Jerry Hogan is a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel and former Vice President of MCI Telecommunications. While on active duty in the Army he taught at the Naval War College, worked for the Secretary of Defense in his Systems Analysis office, spent three years in the US Army Green Berets 10th Special Forces in Europe, was promoted ahead of his contemporaries to Lieutenant Colonel and was on the promotion list to Colonel when he retired after serving 20 years in the US Army. He is a Master Parachutist, served in Vietnam during that war, and commanded a Battalion of 800 Soldiers in the 8th Infantry Division in Europe during the Cold War. Leaving the service Mr. Hogan became a Vice President in an IBM owned company and then a Vice President in MCI Telecommunications. While in MCI, he was responsible for one of their Regional Operations organizations, then for the Network Design and Engineering of the Network, followed by the Construction of the domestic network. While in the Network Design position, he also was responsible for the engineering of the International Network as well as the data network. While in this capacity he interfaced with governments of most of the countries where MCI had a presence. He spent considerable time in South America, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. During these visits he met and negotiated with national officials on a variety of elecommunications issues.
The New Courthouse and What it has Allowed the County to Do
On 11-11-11 the County dedicated our new Courthouse. I stated during some remarks at the ceremony, “The difficult process to obtain this much needed courthouse for Rockwall County comes to an end. Whether one believes the process was rightly or wrongly conceived, the reality is the decision was made and today we stand before the result of that decision.” And I also commented to the citizens of our County saying, “You have watched your County grow from a rural farming county of 6,000 in 1960 to 25,000 in 1990, 43,000 in 2000 and almost 80,000 people last year. The county is expected to grow to 250,000 by 2035. Our needs and our way of doing things cause us to focus on our future. Your patience, consideration, suggestions, and involvement as we plan and implement changes, such as the building of this new Courthouse, and as we convert from that rural farming county to an urban county located next to a major metroplex is needed and appreciated.” Let me give you some specific examples of what we can now do as the result of this new Courthouse.
When the Courthouse was first designed, it was to have three floors. They were to contain the judicial courtrooms and the associated functions of the District Attorney, District Clerk, and the County Clerk. But the question was asked about expansion space as the County continued to grow? The experience of neighboring Collin County where they had recently finished a new courthouse, to have to then turn around a few short years after it was opened and build an expansion wing to handle the new courtrooms, was not something Rockwall County wanted to duplicate. Thus the decision, in my opinion, was correctly made to add an additional floor to the courthouse to be used for expansion of new courtrooms as they were needed.
Early this year the Commissioners Court addressed the issue of placing temporary County offices in this empty space until it was needed for new courtrooms. As the forecast for growth did not call for a new courtroom for 5-8 years, this seems to be a good decision too.
Thus with this decision made, the task became one of realigning offices and facilities to reduce costs, make it easier for the citizens to do business with the County (and the State), and provide better office space than found in some of the older buildings.
Several iterations of possible move of offices and facilities to retain were developed. A good plan has been developed.
Thirteen departments that were not originally scheduled to be located in the new Courthouse will now be placed in that facility. Our two existing JP’s and Constables, as well as the two new JP’s and Constables we must add to the County rolls on January 1, 2013 because of a State mandate, now have their offices on the third floor of the Courthouse. Additionally, our Indigent Health Care office, the Treasurer for the County, and our Human Resources Department will also be located on this floor. The movement of these three functions will happen in early February of next year.
Also to be located in the new Courthouse will be our new Veterans Service Officer, Mr. Les Cooks, an experienced Officer who previously held this position in Hunt County. We have 5,800 veterans now in our county. While there is a State requirement that a Veterans Service Officer must be added to the Counties roll once the population reaches 200,000, the Commissioners Court made the decision to add this function immediately so our veterans will have the necessary assistance they might need in dealing with the US and State Department of Veterans Affairs. This new office will be located on the 4th floor of the Courthouse and will open on December 7 of this year.
Finally, in an area left vacant on the 2nd floor, the Auditor’s office of the County will be located. This move too will happen in the early February time frame.
