After 40 years, the compensation for the President of the Texas Association of Counties remains the same: the gratitude of one’s fellow county officials and the knowledge that the collective leadership of county government through the Association has improved the quality of services to Texas citizens. Under their leadership, the county officials who serve on the Association’s boards of directors have built the organization into one of the foremost county official associations in the country. We honor these individuals.
Connie HickmanNavarro County Justice of the Peace2012-2013
Judge Connie Hickman made history on two fronts when she became President of the Texas Association of Counties. She is the first woman and the first Justice of the Peace to serve as president in the Association’s 43-year history.
Judge Hickman came well prepared for the job. She began working in county government in 1983 as a clerk in the Navarro County Justice of the Peace office. She was elected Justice of the Peace in 1990 and is currently in her sixth term of office.
The Corsicana native has long been recognized by her peers as an effective leader. A member of the TAC Board since 2005, she has also served as president of the Justices of the Peace and Constables Association of Texas and served on that Association’s Judicial Education Committee for several years. She was twice honored as a National Judicial College scholarship recipient. She is also a graduate of the TAC Leadership Class.
Vernon CookRoberts County Judge2010-2011
Judge Vernon H. Cook has been a leader in his Panhandle community for just about all of his adult life, and he has served as a statewide leader in county government for many of those years. Cook has held the position of Roberts County Judge for almost 20 years.
Prior to entering county elected office, Cook was a teacher of vocational agriculture and county extension agent. He also served on both the city council and school board in his hometown of Miami. Other leadership positions Judge Cook has held include president of the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association, director of the Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association, long-time TAC Board member, and past president of the Panhandle Regional Planning Commission.
One of Judge Cook’s primary concerns during his presidency was the development of an effective, active succession policy applicable throughout the organization, which he deemed a critical factor in the continued growth and prosperity of the Texas Association of Counties and its members.
J.D. Johnson Tarrant County Commissioner 2008-2009
Commissioner Johnson has served more than 30 years as a Tarrant County public servant. He is currently in his sixth term as county commissioner of Precinct Four and previously served as mayor and council member in the City of Saginaw.
In addition to his role as TAC president, Commissioner Johnson served as president of the statewide County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas in 2007-2008. In 1993, he was the first county commissioner to be appointed to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, where he served a six-year term including a period as vice-chair.
Marc Hamlin Brazos County District Clerk 2005-2007
Brazos County District Clerk Marc Hamlin presided over TAC’s operations during a period of significant transition. After the passing of longtime Executive Director Sam Seale, Hamlin chaired a search committee that persuaded Karen Ann Norris to assume the position.
The TAC Board approved the merger of three self-insurance funds (offering Workers’ Comp, Liability and Property/Casualty coverages) into the TAC Risk Management Pool. And for the first time, the pools began to offer member counties substantial renewal credits based on loss history and continued renewals.
Hamlin played a major role in legislative battles to maintain county fiscal capability by opposing lower caps on appraisals or revenue. In addition, he cemented county-municipal relations by initiating, with the Texas Municipal League, the City-County Cooperation Awards that are given jointly to local governments for innovative and cost-effective programs. Hamlin personally presented Best Practices Awards to dozens of commissioners courts and visited more than 100 counties during his tenure.
Bill BaileyHarris County Constable2002-2003
Bill Bailey focused his two-year presidency on his pride in Texas and his love of county government. The Harris County constable challenged all county officials to work in their home communities to educate the public on the importance of county government. Projects initiated during his term include development of brochures and displays explaining counties as well as an aggressive effort to increase media coverage of issues affecting counties. And, taking advantage of his prior career as a successful radio personality, Bailey hosted three videotapes about county government during his time on the TAC board.
In August 2003, President Bailey presided over the ribbon cutting of the new Texas Association of Counties Building at 1210 San Antonio in Austin, a structure that was designed with his encouragement to be an impressive demonstration of the importance of counties to Texas governance.
During his tenure, the Association reached a long-established financial goal of a $10 million reserve fund. With Bailey’s encouragement, the Association’s County Information Resources Agency saw membership expand to 217 counties.
