Taylor County Judge candidates outline goals, plans in five Q&As (2024)

Taylor County Judge candidates outline goals, plans in five Q&As (1)

County judge candidates get specific

The Reporter-News asked county judge candidates Phll Crowley and Scott Lebowitz five questions about issues facing Taylor County.

More:Taylor County judge's race: Phil Crowley draws on attorney experience

More:Taylor County judge's race: Scott Lebowitz seeking his next level of service

1. As the county grows, especially to the south, the need for law enforcement, ambulance service and fire service grows. What would be your solutions?

► Phil Crowley:We had a little over a million dollars in new revenue in the 2022 county budget because of new homes and businesses in the county, and are starting to see more revenue from some economic development projects.

The secret is clearly out that Taylor County, Texas, is the best place to live, work, and raise a family on the entire planet.

We can use this new revenue to put more deputies on the streets, give more money to the 12 volunteer fire departments, and get another ambulance on the road without raising taxes.

I’ve met with Sheriff (Ricky) Bishop multiple times, the director of Taylor County EMS multiple timesand many of the 12 volunteer fire departments. I believe first responders trust me to find a solution as I’m honored to be the only candidate in this race endorsed by the Abilene Professional Fire Fighter’s PAC, Abilene Police Officer’s Association PAC, and supported by the Taylor County Sheriff’s Officer’s Association.

I left private practice back in 2015 to come serve and fight for the residents of Taylor County and public safety as a prosecutor and public safety will always be my number onepriority if elected.

► Scott Lebowitz:With the growth that is occurring in the rural areas of the county, an increased need for public safety services is to be expected.

With this growth also comes additional funding due to the change from undeveloped land to developed land tax appraisals. This growth in funding may be able to be incorporated into funding for the rural services.

We need more deputies out on patrol to cover these areas decreasing response times when called for service.

The Commissioners Court should assist rural volunteer fire departments by aiding them with recruiting ideas to find new members within their communities as well as increasing funding, possibly through mitigation grants. This increase in funding to the rural departments should be assigned to assist with updating equipment and training personnel.

In regards to emergency medical services,I would propose to the Commissioners Court the possibility of going out for bids to provide ambulance service to the underserved area in an effort to save money for the taxpayers of the county while improving medical services available. After all,competition promotes economic efficiency and spurs innovationand promotes growth of excellence.

2. The county is constantly having to find money to deal with unfunded mandates from the statewhile maintaining its own needs. What will be your budget priorities, and how will you work to keep the books balanced without having to dip into the county’s fund balance.

► Crowley:I provided a public comment in 2021 to the Texas House of Representatives in the redistricting process, and I’ll always be ready to go to Austin if elected county judge to advocate for the county again and fight back against and stop unfunded mandates.

I contacted Rep. Stan Lambert’s (whose office has always been very responsive in my experience) and state Sen. Dawn Buckingham’s offices back in 2017 and spoke up against an unfunded mandate the Legislature was considering that would have expanded court-appointed attorneys. The proposal didn’t pass thanks to the efforts of everyone across Texas who spoke out against the proposal.

I understand the constraints of a budget as I’m the only candidate in the race with small business experience and who has employed other people. My budget priorities will be public safety, being an advocate for taxpayers (I’m one as well), and retaining our county workforce.

Judge Downing Bolls and the current commissioners have shown all three of these can be done at the same time, I’ll continue that tradition if elected and will work as a team with the Commissioners to incrementally use new revenue to accomplish our goals without becoming a bigger burden on the tax payers.

► Lebowitz:The priorities include recruiting and retaining quality employees, improve county infrastructure to keep up with current demand and accommodate future growth while maintaining cost of living, to promote public safety, promote economic growth within the county by working to attract new business to the area.

The ability to recruit and retain employees within the county saves the county thousands of dollars per employee kept. This figure includes background check and investigation, specialized training and then standard organizational training. Employees that are adequately trained feel invested in and are shown to stay in organizations longer, thus saving additional funding.

The aging infrastructure of the county is another area that is highly concerning as demonstrated in the last year winter storm. While funding should not fall on the resident, access should be made available through federal mitigation grants.

Some other options for the county to generate revenue without going to the fund balance would be to ensure that all fines and fees are being collected, reorganization of employee positions in areas where applicable. Request multiple quotes for projects that are pending to ensure the county is getting the best deal. Examine the feasibility of developing services that are currently contracted and transfer services to county-employed entities.

