Taylor County judge's race: Phil Crowley draws on attorney experience (2024)

After the votes are counted for the March 1 primary, Taylor County will have a new county judge.

Phil Crowleyor Scott Lebowitz, both Republicans, will take on the mantle currently worn by Judge Downing Bolls. There is no Democrat in the race.

Bolls, who became county judge in 2010, announcedplans in July to retire at the end of his current term, Dec. 31.

The primary winner will become the county's 27th judge in 144 years.

Crowley, 34, works for the county as an assistant district attorney and also maintains his own civil law practice.

Lebowitz, 56, isan Air Force veteran whojoined the Taylor County Sheriff's Office as a deputy.

He worked for the department for 11 years, then took a job inthe road and bridge division ofPrecinct 2, where he has been for six years.

Bolls turns 72 in April.

Early voting begins Monday.

Taylor County judge's race: Phil Crowley draws on attorney experience (1)

Who is Phil Crowley?

Phil Crowleydescribeshimself as a felony prosecutor who fights crime every day in Taylor County.

That's important, he said, because about two-thirds of the county court’s time is spent on civil cases, he said, “where you have property and rights and liberty at stake.”

“But also, in many of these cases, you have safety of the community, at stake as well,” he said. “I'm the only lawyer in this race, and I've practiced in all these cases. I think you need a lawyer who can do that balancing test to protect rights and keep our community safe, and I can do that."

Born and raised in Abilene, he is the product of the Abilene ISD and Hardin-Simmons University, where he teaches an adjunct class in criminal law each semester, he said.

He graduated from Texas Wesleyan School of Law —now Texas A&M School of Law—and immediately returned home to practice.

Crowley is unmarried. He enjoys volunteer work, traveling and is a self-described "movie buff."

In his spare time, he also enjoys reading about government and current events.

More:March Primary brings contested Taylor County judge race, but many candidates are unopposed

More:Taylor Assistant DA Phil Crowley announces plans to run for Taylor County judge

The whole package

The legal side of things isn't the onlyinterest Crowley has in the county judge's job, he said.

With his political science background, he cares about both public administration and delivering good customer service, he said.

"I also want the job because (the county judge is) one of five votes on the budget," he said.

He also cares strongly about public safety and wants to advocate for building strong emergency services.

He said he’s willing to put in the work the 50, 60or more hours the job will require, a pace he’s already become used to during trial weeks.

One of the team

Taylor County judge's race: Phil Crowley draws on attorney experience (2)

After announcinghis plans to seek Bolls’ seat early on, Crowley said he met with the county judgein July.

His first priority after that was to meetcounty commissioners.

“I met with all the commissioners and have talked to some of them quite a few times during (my) campaign,” he said.

He seesthe county judge as part of a five-member team, "working to lead thecounty forward," he said.

He's also met with many elected officialsand department headsin the county, going on speak withmembers of the Abilene City Council, Mayor Anthony Williams and City Manager Robert Hanna.

He’s also had discussions with leaders at the Abilene Chamber of Commerce and with Misty Mayo, president and CEO of the Development Corporation of Abilene.

“I don't see the city and county as adversaries,” Crowley said. “I see us as two separate governments focused on working hard to serve our constituents. And many of those constituents overlap.”

He said he believes the two government entities work well together.

“If I'm elected, I want us to have a great relationship with good open, communication,” he said.

But he hasn’t just focused on Abilene, he said.

“I’ve been to the Tuscola City Council,” he said. “I’ve been to the Merkel City Council. I've met leaders, in Tye, and I’ve met leaders in Buffalo Gap. … I've met with various superintendents in the five school districts here in the county.”

While each of the leaders of those organizations have a fiduciary duty to their individual entities, ashe would to the county, “I want to work well with everyone to move Taylor County forward," he said.

Dollars and sense

Crowley said he welcomespursuit of economic development projects "beneficial to everyone."

That includes as a recent agreement with Lancium, a Houston-based company that plans to draw onrenewable energy for a variety of tasks, including Bitcoin mining and high-throughput computing.

The company'spayment in lieu of taxesagreement with the county grants$508,437 each year for 20 years on the 800 acres where the project is to be built, far more than the acreage was bringing in previously, he said.