Other moves are also planned. Our Tax Assessors office will be moved to the first floor of the Historic Courthouse. This will happen in early February. Our Agriculture Extension office will be moved to our existing Government Services Building located on Whitmore Street. This will happen in January, and when completed this building will house the Ag Extension office, our Juvenile Probation Department, our Maintenance group, and storage space for many of our county records.
The Health Coordinators Office will move to the Historic Courthouse early next year. The Elections Office will remain in its current facility on the Square in Rockwall and the Commissioners Court will remain in the Historic Courthouse.
We are also moving the State Drivers License Office, currently located in the Brookshire Shopping Center, to better facilities! Rather than staying in the current County leased space, this function, along with the office for seven State Highway Troopers, will be moved to the County building located at 108 Fannin Street, the old JP 1 location. This will happen by December 31 of this year. (While the County has NO responsibility for the operation of this function, we do provide office space so this facility is available to our citizens.)
When all of these moves are completed by February, the remaining County facilities will be: new Courthouse, Historic Courthouse, Library, Jail, old Library building on RT 66 that houses the Adult Probation Department, Government Services Building on Whitmore Street, Road and Bridge facility on RT 551, and Elections Office on the Rockwall Square.
We are able to cancel two leases for space where we currently have County facilities and to put up for sale the County Annex as well as the Government Center on Ridge Road (old Cameron Building.) We will reduce our lease costs by $48,000 per year and our operating costs for the four locations by $132,000. We will receive dollars from selling the two buildings and we will provide better facilities, more convenient facilities for our citizens, and we will save money.
We could not have done this without the new Courthouse.
As I said on 11-11-11, this new Courthouse is like Rockwall County; it is Impressive, it is Bold, and it Looks to the Future. I hope that each of you will quickly see it like this also.
Court who make the final determination on any action to be taken. The Court also sets the salary of the Administrator, the budget for the office, and the determination of any additional people who may be added to the office.
In addition to the Commissioners Court and the County Election Commission, the Elections Administrator works very closely with the office of the Texas Secretary of State who is responsible for elections in our state. Texas Elections Code is very specific in terms of what can and cannot be done, how it is to be done, and what violations of the code might be.
The Elections Administrator, in addition to being responsible for all County elections, may also contract with political parties and political subdivisions, such as cities, water districts, school districts, to conduct elections for their entities. As an interesting side note, when there is a Primary election for a political party, the County pays for the early voting part of the election, but the political party(s) pays for the actual election on Election Day.
In addition to all of the requirements for the actual elections, the Elections Administrator must also determine where the Precinct Polling places will be located. This doesn’t really sound like a very tough job, BUT the polling place must be in the Precinct AND it must also be approved by the US Department of Justice (DOJ). This oversight by the DOJ is to again insure no citizen is denied their right to vote. Typical polling places include schools, fire stations, churches, and courthouses, but any location that is large enough for the voters to vote and is located in the precinct may be used.
As you would expect, technology is making the administration of the voting process simpler. It used to be that all ballots were hand counted and it was not unusual for the final determination of who won an election not to be made until the wee hours of the following day. Automated counting of both paper and electronic ballots has eliminated that delay. Today as the ballot is cast into either the paper ballot machine or the electronic machine, it is immediately “read” and the total for any person or issue on the ballot is calculated. When the polling place is closed, the election judge then returns the “counter mechanism” to the elections office and it is then automatically tabulated and totaled for the County. These results are then reported to the State and released to the citizens.
A tradition that has been around our County for a long time is going up to the Courthouse or the Elections office on election night and waiting for the results to be released. Now through automation, you can get these results right on your Ipad, phone, or PC in the comfort of your living room or at your table at the restaurant. If interested, please provide your email address to email@example.com and tell her you would like to be added to the free automated reporting software the County has instituted in the last election. You will be impressed with the speed in which you get the results of our elections.
Jerry Hogan is the County Judge of Rockwall County. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 214-394-4033.