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Collin County Judges recall 38 years.

Nathan E. White, Jr., William J. Roberts, Ron Harris, and Keith A. Self

WHAT: Discussing 37 Years of Collin County Leadership
WHEN: Friday, Dec. 14, 2012 at 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
WHERE: 4th Floor Commissioners Courtroom, Admin Bldg.

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EVEN NATIVE TEXANS SIT BACK IN AWE when they look over the incredible amount of growth and development in Collin County over the past 37 years. From a scattering of farm communities, dominated by McKinney, the county seat, and the upstart suburban model of Plano in 1975, Collin County’s population has grown 6-½ times since. Despite some slowing of the pace in the last few years, the county is still projected to hit 1 million residents sometime between 2016 and 2018. 

County Clerk Stacy Kemp

With all that change in mind, we thought now would be a great opportunity to reflect on the county’s progress, and bring together a group of men who had a direct role in helping shape what has become one of the best spots to live, work and play in Texas -- and the Nation.                         

as reported by J. B. Blocker

Nathan E. White, Jr.   1975-1982

  He's home grown. He is a  Plano graduate who married his high school sweetheart,  joined the Navy, got his law degree at SMU, and became a civic leader. He sits comfortably in his panel seat with the three Collin County judges that have followed him. It was White who signed off on the logo that has become recognizable on a global scale.
  " When I was elected in '74, I was the 1st Republican to be elected. In fact, the Texas Rangers showed up the next day to investigate the ballots. It was that shocking that a Republican could have won that election."
   He still serves as the Senior Judge for the 366th District Court. He mentions his wife of 48 years. He speaks highly of his secretary Melva Kemp while her daughter Collin County County Clerk Stacy Kemp sat in the audience. There were 77,000 residents of Collin County in 1974. When he took office, the records where unauditable. There was basically no management infrastructure for a county that was about to explode! He saw the problem and proceeded to organize a county.

Nathan E. WHITE, Jr. is currently a senior State District Judge who presided over the 366th Judicial District Court in Collin County from its inception in 1989 until September 2006, some 17 years. Judge White served as County Judge for two full terms, and served as County Treasurer from 1983-1985. A 1960 graduate of Plano High School, he earned a BBA in Accounting from Southern Methodist University in 1964, and passed the CPA exam later that year. He also attended George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C., from 1969-1971, while serving in the U.S. Navy, and received his law degree from SMU Law School in 1972.
·         At the time he took office as County Judge, the county population came to about 105,000 (less than current-day McKinney’s population) – and practically doubled in his eight-year tenure.
·         Countywide, the total property valuation for 1975 came to a little over $239 million, the amount by which budget revenues would be set. For Fiscal Year 2013, that amount is $20 million LESS than the county’s combined budget.
·         In FY1978, the oldest complete budget book we have on hand, there were 209 employees working for Collin County government.
·         FY1976 Operating Budget:  $4,817,952;
·         FY1983 Operating Budget: $11,920,252;
·         FY1983 countywide valuation $7.18 billion

William J. Roberts   1983-1990
  The George Bush was being negotiated. It took the cooperation of 7 cities and 3 counties, but it got done and it is an important artery of Collin County. The future of the I.T. Department for organized purchasing and records was developed under his leadership. The population was about 250,000 and setting growth records between Loop 121, the North Dallas Tollway, and I-75!
   Collin County Community College now serves over 46,000 students. It was a glint in the eye of Judge Bill Roberts and many other visionaries who got the ball rolling.
  " I am grateful to Judge White for cleaning up the Swamp that was county management before I took office. While he was so occupied trying to organize the county, I could look more into the manageable future. I am especially proud of the growth and success of Collin County Community College and the 200 acres that is the foundation for county growth. The county jail, administrative building, and court house now occupy this property with plenty of room to expand."