The project is estimated to bring $993.4 million in total projected economic impact to the county and city, while the company is investing $2.4 billion over two decades.

It's atemplate of how the county can team upwith the city for "mutually-beneficial projects,"he said, and the sort of opportunity Crowley said hewould gladly continue toexplore,if elected.

Limits and expanse

Crowley believes in limited executive power in his role as judge,

Again,his focus is on teamwork and consensus.

“I would use the executive power that I do have to wield as county administrator to carry out that consensus," he said.

His experience as a lawyer does bringanother wrinkle to what can do for the county, he said.

"Being a lawyer means you have two lawyers in the room for Commissioners Court meetings,” he said.

The county judge often negotiates contracts, Crowley said.

"I would bring that legal experience in contracts and also my experiences negotiating as a prosecutor," he said.

Goals ahead

Crowleydoes have a list of immediate priorities, including public safety, the sheriff’s office, the countyjail and juvenile detention center, adult probation and juvenile probation.

Healso concerned about ensuring appropriate help for the county’s rural fire departments and assuring quality ambulance service throughout the county.

“I've talked to the sheriff multiple times throughout the campaign,” he said, also speakingwith volunteer fire departments in the area, including and majority of their chiefs.

He's also had conversations with David Allman, president and executive director of Taylor County EMS, he said.

Wider view

At a wider scope, Crowley wants to be sure to take care ofcounty's employees in general“so they can take care of our constituents.”

He also wants to make sure to properly manage big-picture items, such as infrastructure.

That includes roads and bridges maintenance,an area that will to listen to commissioners about needs intheir precincts, he said.

He knows and trusts the “overwhelming majority” of elected officials and department heads because he has worked with them for seven years, Crowley said.

He saidhe knows department heads "bring frugal requests," as far as the county's yearly budget talks.

He does wants to keep asteady hand on the wheelwhen it comes to budgetary issues, he said, setting realistic goals to meet genuine needs.

“I will have an eye on the thoughts of the taxpayer,” he said. “I'm a taxpayer myself."

Realities such as rising inflation must play into the county's decisions, he said.

Focus on service

Crowley, who serves on the Alliance for Women and Childrenboard and the board of the Regional American Red Cross,said he’s also been active in the local Republican party,giving him that experience and those connections.

He's alsoreceived endorsem*nts,including theAbilene Police Officer's Association and the Abilene Professional Firefighter's Association.

But he emphasizedhe's "not a politician," again pointing to his interest in the public service part of the county judge's job.

If selected by voters, he said he plans to serve a four-year term, then assess his future in the office.

Right now, his current focus is on meeting voters and securing their support.

“(If) folks want me to continue serving, then I'll definitely look at running for a second term,”he said, assuming the final tally favorshim March 1.


Brian Bethel covers city and county government and general news for the Abilene Reporter-News. If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalistswith adigital subscription to ReporterNews.com.

Taylor County judges

Judges in Taylor County, going back to 1878, generally haven't stayed in office for long periods of time. Lee Hamilton served for eight years while Reed Ingalsbe served for 10 years. The longest-serving county judge is Roy Skaggs, who logged 15 years (1963-78). Downing Bolls will retire in the No. 2 slot, with 12 years.

J. W. Drury:1878

E.P. Beauchamp:1878-80

Luke Matthews: 1880-81

D.B. Corley:1881-82

John W. Murray:1882-84

H.A. Porter:1884-90

D.G. Hill: 1890-1900

C.M. Christenberry:1900-02

D.G. Hill:1902-06

T.A. Bledsoe:1906-13

E.M. Overshiner:1913-1920

D. G. Hill:1920-24

Carlos D. Speck:1924-26

Tom K.Eplen:1927-32

John Camp:1933-37

Lee Roy York:1937-38

Carl P. Hulsey:1939-44

Wiley Caffey:1945-49

Walter S, Pope Jr.:1949-51

Reed Ingalsbe:1952-62

Roy Skaggs:1963-78

Jesse Holloway:1985-91

Lee Hamilton:1992-2000

Victor Carrillo:2001-03

George Newman:2003-10

Downing A. Bolls, Jr.:2010-retiing in 2022

Taylor County judge's race: Phil Crowley draws on attorney experience (2024)
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