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New County Judge prioritizes public safety
Parker County has a new County Judge for the first time in more than 20 years. Pat Deen defeated incumbent judge Mark Riley in the Republican primary in 2018. As no Democrats were on the ballot, Deen was to have taken office in January 2019.
However, Riley retired early, and on Sept. 7, 2018, the Parker County Commissioners Court voted to put Deen in office early.
Pat Deen and his family moved into Parker County in the early 1990s, settling in Hudson Oaks. He worked for Duracell for many years, ultimately becoming director of the company’s hearing aid business in North America and Canada.
“We moved out here and quickly real- ized there was no strategic plan for future growth,” he said. He had just sodded his new lawn, and then water restrictions kicked in that did not allow enough watering to allow the lawn to become established.
“We had, I think, two ground storage facilities at that time and I was told that I couldn’t water my yard, which was the kiss of death for my grass.
“What I saw was the growth that was coming out this way, so I ran for council and got on the council with the focus of bringing surface water to Parker County.”
Within a couple of years after his elec- tion to the council in 1998, Hudson Oaks began construction of its current water tower, and had negotiated to bring surface water into the city from Weatherford.
After acquiring water, Deen said Hudson Oaks began to plan in earnest for the growth that was coming, and the city set out to map its future with the goal or remaining ad valorem (property) tax free.
“We didn’t have any debt. The water was supported through the enterprise fund, so that that was easy to do, but as we continued to look and see down the road, what was our overall strategic plan? We didn’t have one.”
When Hudson Oaks Mayor Gene Voyles got close to retirement, Deen looked at a larger leadership role, and became only the fourth mayor in the short history of the city in 2006. Deen wanted to continue with the process of establishing a comprehensive plan for Hudson Oaks.
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“And so the focus became then on eco- nomic development, trying to control who we were going to be. And if we were going to remain ad valorem free it’s cut expenses, but we were clearly in a position where we were having to deal with growth so we couldn’t do that.”
Deen said the city’s choice was to either tax people or find other sources of revenue. Sales tax revenue was the answer for the city, which required an emphasis on economic development. To the current day, the city relies on sales taxes to fund the majority of city government.
That focus on economic development led to the agreement for HEB to locate in the city.
“We’re the ones who went out and sought out HEB. They didn’t come and pick us,” Deen said.
Goals as County Judge
The County Judge is the chief executive officer in Parker County, presiding over Commissioners Court, where the county’s budget and county policies are decided.
Deen has three main areas of focus as County Judge.
“Most important is public safety,” he said. He plans to work with Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler closely.
Deen pointed to the FBI’s Urban Crime Report as evidence that more can be done to ensure the safety of county residents. He said he felt the numbers on the UCR report “are higher than what I think they should be and it’s no reflection on what Sheriff Fowler’s done. I think it’s a reflection on the resources that we’ve given in the focus on public safety. So my intent is to continue to help Sheriff Fowler with what has been an outstanding job; he’s the best sheriff in the state.”
Deen thinks the county can look at the number of officers available to the sheriff either through redeployment of resources or through committed resources.
“And I will commit again to that, as I have in the past, that we will sit down
together and work through that.”
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