Mickey WestPalo Pinto County Judge2000-2001 and 2004-2005
Palo Pinto County Judge Mickey West led TAC during the initiation of several important initiatives. His presidential initiative was the E-County. He spoke extensively to county groups on the topic and established the E-County Task Force to develop a plan to bring enhanced technology to all Texas counties. West was a member of the TAC Building Committee from its inception and work on the new headquarters in Austin began during West's tenure.
Judge West was a founding member of the TAC's Leadership Foundation Board of Directors and in 2001 he was appointed as a member of the County Judges Education Committee.
West was elected to office in 1996. Prior to being county judge, he served as Palo Pinto County Auditor for 15 years. He was a past president of the Texas Association of County Auditors. Judge West also chaired TAC's Workers' Compensation Self-Insurance Fund Board, the TAC Investment Committee and Long Range Planning Committee.
Larry CraigSmith County Judge 1998-1999
While serving as TAC president, Larry Craig led a campaign to educate county officials about the wide array of services offered by the Texas Association of Counties. During his tenure, Craig saw to the creation of the County Information Project and the initiation of e-mail listserves as well as the expansion of the TAC Web site. Multiple "listening posts" were held around the state to get input from county officials.
Judge Craig served as Smith County Judge for 16 years. He also holds an advanced Peace Officers Certification from the East Texas Police Academy and has more than 500 classroom hours of judicial education. He is an associate member of the Smith County Bar Association. He was appointed by former Texas governor George W. Bush as chairman of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. He served as a member of the County Judges Education Committee and chaired the TAC's Leadership Foundation Board. He has been selected as an Outstanding Alumni of Tyler Junior College, recognized for public service.
David N. PerdueKnox County Judge1995-1997
Following bylaw changes in 1995, Judge David N. Perdue served an unprecedented three years as TAC President. During Perdue's term, the Association initiated its first Internet site as the Texas InfoRamp and later as www.county.org
. Also, newly passed session laws were made available on CD-ROM for the first time. Under his leadership, TAC's CountyChoice employee benefits program developed a long-term strategy to enhance managed care for county employees.
Perdue's main thrust, however, paralleled his personal interest in continuing education and resulted in the establishment of a specialized education staff devoted to the needs of all TAC members. During his tenure, the education staff was expanded and operations upgraded to allow TAC to obtain credentials from IACET (International Association for Continuing Education and Training ) to issues Continuing Education Units.
Perdue served Knox County For 17 years. In 1999, the Texas Senate and the House of Representatives recognized Perdue as the only county official in the state's history to have served as president of every possible state or regional association dealing with county government.
Jay JohnsonSwisher County Judge1993-1994
Swisher County Judge Jay Johnson served county government in many roles including TAC President in 1993-94. He was a past president of the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas and a long term member of the County Judges Education Committee. While serving as judge, Johnson represented county interests on numerous state advisory committees and commissions including the Indigent Health Care Advisory Committee. Prior to his service as president, Johnson chaired the TAC Workers Compensation Self-Insurance Fund and oversaw a transition of that program to an upgraded level of claims management. His interest in protecting counties against losses resulted in the establishment of a broad range of loss control training and technical assistance programs during his tenure as TAC president.
During his term, the Texas Association of Counties' Constitution was amended at the 1993 Post Legislative Conference.
Johnson served as Swisher County Judge for 12 years, after which he became the Education Program Manager for the Texas Association of Counties.
Carl DuncanSan Patricio County Commissioner1991-1992
San Patricio County Commissioner Carl Duncan was perhaps best known for his every day presence in Austin during the legislative session. He worked tirelessly to promote county concerns, particularly those relating to the crisis with overcrowded county jails because of the need for counties to house state inmates. His presence in the TAC offices made him a favorite of the growing TAC staff because of his strong support and concern.
While Duncan was president, County Government Week observances were established for the first time and TAC's health benefits program was expanded to assist counties self-insuring their benefits through the establishment of the Employee Benefits Pool. Education and communications projects were also expanded with the establishment of County Magazine as a bimonthly publication and the creation of several significant education programs including TAC's County Investment Officer Certification Program, the Advanced County Government Seminar and the Human Resources Institute.
