Why losing 64 years of leadership is a big worry at the Tarrant County courthouse

·2 min read

Tarrant County is about to change, and we don’t even know the half of it.

With both a new county judge and a new criminal district attorney elected next year, plus two new commissioners, everything that county leaders touch will show a new look.

John Peter Smith Hospital’s $1.2 billion expansion will take on a different look, and the hospital might lose funding depending on the new commissioners from western Tarrant County and Arlington.

Never heard of commissioners court until County Judge Glen Whitley started issuing disaster orders?

Here’s just a little of what the commissioners do and why the March 1 primaries are important:

They appoint the 11-member board to oversee a $1.2 billion hospital.

They appoint the 9-member mental health authority board to oversee $200 million in care.

They decide every penny spent on the criminal justice system, from patrol cars and jail cells to courtrooms and indigent legal services

They fill three seats on the public transit agency board.

They fill two seats on the Panther Island board.

They hire the manager who oversees day-to-day county operations.

Those are only a few of the agencies — 57 in all — governed in all or in part by commissioners.

Choosing the wrong county judge or commissioner can wreck the county’s healthcare, crime rate and highway system.

So pay attention.

A total of 64 years of experience will walk out the door Jan. 1, 2023, with the retirements of Whitley of Hurst, Commissioner J.D. Johnson of northwest Tarrant County and Commissioner Devan Allen of Arlington.

On top of that, Criminal District Attorney Sharen Wilson is retiring after eight years as DA and 23 years as a judge.

Counting the retirements of several judges, Tarrant County is losing close to 200 years of courthouse know-how.

Allen, a Democrat, became the latest short-timer Tuesday when she announced that she will take a job making a “global impact on issues affecting women” instead of running for a second term.

She said she was “bullied” and “disrespected” as the first Black commissioner from Arlington and only the third woman ever elected to the court.

“Through the pain, the work you sent me here to do was reaffirmed,” she said.

Whitley thanked her.

“But I feel comfortable that the voters of this county will put the right folks here, and it will continue to move forward,” he said.

I do not feel so comfortable.

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