomplished in four short years, and your participation and support was a key element in the process.
Of all the accomplishments, however, the one that stands out most in my mind is that of making county government more accessible and transparent. That accomplishment, in turn, has moved us ahead in holding elected officials accountable for their actions.
When I took office four years ago, the notion of wide-spread distribution of the commissioners court agenda was viewed by many as unrealistic, if not unnecessary. Today, my office puts the agenda on the website and in the same form as the agenda that the commissioners receive. You get to view it as soon as it is released to the commissioners and media. You also get to see all of the backup material (for example, you get to see the invoices before they are approved and paid).
Additionally, I encouraged citizens to request agenda items that reflect their concerns, and I did away with the practice of imposing time limits on citizens who want to speak on agenda items. I firmly believe that we, as public officials, owe a fair hearing to citizens. When citizens take off work or interrupt their day to come down to commissioners court, the least we can do is hear what the citizens have to say, not just what they could squeeze into an arbitrary three minutes. I also opened the door to questions and comments from citizens during workshops so citizens could have input in the decision making process.
You now no longer have to take off work or rely on news reporters to find out what is going on with your county government. We now live stream our commissioner court meetings via the internet every Tuesday morning, starting at 9 a.m. All you have to do is log on to the Hays County website (www.co.hays.tx.us) and click on Commissioners Court.
As I leave office, I do have one last favor to ask of you as your County Judge. On Friday, Dec. 31, starting at 10 a.m. and continuing until the hot chocolate runs out, I would like for you to stop by the County Courthouse so that I can thank you personally for your unwavering support these last four years. You’ll find me in the Judge’s Office on the third floor.
Here’s to happy holidays and a wonderful 2011!