There’s a new judge in town, as County Judge Ron Eckert adjourned his last commissioners’ court meeting in the position after commissioners accepted his resignation and appointed Debi Hays to fill the vacancy Monday.
Eckert’s term officially ended at 5 p.m. Monday, with Hays sworn in at that same time.
“I’ve enjoyed being here and trying to serve my hometown and home county,” Eckert said. “I think that Judge Hays will do a great job and I know that the county will give her every opportunity for success.”
Commissioners gave Eckert a plaque during the meeting, commemorating his service as Ector County judge, a position he held since October 2015.
“Call us anytime, just not about the sales tax,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Greg Simmons told Eckert, jokingly.
Eckert’s resignation was announced via the meeting’s agenda, and later said he was resigning from his position to begin work as vice president and general counsel for an oil and gas service company.
The decision to leave office came after the formation of the courthouse committee, Eckert said, and was announced weeks after commissioners voted against his proposal to take on $85 million of debt for a new courthouse. But Eckert said he feels like he has made momentum with the formation of the courthouse committee with city officials, in efforts to replace the current courthouse, which Eckert said is in a “state of urgency.”
“I felt like I had moved it far enough down the line to where there was momentum toward the decision,” Eckert said about the courthouse issue. “I think I’m leaving the county in good hands.”
Eckert said he didn’t think in terms of legacy, leaving others to decide his own, but said he gave it his best shot as county judge, comparing himself to his hero, Dallas Cowboys player Roger Staubach.
“I was trying to throw Hail Mary’s and touchdown passes right up until the last seconds of the game,” Eckert said. “Roger didn’t win all the Super Bowls. I didn’t win everything I tried to do here, but I was at least throwing the football.”
Some of Eckert’s accomplishments that he mentioned included taking on $85 million in debt to build the jail expansion to the Ector County Law Enforcement Center, and holding an election this November to create an Ector County assistance district, which was passed by commissioners during the Monday meeting.
The implementation of the sales tax district would levy a 1.25 percent sales tax to all areas of Ector County outside of Odessa and Goldsmith. The district would raise around $15 million a year if approved, officials estimate, more than a quarter of the county’s $59 million expenditure budget.
Eckert said now was the right time to leave as well so Hays would have an opportunity to build her own budget and not work off of his.
“A budget represents a county judge’s priorities many times, and so I wanted to give her that chance to set her own priorities and forge her own path,” Eckert said.
Hays said the budget will be her first priority coming into the county, followed by looking at how to communicate with county residents about the upcoming sales tax election, and to look more closely at the courthouse committee and options for building a new courthouse.
“I’m ready to roll my sleeves up and get to work,” Hays said.
Hays said the county is seeing the best of times right now, and the county can use the growth of the economy and the amount of people coming in to its advantage.
“There are people coming here that make a lot of money, and I think that we need to ask them to help contribute back to our community.”
During the meeting, commissioners also voted to appoint Missi Walden to fill the vacant seat of Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace. Walden was appointed after voters elected her to the office last May, besting Matthew Stringer in the runoff. She will be sworn into the vacant seat today.
IN OTHER BUSINESS, COMMISSIONERS
- Presented a Certificate of Completion to Precinct 1 Commissioner Eddy Shelton for County Commissioners Court Leadership Academy Class VII from V.G. Young Institute of County Government.
- Approved a proposed ban of rockets with sticks and missiles with fins for the 4th of July fireworks season.
- Accepted a donation of $85,000 from Bustin’ for Badges for the Sheriff’s Office.
- Accepted a donation of $1,000 from Adriana and Marcos Lujan for the purchase of a tactical vest for the Sheriff’s Office.
- Approved a proposed resolution adopting a temporary 207 (k) exemption two-week work period of 86 hours and to compensate overtime with paid overtime after 86 hours for jailers, but retaining the current 207 (k) exemption work period of 28 days and overtime earned after 171 hours with overtime paid in the form of compensatory time off for all other law enforcement.
- Appointed Gus Ortega to the Board of Trustees for Permian Basin Community Centers for a two-year term running from June 27, 2018 to June 26, 2020.
- Approved the competitive proposal and contract for the roof repair—phase 1 project.
- Approved the evidence/forensics building competitive sealed proposal specifications.
- Approved the Ector County Law Enforcement Center—tilt skillets to be purchased with the jail expansion funds—special departmental equipment, and authorize a budget amendment from jail expansion funds, improvements and construction to jail expansion funds, special departmental equipment in the amount of $30,007.
- Approved the proposal/letter of agreement for the ECLEC—abandoned vehicle and forensics storage building with JSA Architects to be funded from jail expansion fund, professional services for $42,000.
- Approved the proposed AIA change order No. 8 for the jail additions and renovations project.
- Approved a proposed amendment to the Lexis Advance Subscription Agreement between LexisNexis and Ector County, for research services for the County Law Library.
- Approved a proposed interlocal agreement between the Office of the Attorney General and Ector County, for the purposes of issuing 10 licenses to the Office of the Attorney General for the purpose of allowing the Office of the Attorney General to access the County Odyssey Integrated Courts and Justice System.
- Approved the proposed Angel Subdivision being 50.1 acres out of section 18, block 43, T-2-S, T&P RY. CO. Survey.
- Approved a requested letter of support for a grant proposal to be submitted by Permian Basin Community Centers for a matching grant for justice-involved individuals as directed by Senate Bill 292.
- Approved the proposed replat of lot 5, block 2, Brown Industrial sites, having a tract site of 5.05 acres.
- Approved the proposed replat of 8.05 acres out of tract 9, Belmont Acres.
- Approved the proposed replat of lot 8, block 3, Pleasant Farms subdivision, first filing.
- Received the Accounts Payable Fund Requirements Report for June 11, 2018.
- Tabled action to appoint Commissioner Eddy Shelton as a voting member of the policy board of the Permian Basin Metropolitan Planning Organization, filling the vacancy resulting from the resignation of County Judge Ron Eckert from said board, until next commissioners’ court.