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    Texas Counties 101

    Across the state, 254 counties serve the needs of more than 28 million Texans.


    County Best Practices Award Recipients

    Every other year, the Texas Association of Counties' County Best Practices Awards Program recognizes noteworthy innovations and solutions that increase efficiency, improve operations or overcome obstacles brought about by, say, a pandemic. These solutions help Texas counties better serve their residents. The best of them also are models that other counties can shape to fit their own needs.

    Here are the recipients of the 2022 County Best Practices Awards. Congratulations to all!


    County: Bell County 
    Contact: County Clerk Shelley Coston 
    Phone: (254) 933-5160

    Description: Uncertainty marked the early weeks of the pandemic as the world adjusted to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. In Bell County, Clerk Shelley Coston's team quickly created and implemented a continuity of operations plan that allowed them to provide essential services while protecting office staff, their families and the public. The office never missed a beat. In the first month of the pandemic, for example, it issued marriage licenses and recorded birth and death certificates in numbers comparable to a monthlong period before COVID-19.

    County: Burleson County
    Contact: County Judge Keith Schroeder
    Phone: (979) 567-2333

    Description: Jail for individuals with mental illness who commit minor offenses costs Texas counties millions of dollars each year. In 2020, Burleson County sought an alternative path. Though small, with a population under 18,000, the county hired a full-time mental health deputy to help persons in psychological crisis find treatment and avoid jail. The initiative has saved taxpayers money, and grants have since allowed Burleson County to hire a part-time pre-trial mental health caseworker. Meanwhile, the deputy the county hired, Shawn Edwards, was named the Mental Health Officer of the Year in 2020 by the Texas Crisis Intervention Team and has been called upon to advise and train other law enforcement officers.

    County: Harris County 
    Contact: Denise Oncken, bureau chief, Mental Health, Victim Services, Child Fatality and Juvenile Justice Divisions, Harris County District Attorney's Office 
    Phone: (713) 274-5919 

    Description: Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg's office, in partnership with the Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD, law enforcement and other stakeholders, opened the Judge Ed Emmett Mental Health Diversion Center in 2018 to steer low-level, nonviolent offenders with mental illnesses away from jail and give them the treatment services they need. For every $1 spent on diversion, Harris County saves $5.54 on criminal justice costs, a recent study determined. The county also has cut in half the number of new jail bookings post-diversion.

    Additional information: Watch video.

    County: Hidalgo County 
    Contact: County Judge Richard Cortez 
    Phone: (956) 318-2600

    Description: Motivated by the prolonged power failure experienced during the deadly winter storm of February 2021, the flooding and outages wrought by Hurricane Hanna in July 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez teamed up with commissioners, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and other local officials to create the Cooking School for Emergencies, a novel educational program to help residents better prepare for natural disasters. In-person and livestreamed classes showed residents what to include in a home emergency kit and how to cook nutritious meals safely for up to three days without electricity. 

    Additional information: Watch video.

    County: Montgomery County 
    Contact: Eric McHugh, deputy constable, Montgomery County Pct. 4 Constable's Office 
    Phone: (281) 577-8985

    Description: Drawing inspiration from his office's motto, "Professionalism, Dedication and Compassion," Montgomery County Pct. 4 Constable Rowdy Hayden sought a role that he and his constables could fill that could help individuals in custody suffering from addiction and possibly prevent future crimes. Hayden and his team worked with local partners to create the Constable 180 program to introduce suspects to the possibility of recovery. They then encourage and help anyone who takes advantage of the program and makes a positive change in their life to share their story in the hope that it will embolden someone else to make a similar positive change. 

    Additional information: Watch video.

