The candidates for Ellis County Judge include Republicans Carol Bush, Rodney Pat Ramsey and Todd Little, and Democrat JR Phillips. Phillips did not respond to the Daily Light questionnaire.
1. One of the main duties of a county judge is to preside over — and maintain the order of — the commissioners' court. This requires substantial knowledge of parliamentary procedure and the Texas Open Meetings Act. On a scale of 1-10, rate your comfort factor with both and list, in detail, any previous experience you have with either.
Carol Bush: On a scale of 1-10, I would rate my comfort level a 10. I am very confident and experienced in presiding over the Commissioners Court and maintaining order and decorum. Over the last 9 years, I have presided over 300 Commissioners Court meetings.
They have been conducted successfully because:
I respect the right of the public. I believe that all the business that is conducted in Commissioners Court (CC) is the business of the people. The practical application of the Texas Open Meetings Act can be reduced in its simplest form to this: The public is entitled to know what is being discussed in open court, and the people are entitled to express their opinions during Public Comment. Discussion in closed Executive Session is limited only to those specifically authorized exceptions provided the Local Government Code: Safety and Security, Personnel, Litigation, and Real Estate matters when the County’s position might suffer if discussed in a public setting. Our Court Agenda is posted according to the law and CC meetings are video-streamed live on the internet to ensure the availability of information for those unable to attend in person. It is indexed and archived for maximum accessibility. Transparency can be an overused and politicized word that rings hollow. I am much prouder to point to demonstrable evidence of legal compliance, open communication, accessibility of information and accountability.
I respect the institution of the Commissioners Court. I believe the CC is charged with important responsibilities. There are basic protocols in place for calling a meeting, developing an agenda and moving the agenda through in a manner that advances the business of the Court. The Local Government Code addresses the legal requirements for posting the agenda, but does not mandate more than a quorum being present and a majority vote being required to advance an item. While key decisions are being made that affect our community, far more important than adhering to strict Parliamentary rules of procedure during a meeting, is ensuring that discussions be thorough, fair, open and conducted in a professional and courteous manner. That is where my 9 years’ experience as County Judge and my previous professional experience as a former County Court at Law Judge, attorney and mediator have been invaluable.
I respect people. I believe in treating people with respect. I set that expectation for myself, the Commissioners Court, the staff, audience and participants. It is critical that decorum be maintained by all during the course of a meeting in order to conduct business efficiently. While the majority of people would never dream of being disruptive, there is the occasional person who has no regard for social norms. And when that happens, I draw upon my many years of experience to diffuse situations, maintain order and restore civility.
Todd Little: Elected from 2000-2006, as mayor of City of Red Oak, I became knowledgeable and experienced with parliamentary procedure and requirements of the Texas Open Meetings Act. I have six years of experience and have presided over hundred’s of meetings and public hearings during that time acting as mayor and presiding over meetings. Also serving as Chair of Hope Clinic and Meals on Wheels Board of Trustees for almost 10 years, it was important to operate monthly meetings in a professional manner including parliamentary procedure. I would rate myself as a 10 as it relates to my comfort level and leadership abilities to preside over any meeting that presents itself.
Rodney Ramsey: I am very comfortable with my knowledge of Parliamentary Procedure. I am also very informed on the Texas Open Meetings Act. Enough so to believe our County has held several meetings to discuss things in executive session that should have been done in open meetings.
2. The county judge is also responsible for a multimillion-dollar budget, which is one of the largest among cities and school districts in Ellis County. What are your prior experiences in dealing with a multimillion-dollar budget? Have you been forced to foreclose or file for bankruptcy on a personal or business account?
Carol Bush: A. I have been the Chief Budget Officer of the County for 9 years. I have experience handling multimillion-dollar budgets; and, my record and affirmation from outside review speaks for itself.
My experience includes a hands-on involvement and understanding of the complexity of the County needs, operations, funding, grants, mandates, etc…that impact our bottom line. Each year I have developed and proposed a balanced Budget that was adopted by the Commissioners Court. The Budget encompasses over 30 departments and elected offices, affecting over 500 employees and operations. This fiscal year, our Budget was over $63 million.
Despite the economic downturn of 2009, the County successfully completed multi-million dollar building projects and maintained delivery of services. During my tenure, the County also achieved an AA Bond rating from Moody’s and Fitch, which cited our “robust financial position” due to “conservative management practices, low debt burden, and financial flexibility.” That creditworthiness resulted in a $7 million savings to the taxpayers in refunded general obligation bonds.
Those conservative practices also allowed the Commissioners Court to lower the 2017 County Tax Rate from $0.41 per $100 valuation to $0.39 per $100 valuation…back to 2008 levels. This was a remarkable accomplishment which puts the Ellis County Tax Rate among the lowest 12% of County Tax Rates in 254 Counties across the State of Texas.