Adolph Thomae, Jr.Cameron County Commissioner1989-1990
A longtime commissioner in Cameron County, Adolph Thomae Jr. was very active during his term as TAC president. He was enormously involved in the legislative process on behalf of Texas counties and was a key player in the study of indigent health care that resulted in landmark legislation in the mid-1980's.
Thomae was the leading force in establishing mandatory continuing education for county commissioners in the state and chaired the first Commissioners Education Committee. He was deeply committed to the welfare of Texas county government, serving as president of the South Texas Judges and Commissioners Association, as well as the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas. Thomae also promoted the growth of local parks in Texas and a large beach park in Cameron County is named in his honor.
Bill MeltonDallas County Treasurer1987-1988
Bill Melton was the first non-commissioners court member to serve as president of the Texas Association of Counties. The strategic planning process he established played a pivotal role in elevating the image of the Association and in broadening the scope of services. Melton laid the groundwork for the growth of TAC from its initial mission of governmental relations to a broader focus as a service organization meeting the needs of all counties and county officials. During his tenure, the Association's field services program was established and TAC's first headquarters building as 1204 San Antonio in Austin was purchased. The County Government Risk Management Pool was also established.
Bill Melton served as Dallas County Treasurer for 25 years. He was named by American City & County magazine as "County Leader of the Year" in 1995, "Most Valuable County Official in the United States" in 1991, and to the "All-Pro Government Team" in 1988. He also served as president of the County Treasurers' Association of Texas.
Jefferson County Commissioner
Norman Troy served as Jefferson County Commissioner for seven terms and was well known across the state for his wit and wisdom. During his year in office, counties, like most Texas entities, were faced with a liability insurance crisis. Commissioner Troy and Executive Director Sam Clonts worked tirelessly through three special legislative sessions to obtain legislative approval for counties to join together to self-insure to cover this risk.
During his tenure, TAC's Workers' Compensation Fund grew to 332 members, 221 being county members.
He served as president of both the South Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association and the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas. He served in numerous capacities on state and national advisory commissions and was named "Official of the Year" in 1984 by the South Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association.
Giles DalbyGarza County Judge 1983-1984
Garza County Judge Giles Dalby's term as TAC President was actually his first step in a long line of TAC leadership roles. Following his year as president, he went on to chair the board of the newly formed County Government Risk Management Pool and the board of TAC's Workers Compensation Self-Insurance Fund. Dalby was the founding chair of the County Judges Education Committee. He and other committee members worked with the Legislature to obtain funding for this important venture. TAC's orientation programs for newly elected officials were also established during Dalby's time as president. For many years, Dalby advocated the building of a "home for county government" and was a member of the Building Committee.
Dalby is one of Texas' longest serving county judges. In Garza County, Dalby maintained a focus on economic development. He is also a former president of the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas, as well as the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association. In both 1975 and 2000, the latter organization elected him "Man of the Year."
Cochran County Judge
Glen Thompson served as TAC president from 1981 to 1982. During his term, the Association moved its offices to the United Bank Towers at 15th Street and Guadalupe Street, near the University of Texas campus. Thompson also helped expand TAC's reach throughout the state - only two of Texas' 254 counties were not dues-paying members of the Association during his presidency. Thompson saw to the expansion of the Association's newly establish health benefits program which grew to 83 political entitles including 55 counties during his time in office.
Thompson served as a Cochran County Commissioner from 1940 to 1942 and served four terms as Cochran County Judge, beginning in 1947. During his time in public office, Thompson was a progressive leader for Cochran County; a county park, airport and activity buildings were erected during his judgeship. He also initiated creation of the Cochran Memorial Hospital District, which is still in operation today.
Rockwall County Judge
Few county officials have had as extensive a career in county government as Derwood Wimpee. In 1947, Wimpee was elected Rockwall County Clerk. In 1962, he was elected county judge and served 20 years. He was elected for 34 consecutive years of public service and his 20 years as county judge remains a record for this office in Rockwall County.