3. Some say the county still lags in terms of salaries that keep it from being competitive with other law enforcement agencies andoutside businesses in other areas. What is your solution for these perceived pay gaps?

► Crowley:We have to take care of our employees so that they can take care of the people. Competitive starting pay is important to recruit great employees given other economic opportunities, but competitive pay for people who have been with the county for five or more years is also very important.

I work with fellow county employees every single day and I can attest that we are blessed with amazing employees who are hardworking, good people who want to serve their neighbors.

Judge Bolls and the commissioners have been very deliberate over the years in raising employee pay and incentives. I will continue in this direction if elected county judge.

We can use revenue from growth (including economic development) and rising property values to keep moving in this direction. Taylor County actually raised more in revenue in 2021 than in previous years, while the tax rate dropped a penny due to increased property values.

I am a fiscal conservative and will make sure our tax dollars (including any increased pay) are spent wisely. Thanks to growth and property valuesI can be an advocate for taxpayers while also looking out for employees.

► Lebowitz:Low pay is seen in areas throughout the county pay matrix it and is not limited to one entity. We should look at doing more with less by taking the surplus salaries from empty positions and redistributing the funds to increase the salaries of the current employees. Emphasize the value of the county benefit package to both current and prospective employees.

Again, the ability to retain employees will assist in saving funds that may in turn be built back into budget for wages. Employees who show interest in leaving one entity should be encouraged to examine lateral transfers into other areas.

4. How will you work with surrounding counties, including county judges, for the betterment of the whole area?

►Crowley:My only concern will be for the betterment of Taylor County.The county works well with the city of Abilene in many areas as about 85% of the county’s constituents live in Abilene, and many of the other 15% work in Abilene.

I want to continue in this fashion if elected. I reachedout and spoke with members of the Abilene City Council and the mayor, city manager, police chief, fire chief, and many other Abilene Leaders since I began my campaign in August.

I’ve also attended City Council meetings in Merkel and Tuscola and will be at Buffalo Gap and Tye Meetings soon. I’ve spoken to many civic and first responder leaders in these municipalities as well. I’ve reached out to the leadership of all fivepublic school districts in Taylor County and have been able to speak with many superintendents and school board members.

If elected, I will work with commissioners, municipality leaders, first responders, education and business leaders, and nonprofit leaders to keep moving the entire County forward in a positive direction. It’ll be “Team Taylor County” as far as I’m concerned.

► Lebowitz:I know the best tool the county judge has at his disposal is communication. Including sharing information, networking, personal experience, and the ability to locate and coordinate resources.

I will work to know not only my immediate team members to communicate needs and concerns but will also work to develop external relationships with our neighbors of the Big County to be a resource when needed.

Maintaining current memorandums of agreement with the surrounding counties helps to strengthen working relationships for implementation in times of emergency. These memorandums in addition assist with reimbursem*nt during times of disaster or emergency.

5. The county judge doesn’t just help run the county. He or she is a public face, an ambassador, a person who serves on outside boards. They set the tone for the county as its public face. What will your tone be?

► Crowley:I’ve been incredibly blessed to have been born and raised here, and it’s been the greatest honor of my life to serve the people of Taylor County as a prosecutor and I want to continue that service as judge.

I’m used to serving on boards as I’m currently on the board forAlliance for Women and Children and Regional American Red Cross, and I am a member of Kiwanis Club.

I will be a “boots on the ground” county judge and have run a “boots on the ground” campaign since August. I’ve been to every city and community multiple times. I’ve had the same cellphone number since 2003 and will keep that number if elected so residentscan call or text me anytime. I’ll also hold once a quarter coffee town halls so citizens can tell me what’s on their mind.

Being county judge takes over 40 hours a week. I’ve been working since I was 15 and worked full–time to put myself through college and also worked during law school. I’m accustomed to working 50 or more hours a week during jury trial weeks and will keep that habit up if elected.

► Lebowitz:My tone will be one of a dedicated servant, a leader competent to perform the duties and responsibilities that accompany the office of county judge.

I will strive to be compassionate to the needs of the residents of Taylor County in their time of need.

I will be responsible and accountable for decisions made, and to be available to the constituents.

I will be a voice for the citizens of the county, and will do what is possible to work with other agencies.

I will be the individual capable of thinking outside of the box to see the other person's view as well as my own.

Taylor County Judge candidates outline goals, plans in five Q&As (2024)
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