B. No, I have not.
Todd Little: A. As mayor of Red Oak, the fourth largest city in Ellis County, we experienced rapid growth during my tenure. This included handling of budgets from $2 million annually to upwards of $23 million annually. These funds included property taxes, sales tax collections, franchise fees from utility companies, state and federal grants as well as bonds and government financing instruments. Including my public services experience, I am also the owner and operator of my own business for the last 25 years. A graduate of Baylor University with a degree in Financial Planning, I have consulted with hundreds of businesses in the areas of financial and risk management. This includes the preparation of financial statements, budgeting, forecasting and insuring of business property and employees as well as regular consultation to assist them as they manage and grow their business operations.
B. I have never been forced to foreclose or file for bankruptcy on a personal or business account.
Rodney Ramsey: I have the same, if not more , qualifications that Carol Bush held when “appointed” to the position. I am however more qualified at ensuring money from our tax payers does not go towards outlandish raises and wasteful spending.
3. While the county judge does not necessarily have to be a lawyer or have a law background, there are portions of the job that includes presiding over the county court. Please list your law background, if applicable.
Carol Bush: While the county judge does not necessarily have to be a lawyer or have a law background, there are portions of the job that includes presiding over the county court. Please list your law background, if applicable.
The County Court has jurisdiction over probate, civil and misdemeanor criminal matters. I have that experience.
I received my law degree from St. Mary’s University and began my career as a prosecutor for the Ellis County and District Attorney’s Office. I was formerly the Judge of the Ellis County Court at Law with jurisdiction over probate, misdemeanor criminal and civil matters. Prior to becoming the County Judge, I maintained a private practice and mediation practice.
Todd Little: As an administrative county judge in the state of Texas, it is important to understand how to preside over the county commissioner’s court, work as the chief budget officer and handle some judicial responsibilities. The county judge is known to be the chief executive officer of the county. As mayor, I was considered the chief elected official and there were also responsibilities I handled under the penal code as a magistrate, this included working with the city jail to bond out prisoners and in some cases make decisions as to probable cause related to search and seizure. My experience as a business owner and as mayor will be useful if elected county judge and includes working with many different types of legal specialties including business litigation, real estate, tax and municipal attorneys. With a common sense approach, I believe I have the resources and experience to preside over the county court as its chief executive officer.
Rodney Ramsey: I am a licensed Texas Attorney.
4. The county judge is often on-call 24/7 and must be able to operate on tight deadlines with a small staff. What experiences or traits do you bring that will benefit you in successfully running the department and its staff?
Carol Bush: The role of County Judge is unique in that there is a great diversity of duties…from Chief Budget Officer crunching numbers to being the Director of Emergency Management, handling incidents like pipeline explosions, flooding and tornadoes. And it is true, it is done with a small staff. My staff and I are dedicated to providing what is needed in the moment. We always rely on professionalism and depending on the situation, one or more of the following:
A calm demeanor
Communication skills and,
The ability to work well with others.
I have managed those duties, incidents, deadlines for the past 9 years. I believe in working and getting the job done. I believe in the work I’m doing, and I take pride in being your County Judge.
Todd Little: As a business owner for 25 years, I have been on call for my clients 24/7, including the 6 years as service to the city as mayor. It was not uncommon to receive an emergency call in the middle of the night related to an issue that required emergency management. In my business, I have become used to dealing with tight deadlines and obviously with the demands and burdens placed on business today, I understand we always must deal with limited resources. As county judge with a small staff, it will be important to locate talented people to get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible while adhering to a quality of work standard. The citizens demand efficient and quality work.
Rodney Ramsey: I have successfully operated on much tighter deadlines with smaller staff for years.
5. Use this space as you wish to separate yourself from the other candidates.
Carol Bush: Please see above.
My conservative record speaks for itself:
Lowered 2017 County Tax Rate
Strong Financial Outlook
Increased Public Safety
Protecting Property Rights
Smart Managed Growth
Current and former Mayors of Waxahachie, Midlothian, Ennis, Ovilla and Red Oak
Current County Commissioners (Kyle Butler and Randy Stinson) and several former County Commissioners
The Honorable Jim Pitts, Former State Representative
And many other Community and Civic leaders
Effective leadership is not always comfortable or popular, but I really believe that when principles are valued more than politics and public interests trump personal agendas, our entire community benefits. That has been my guiding philosophy as your County Judge as I have represented you at the local, regional and State levels. For more information, please go to:
Todd Little: Being interviewed by people to serve as their county judge has been an incredible journey. It has required listening to their needs, desires and expectations. I believe I am the only candidate in this election with the ability to restore the trust back in our county government. It is time to elect a leader willing to listen and seek input from the people of Ellis County. The next 10 years it is imperative we find a leader capable of building consensus, leading a vision and implementing a plan to reach the desired goal of what our county wants to become. Much growth is headed our way and I believe I am uniquely qualified to serve and lead that vision.
As a 3rd generation Ellis County resident, my experience as a business owner, mayor and community servant, I believe I am the best candidate prepared to serve as your county judge. My education in finance and my local government experience has especially prepared me for this moment. If I you elect and honor me to serve as your next county judge, I’m the only candidate whose record shows, I will lower taxes, cut wasteful spending and defend your property owner rights. I will listen, seek input and restore your trust in local government.
Win Big, Vote LITTLE!
Rodney Ramsey: For further information, visit my Facebook Page at Rodney Ramsey for County Judge.