He was president of the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas as well as president of the North and East Texas Judges and Commissioners Association. Judge Wimpee was the first recipient of the North and East Texas Judges and Commissioners Association's "Man of The Year" Award and served on the Board of the North Central Texas Council of Governments.
Wimpee's major thrust as TAC president came in response to requests from members for help in finding affordable health insurance for county employees. Wimpee was involved in establishing TAC's Group Health Insurance Program and in selecting Prudential Insurance as coverage provider.
Brazoria County Commissioner
Joe Brigance, a native son of Brazoria County, was elected county commissioner in 1962 and held this position for 16 years. During his term as TAC president, the Unemployment Compensation Fund was established and the Board agreed to hold biennial conferences for officials across the state.
Brigance was also president of the South Texas Judges and Commissioners Association, the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas and was appointed to serve on the Houston/Galveston Area Council of Governments, the Executive Committee of Texas Good Roads/Transportation Association and the Board of Trustees of the Texas County and District Retirement System.
A devoted volunteer all his life, Brigance's last activity was the Road to Recovery, driving cancer victims to treatment facilities. He served in that capacity until the loss of his own legs.
Sam ClontsKnox County Judge1976
As TAC's president in 1976 and TAC executive director from 1977-1987, Sam Clonts provided the leadership and stability to establish the Texas Association of Counties as a well-known and respected voice on county issues. He played a major role in initiating TAC's judicial education program and established an orientation program for newly-elected county judges and commissioners through an affiliation with the University of Texas Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. To broaden the Association's role in governmental relations, Clonts worked to establish TAC's Legislative Symposium, held prior to each legislative session. Clonts also defended county interests to Texas state lawmakers. Critical legislation which received Clonts' attention included representing counties during the 1985 creation of the Indigent Health Care Act.
He served as county judge in Knox County from 1967 to 1976, and chaired the Citizens State Bank of Knox City from 1983 to 1998. Upon retiring from TAC in 1987, Clonts became a government relations specialist for the law firm of Bickerstaff, Heath and Smiley, a position he held until 1997.
Gregg County Commissioner
Bill Owens, one of TAC's founding fathers, was TAC's first appointed executive director in 1969-71 and its third president. Owens personally worked with the Legislature in promoting the establishment of the Association and in encouraging Governor Preston Smith to sign legislation into law in May, 1969. TAC's early years were spent in Owens' Gladewater office, where he served as Gregg County Commissioner. The story goes that Owens established TAC's first physical presence in Austin when he brought a trailer from East Texas to the capitol city for the legislative session in 1973.
While Owens was president, TAC's Workers' Compensation Self-Insurance Fund was established after the Texas Legislature mandated that counties provide coverage for all employees. TAC's paid membership also increased to 245 counties during his presidency.
Commissioner Owens was active in many local organizations and served as president of both the North and East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association and the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas.
Kenneth "Buck" DouglasNavarro County Judge1972
Kenneth "Buck" Douglas was hired by the board of directors as TAC's full-time executive director, subsequent to his role as president. One of TAC's founding fathers, he helped get TAC off the ground by renting office space in Austin and hiring an assistant, Marilyn Snipes. His guidance and forethought was instrumental in the future of TAC; the results of which are still important and in effect today.
Douglas was Navarro County Judge for 16 years, serving longer than any previous incumbent. Fiscal responsibility and sound economic planning characterized his tenure as county judge, and his superior leadership helped the county to operate nearly free of indebtedness during the years of his service; under Judge Douglas's guidance, many improvements were made within the county.
He resigned from TAC to run as district judge, a post that he would retain for the next 20 years.
Dallam County Judge
W.D. Henson, along with other county officials, played a major role in persuading the state legislature to authorize the creation of TAC. At an inaugural meeting of 11 county associations at the Baker Hotel in Dallas, he was unanimously elected to be its first president. His term as president was highlighted by a constant presence in Austin during the legislative session. He is also responsible for publishing TAC's first newsletter and holding its very first legislative reception.
Henson was elected Dallam County Judge in 1950 and served for more than 27 years. He was also president of the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association and the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas. He advanced to Air Force Lt. Colonel while serving during World War II and was awarded a Bronze Star and two citations.