Judge Michael D. Brown
Tom Green County Judge
by Kat Rowoldt
Every now and then you get the opportunity to witness something firsthand. It was nearly twenty years ago when then Mike Brown decided he would run for Tom Green County Judge. He had not held office previously and the office he was seeking had been experiencing tremendous turnover.
In the summer of 1994, I was beginning a local magazine called the "Vineyard Ink Press," and the election that year was moving into full swing. Most of the candidates I had never met before, Mike Brown being one of those that I did not know. My family knew him, but not me. At the time, I didn't know much about County government, but I was willing to learn and give of my time to watch both the County Commissioners' Court and City Council meetings. I began attending them both, regularly.
The office of Tom Green County Judge had had five judges in the past eight years: Edd Keys, Tom Massey, Bob Post, Enoch Duncan, Bill Moore, and soon to be elected Mike Brown would make the sixth man at that post. That position is an elected post for a four year term. It was obvious that he would be walking into a situation that needed someone to bring stability to it.
Judge Brown was sworn in on January 1, 1995. He had hardly finished moving his things in and finding his way around when he was paid a visit by Robert Darilek, an external auditor for the County, on Friday the thirteenth of January. Not even two weeks into his new job, Judge Brown is handed news that was devastating. The County was in the midst of awarding bids to build the new jail, but the news that he received that day brought everything to a swift and full halt.
Tom Green County had over 8.8 million dollars in Inverse Dirivities that were worth only around 4.5 million. The previous County Treasurer, Billie McDonald, had been handling those funds. The way the County government had been operating at that time, she had complete say on what investments were purchased. There were now no funds to build that new jail.
In addition, the previous County Commissioners Court had granted raises to the employees in 1994 based on sales tax revenues. The budget was $65,000 in the hole and the County did not have any kind of reserve to tap. If that was not enough bad news to have heaped on you as you are settling into your new job, Judge Brown was soon notified that the County had been overpaid in their portion from sales tax to the tune of $1,000,000.00. The County owed the State of Texas a million dollars!
The jail project was canceled, which at that time was located out by Ethicon. The architect was let go. The County began filing lawsuits. Tom Green County sued the former County Treasurer Billie McDonald, they sued all the Brokers and Investment Companies, and Attorney Sam Allen even sued the Moody family directly that owned the Investment Companies.
It took three years to get it all done. Tom Green County received $2.5-3,000,000.00 from the lawsuits. What had been a very disorganized County government means of operation was turned around and set into order. Today Tom Green County operates with a 20% reserve and has an AA rating. They work with a five year projected budget and use unspent monies to handle maintenance needs on both buildings and equipment. They actively plan ahead for replacing equipment and to handle maintenance on the various buildings that the County owns.
There are three factors they use in putting the budget together. 1. Current inflation rate, 2. Two and one half percent increase in salaries annually, and 3. Maintaining a 20% reserve at all times. The Sales Tax surplus that we have been enjoying is being allocated to do much needed maintenance and replace aging equipment.
Judge Michael D. Brown has brought stability to our County Government and he has weathered several storms over the past eighteen years. Today he is facing the impact of the Cline-Shale boom on the county roads that Tom Green County is responsible to maintain. "One fully loaded eighteen-wheeler's impact on our roads equals 9,000 automobiles on the same road," reported Judge Brown. Yes, there are still some challenges to prepare and work on handling, but we have a man who has proven himself to be able to handle difficult situations, well qualified with years of experience now to lead us through this season.