    County: Montgomery County 
    Contact: Pct. 1 Constable Philip Cash 
    Phone: (936) 538-7821

    Description: In 2021, with the guidance and approval of the County Attorney's Office and the Commissioners Court, and with funding assistance from the American Rescue Plan Act, Montgomery County Pct. 1 Constable Philip Cash implemented the Mental Health Crisis Intervention Follow-Up Program to assist individuals suffering a mental illness. Mental health deputy constables conduct regular follow-up meetings with persons who have experienced a mental health crisis, been detained on a mental health warrant or have reached out previously for assistance. They work to build trust and establish a rapport with these individuals to help them maintain their mental health and intervene before they enter a state of crisis. The goal is to boost an individual's chances of recovery, lower the number of arrests for offenses related to mental health and ease the strain on the county jail and local court system. 

    Additional information: Listen to podcast.

    County: Tarrant County 
    Contact: Clint Ludwig, chief deputy, Tarrant County Clerk's Office 
    Phone: (817) 884-1079

    Description: To more conveniently and cost effectively elicit customer service feedback, Tarrant County Clerk Mary Louise Nicholson and her team used readily available technology to create quick response (QR) codes and post them at each public-facing clerk station. They also added the codes to printed receipts. Customers now can easily use the cameras on their smartphones to snap the QR code and submit a customer service questionnaire. Counties of all sizes can replicate this low-cost alternative to paper "comment" cards to better measure customer engagement and improve the quality of their customer service.

    County: Tarrant County 
    Contact: Pct. 3 Commissioner Gary Fickes 
    Phone: (817) 248-6295

    Description: Isolation is a known risk factor for loneliness among people 65 and older. To meet this population's need for inclusion, socialization, creativity and purpose, and to offer hope and support to homebound seniors and health care workers, Tarrant County Pct. 3 Commissioner Gary Fickes and his staff started the Northeast Tarrant County Seniors Rock initiative in July 2021. The project brings together seniors to paint rocks for homebound individuals and others to brighten their day with positive messages. The rocks serve as a keepsake for the recipients, and the activity gives the seniors who paint them much-needed social interaction. 

    Additional information: Watch video.

    County: Tarrant County 
    Contact: Megan Batchelder, strategic initiatives manager, Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney's Office 
    Phone: (817) 884-3390

    Description: Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney Sharen Wilson, with the support and funding of the Commissioners Court, established an adult sexual assault prosecution team in November 2019. She tasked the team with understanding how the criminal justice system frequently fails sexual assault victims and improving the investigation and preparation of sexual assault cases. The result was a new, cooperative approach to handling adult sexual assault cases that has seen the number of no-bill cases by grand juries drop from 31% to 16% in 2020 and to 9.2% in 2021. 

    Additional information: Watch video.

    County: Tarrant County 
    Contact: Megan Batchelder, strategic initiatives manager, Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney's Office 
    Phone: (817) 884-3390

    Description: Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney Sharen Wilson's office partnered with the Fort Worth school district to teach high school students about how the criminal justice system works during the 2020-21 school year. Prosecutors, investigators and other staff members adapted the curriculum of an existing program, Citizen Prosecutor Academy, for teens to create four interactive classes to be broadcast live via Zoom into multiple classrooms at the same time. The curriculum covered four topics: First Amendment rights; the dynamics of arrest, search and seizure; the process of a trial; and investigations and forensic evidence. The program's initial success spurred interest from other school districts and Wilson's office expanded the program into the Crowley school district in spring 2022.

    County: Williamson County 
    Contact: Cherie Vasquez, chief of staff, Williamson County Pct. 3 Justice of the Peace 
    Phone: (512) 943-1508

    Description: In August 2021, Williamson County Pct. 3 Justice of the Peace Judge Evelyn McLean launched a free 10-week program for high school juniors and seniors called "What Every Teen Should Know About Texas Law." The program, based on the book of the same title by Judge Christopher Cypert, not only helps students learn about laws most relevant to them as teenagers and more seriously consider the consequences of their actions, but it also teaches them how to navigate some basic adult tasks such as how to lease an apartment or buy a car.

    Learn More About the County Best Practices Program

    Every two years, TAC recognizes county leaders' efforts to create new, efficient and effective solutions to challenges facing local governments.

    See past recipients of County Best Practices Awards