Ellis County Judge Carol Bush tapped the gavel for the final time during the last commissioners' court of the year earlier this week.
“I have no regrets as I leave,” Bush remarked. “I’m very proud of the things that we’ve accomplished.”
Bush, who has served on the bench since March 2009, was initially appointed to the position to fill an unexpired term of former county judge Chad Adams. Before her appointment, Bush served as an Ellis County Court at Law Judge, assistant district and county attorney and was a Governor’s appointee to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department Board of Directors.
She was then successfully elected in 2010, receiving 86 percent of the vote, and has remained county judge ever since. Several developments took place during Bush’s tenure, including completed construction of the Ellis County Courts and Administration annex, the Juvenile Services Facility, the Ellis County Law Enforcement Training Facility and the Ellis County Elections Office.
The county also adopted the first fire code, implemented a comprehensive purchasing policy and constructed the county’s radio tower at the Ellis County Farm.
But, as Bush pointed out during the commissioners' court session Tuesday, her tenure wasn’t without its challenges.
A 3.72 percent tax increase voted by Bush and two commissioners in 2011 drew the ire of the Ellis County Republican Party executive committee, who drafted a resolution criticizing the commissioners' court for approving the tax increase during “one of the worst recessions in American history.”
“It has been more than difficult at times,” Bush admitted.
According to a previous Daily Light report, a nine-person salary grievance committee voted unanimously to raise Bush’s salary by 74 percent — from $95,000 to $165,000 — in Sept. 2016, which again caused some to turn away.
Commissioners approved a county budget in September that cuts the salary of the county judge by $64,048, effective until Jan. 1.
Bush ran for re-election this year but lost during the Republican Primary runoff in May to former Red Oak Mayor Todd Little. Little received 68.98 percent of the vote compared to Bush’s 31.02 percent. Little went on to win the judgeship during the midterm elections in November with 70.3 percent of the vote.
Regardless of the controversies, Bush said she’s always tried to do right by the people of Ellis County. She said she’s most grateful for the people she’s worked with during her time leading the court.
“I couldn’t have been more fortunate to have the people working for me, working with me, never working against me,” she said. “When you have that kind of loyalty, it’s invaluable.”
Bush said she’s most proud of her children, Adam and Hannah. They grew up during her tenure, and she said they witnessed much of the ugliness that came with politics.
“When someone is called to public service, it’s not just them – it’s their families that are affected as well,” Bush expressed. “They endured death threats. They endured all of the ugliness. And they respected me when I asked them not to jump in. Don’t engage. Just let it be. It’s okay. I can take it.”
Bush said she’s honored to have represented Ellis County for as long as she has and for being able to witness its progress and growth during that time.
“I look forward to seeing where it goes,” she said. “It’s been a distinct privilege. Not always a pleasure – but a distinct privilege.”
The Ellis County Commissioners Court approved the bonds for recently elected officials during their meeting morning, allowing them to take office in January next month.
The largest bond approved was for county clerk-elect Krystal Valdez in the amount of $500,000, while County Treasurer-elect Cheryl Chambers and District Clerk-elect Melanie Reed were approved for $256,000 and $100,000 respectively. Bonds for Sheriff Chuck Edge in the amount of $30,000 was approved, as well as County Judge-elect Todd Little in the amount of $10,000.
The court also approved reappointments for 21 responders in the Emergency Services District. According to the court agenda, the appointments are for two-year terms effective on Jan. 1, 2019 and ending on Dec. 31, 2020. The court unanimously approved the reappointments with the exception of two responders in ESD No. 7.
Newly elected public officials will be sworn in on or after Jan. 1, 2019.