Breaks Decades of Single Party Control of County Government

After decades of electing only Republicans to fill political offices in Williamson County, on Tuesday night Democrat Terry Cook was elected County Commissioner of Precinct 1. Cook plans to utilize the skills she has developed from her professional life and her community service to make positive contributions to the Court.

“There are three things that I hope to bring to the court that will benefit residents of our county,” said Cook. “I expect to voice alternate views and perhaps new ideas to discussions with my colleagues, views that will hopefully elevate the discussions and ultimately result in stronger decision-making by the court to benefit our residents. I am also committed to making information about the courts’ decisions more accessible to the people who have elected us – they deserve to know more about what the court is doing and why these actions are important. We must be more transparent with our constituents. And, finally, I want to institute an energetic outreach program to ensure that the views of Williamson County residents are heard by the council and are introduced into the discussions and work of the Commissioners Court.”

Terry Cook’s professional background includes working as a research at Duke University, as an engineer and researcher for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and for 23 years in the high tech industry where her responsibilities included developing quality assurance assessments and implementation, contract negotiations, technical and marketing support, and project management. She worked with national and international corporations in business analysis and doing contract negotiation. For the past nine years she has owned and operated a small business in Williamson County.

Her service to her communities has included public outreach and education as a Colorado Master Gardener and serving on the Horticulture Advisory Board servicing the city of Louisville in Colorado charged with planning and overseeing the development of open pubic land, serving on a Wilco HOA landscaping board. She has taught youth Bible study groups and for several years participated in a national Bible study programs. She is a Deputy Voter Registrar for Williamson, Travis, and Bell counties. She holds seminars and speaks publicly about the importance of voting and civic engagement. And, if that were not enough, she is the principal caregiver for a senior citizen with physical and mental challenges, thus enabling her charge to remain living independently in her home.

John Bucy, County Chair of the Williamson County Democratic Party, observed, “Terry Cook is a fireball. She is smart, a successful professional, a community activist, and always completes her commitments. I am looking forward to seeing her input into our Commissioners Court and how she will help improve the court’s performance for people in Commissioners Court, Precinct 1, and often benefit all residents of the county.”

Throughout her campaign, Cook maintained that the Williamson County Commissioners Court needed to address a myriad of issues. Among those that received the most enthusiastic response from voters were:

1. Reducing the county’s unacceptable debt burden. According to the Texas Comptroller, Williamson County has the largest per capita tax-supported outstanding debt of all of Texas counties with populations larger than 200,000. The most recent data show that every man, woman, and child in Wilco has a tax-supported outstanding debt of $1736.

Our commissioners argue that our debt is justified and necessary because of our rapid population growth. Counties whose growth rates are comparable to ours, however, suggest that our own situation deserves greater attention. Montgomery County’s population is somewhat larger than Williamson County’s and it has the same growth rate (3.8%). Yet, Montgomery’s citizens are burdened with only $811 per person, less than half of ours. Fort Bend County is somewhat larger than Montgomery and has a 4.7% population growth rate. Their residents have a tax-supported outstanding debt of $645 per person, about one third of our debt.

2. Questioning how the court manages our money. For example, why has the court drawn out the law suit filed against them charging them with asking illegal questions during employment interviews of candidates to replace an elected county constable? The cost of this endeavor is currently over half a million dollars and growing. Why would they award a 40-year no-bid contract to a company to manage our land fill? In a field that is rapidly changing, it makes no sense to award an immensely long contract to a company that may be able to avoid upgrading technology to make the landfill and the ground water safer, or to increase income generated by the endeavor for the county. Why have they issued themselves and other elected officials annual salary increases of 2%, 3%, or 4%. In recent years large numbers of people outside of the county government find their salaries are stagnant. Furthermore, the alarmingly low salaries paid to non-elected county employees could have been bolstered, resulting in better employee retention, reduced costs for training replacement employees

3. Inattention to aging and inadequate infrastructure that contributes to problems like traffic congestion, flooding, and other safety issues.

4. Unsustainable annual tax increases based on an unfair and inequitable property assessment process. Our assessment system is flawed and needs an overhaul that involves a citizen-led review if current processes and procedures for assessing property. Next we narrower limits on increases of the annual taxable value of homes and apartments.