William J. ROBERTS is a partner in the Plano law firm of Gay, McCall, Isaacks, Gordon & Roberts. He served as County Judge for two full terms. He was also Plano City Attorney from 1970-1978. He earned a Bachelor in Business Administration in Finance from the University of Texas at Austin in 1966, and received his law degree from Baylor University School of Law in 1968. He also took post-graduate Legal Studies in 1977 from Southern Methodist University’s Underwood School of Law, and attended the National Judicial College, Special Session, in 1985.
·         The County population grew by more than 45% during his eight-year tenure, with a 1990 population coming in 264,000 – slightly more than the current population of Plano today.
·         Property values, however, doubled during the same time frame to more than $14 billion.
·         The County employee workforce almost doubled, from 394 in 1983 to 651 in 1990.
·         FY1984 Operating Budget: $14,517,471; FY1991 Operating Budget: $42,479,628.

Ron Harris  1991-2006

  Legacy was no-mans land. Frisco had about 5,000 residents. For the next 16 years, Ron  Harris  would help lead the way to manage the eminent growth and infrastructure needs. The new state-of -the-art jail was a mile stone.
  "I worked with a great group with 4 county commissioners, but I always had to remember that I only had one vote. And it takes THREE. To get things accomplished, nearly everything is compromise. I wouldn't be married today if it wasn't for compromise!"
  With that management style, the former Staff Sgt. who attended Texas Tech, Baylor, University of Texas, and SMU law  saw the development of Hi-way 121, and the expansion of 78 from Garland which led to the explosion in Wylie. One of his favorite programs is the installation of a Merit Pay reward system.

Ron HARRIS is a business consultant who lives in McKinney. He served as County judge for 16 years and, before that, another five years as a Plano City Councilman. He has a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Management and Accounting from Texas Tech University, and attended Baylor University and the University of Texas at Dallas. After college, he graduated from the National Guard Non-Commissioned Officer Academy and served in Airborne Infantry, Mechanized Infantry and Communications units. He was honorably discharged with a rank of staff sergeant in 1975.
·         In his 16-year tenure, county growth exploded by 162%, with more than 200,000 new residents arriving between 2000-2006 alone.
·         The county tax base saw explosive growth by 250%, as did the operating budget for county government;
·         FY1991 Operating Budget: $42,479,628; FY2007 Operating Budget: $168,700,000
·         County government’s workforce grew from 719 to 1,621 workers during his tenure,

Keith A. Self  2007-Current Day

  Now, Collin County is the SIXTH most populated county in Texas. Keith Self was elected for his conservative convictions. The $176 million dollar budget  needed to be directed toward an exploding population. Roads to be built for a county that could very well become it's own metropolis in the next 10 years with room to welcome a million more people. We rely on the commissioners court to manage the infrastructure with an eye to the future.
  "Realistically, we have to be looking at least 20 years ahead and beyond when we make decisions. With all the highway development we are managing our eye is on the growth. I'm really proud of the expansion of the court house and other facilities to this property.  When I took this office, I knew that the previous leadership had done such a good job in paving the way, that just like the jockey who rode Secretariat, I just need to not fall off."
  The West Point graduate and career officer retired only to be called back into service. He is very accessible and a highly visible presence around the county. While the county is now running smoothly throughout the system, all this growth requires  dealing with more and more regulated operations involving millions of dollars. The tax base is stable but with growth comes huge future responsibilities.

Keith A. SELF has presided over the Commissioner’s Court since January 2007. He is a 5th-generation Texan who brought 25 years of experience as a U.S. Army officer to his current position. A 1975 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, Judge Self holds a Master’s Degree in International Relations from the University of Southern California, and is a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Judge Self retired from active military duty in 1999 as a Lieutenant Colonel. He was recalled to active duty for a 14-month tour in Afghanistan and Qatar, serving with the U.S. Central Command. He and his wife, Tracy, have been married for 35 years and live in McKinney.
·         While the county’s population growth slowed from 2007-2012, Judge Self’s tenure so far has seen an 11% growth rate, with a 2012 population of 804,000-plus.
·         In addition, while the operating budget has grown about 3% in this time frame, the property tax base climbed by 20%, to $74.6 Billion.
·         The county workforce comes to 1,789 authorized positions in FY2013, with an Operating Budget of $173.6 Million

- J.B. Blocker is a media consultant based in Collin County in North Texas. Advertise with J.B. by calling 469-334-9962.

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