Even though I am relatively certain that Iíve yet to burn off the calories from last yearís turkey and dressing, Thanksgiving is once again upon us.† And in addition to chicken stock, I also need to take personal stock in order to make this a successful Thanksgiving Day.
It occurs to me that there is actually no rule or Hallmark Holiday Law which forbids us to be thankful more than one day of the year.† And yet, Iím aware that in the course of my daily routine and frustrations, I often miss opportunities to acknowledge my blessings, experience joy in the moment, or express gratitude for something or someone.
As I reflect on a personal level, I have two healthy and happy kids. Iíve watched with pride as my son flew through the phases of boyhood, entered the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M, graduated and has become an adult that has made his parents proud. My daughter is a confident young woman, grounded in her convictions and is pursuing her studies at the University of Texas. Like many of you, together, we have experienced the turbulence of life and family and have strengthened our bonds in the process. I know that I am blessed. I am thankful; and, I try never to take it for granted.
I feel the same way about my professional life.† As County Judge, I have been blessed† with an opportunity to enhance this community where I have lived for 25 years, working and raising my family. At times, the challenges have been difficult. I assumed office as the recession hit, barely missing the countyís more prosperous days. In 2009, all non law enforcement departments experienced cuts. Positions were consolidated or lost, employee benefits were reduced as the commissioners court bore the task of providing services and balancing a budget in the face of declining fee collections and property values.
In 2011, after two years of cuts and faced with the a rapidly growing population increased demand for services, diminished property values, litigation, unforeseen equipment replacement, unfunded state and federal mandates, increased fuel costs, inmate medical and food contract increases, the commissioners court made a tough but responsible decision for the future of our community. The tax rate was increased two cents per $100 valuation to meet the needs, continue road maintenance, bolster law enforcement and upgrade our radio communications system for the safety of the public and our emergency first responders.
Even though the county tax rate remains one of the lowest for counties our size; and even though it is at least 2 cents lower than almost all of our city tax rates and $1 lower than our school districtsí rates, it was not a decision made lightly.
The lessons I taught my kids about accountability and principles are the same my father taught me: Donít choose the easy road because itís personally convenient or safe. Be responsible for your actions. Do whatís right, and the rest will take care of itself.
Fortunately, we are two years removed from 2011 and our circumstances have improved.† Our obligations were met, the county buildings sold, public safety has been enhanced, and new properties are being added to the tax rolls.
So, this Thanksgiving, Iíd like to say that I am thankful for my family and my community.† I find great joy in having weathered some tough times together and watching things begin to flourish. And, I couldnít be more grateful for my family, friends, neighbors and colleagues who have supported and contributed to the progess and betterment of the county we call home.
Wishing all of you a safe and Happy Thanksgiving.
Carol Bush serves as the Ellis County Judge.