The four men seeking the position of Grayson County Judge met Tuesday night in a forum held by Concerned Citizens for Grayson County at the Grayson County Courthouse. Trent Bass, Jim Maddock, Bill Magers and Gene Short seek to replace current Grayson County Judge Drue Bynum who did not seek re-election. Since no Democrat filed for the race, the March primary will likely decide who leads the County’s Commissioner’s Court for the next four years.

The four men seeking the position of Grayson County Judge met Tuesday night in a forum held by Concerned Citizens for Grayson County at the Grayson County Courthouse. Trent Bass, Jim Maddock, Bill Magers and Gene Short seek to replace current Grayson County Judge Drue Bynum who did not seek re-election. Since no Democrat filed for the race, the March primary will likely decide who leads the County’s Commissioner’s Court for the next four years.


Unlike many forums or debates that ask a question and then ask each candidate to answer it in turn, Tuesday’s event featured Sherman DayBreak Toastmasters member Jeff Walton reading all of the questions for the category first and then turning the floor over for the candidates. The answers were timed.


The questions asked the candidates to tell about themselves and point out the one thing about themselves they would like people to remember. The candidates were also asked what they have accomplished at a county, city or local level that demonstrates their conservative values and to explain how those values would be reflected in their priorities as the next Grayson County judge. Additionally, they were asked to describe the duties and responsibilities of the county and to tell how they would fulfill those duties. They were also asked what they see as the most important aspect of being county judge and why they picked that answer. Additionally, they were asked if they consider the county judge’s job a full-time or part-time endeavor and why they feel that way. Lastly, they were asked to explain their vision for Grayson County and give four goals for the county with descriptions of how the candidate would try to reach those goals.


Bill Magers, former Sherman mayor, drew the straw that put him in the first place to speak. He quickly filled in his background from being raised in Sherman and graduating from Sherman High School and Austin College to obtaining his MBA and working with the Dish Network on the West Coast before moving back to Grayson County to help care for his aging mother and open his own business. He told the audience the thing he wants people to remember about him is his family and he pointed to three of his four sons who were seated in the audience along with his wife.


Magers said the job of Grayson County is a full-time job and he resigned his job to run for the position. "You know folks, Grayson County is at a crossroads. This is not the county of my youth. It is not the county of yesterday. It’s a county that has 900,000 people at its southern border, .... and since 2000 we have lost 5,000 manufacturing jobs. This election is about vision, leadership and experience," he said. He pointed to his three terms as mayor of the city of Sherman as proof that he has learned to work with people to get things done for the voters. He said during his term as mayor, the Sherman City Council restored a prayer to their meeting and "cut taxes by 20 percent and instilled the toughest child predator laws in the state." He said they also invested in infrastructure and took the city’s bond rating from an A- to and A+.


"I have held executive leadership positions in both the private and public sector." He said he believes his childhood, his education and his career experience qualify him for the position of county judge.


"My priority as county judge is to make good jobs available." He said though jobs are a struggle, some things are doing well. The area, he said, has clean air and the city acquired all of its water rights from Lake Texoma and groundwater rights. Water, he noted, "is the new oil." He said his three priorities would be the marketing the North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field, putting a stake in the ground for the Tollway by getting a farm-to-market road from the County Line Road to FM 121 in Van Alstyne and taking State Highway 691 from FM 1417 to State Highway 289.


The next candidate up was Jim Maddock, the only person running for the seat who has not previously held an elected position. He said he is a Vietnam-era veteran, who has been married to his same sweat heart for 44 years. He graduated with honors with degree in mechanical engineering. He has been a registered in engineer in Texas since 1980.


"I spent most of my career at at Texas Instruments and Ratheon managing, proposing and negotiating multi-million dollar budgets. That was the first 20 years. The last 20 years I spent working with others to show them how to reduce waste out of their operations." He said he moved to Grayson County in 1982, and he and his wife raised two boys here and work in their church regularly.


"I guess I really am not a politician because I have never held and elected office," he said. "I am a businessman. My experience is getting things done … not talking about them, doing them." He said he sees the duties of county judge primarily as budget management. He said he would have to work with other elected officials to manage that budget and building consensus with those people. "You need to be able to convince them that what you want to do makes sense," he said.


He added that he has been doing that for 40 years. He considers the county judge job to be a full-time position. He said his vision for Grayson County includes lowering the tax rate. "I am sorry folks, I am going to tell you the emperor is naked. The tax rate is not low." Maddock said when he moved to Grayson County in 1982 the tax rate was 29 cents per $100 valuation and today it is 49.09.


"We are competing with our friends to the south to do business," he said. He added that the growth that has been predicted for this area will not come unless the county drops its tax rate. He said he would do that by cutting waste out of the county government. He would turn to county employees to find the waste. "We have got great employees here; what we need is leadership to show them how to get the job done," he said. He added that if he is successful in cutting enough waste then there will be enough left to take care of county employees.


Gene Short, a long-time member of the Grayson County Commissioners Court as commissioner for Precinct 4, was the next candidate to speak. He graduated from Denison High School. He was elected to six, four-year terms for the commissioner seat. "Most of you probably know me. I am a social and a fiscal conservative, and I think my voting record will tell that to be true," he told the standing-room-only crowd. "The one thing that I would want you to remember … is that I think I always do what I say I will do. I think I have always practiced that through out my career."


For accomplishments, he listed the establishment of the inmate worker program that allowed trustees at the Grayson County Jail to work with county employees to do things like paint and grounds keeping. "Also I proposed … the county adopted a 20 percent tax exemption on homesteads," he continued. He said that means that a person that has taken the exemption will not pay 49.09 cents per $100 valuation for taxes. They will really pay about 39 cents for the $100 valuation. Short said he was also on the Commissioners Court when they adopted the tax freeze for seniors and the disabled. He said those who are interested in his record can look up every vote he ever cast on the Court because they are all a part of the record.


Duties of the county judge, he said are to be the chairman of the Commissioners Court and to give the Court direction when it needs it. He said the county judge also hears uncontested probates of wills and marries people. He said the most important thing a county judge does is work with the other commissioners to get things done.


Short said the job is absolutely a full-time job. "My vision for Grayson County — I saw Grayson County go from a rural county to an emerging urban county while I was a commissioner — my vision for the County is to create an environment that is pro-business and industry and effectively manage the growth that is coming our way."


He said he would keep taxes low by being efficient and have minimum regulation.


Trent Bass was the last of the four to address the crowd. Bass said he is married to his wife for 12 years, and they have two daughters. "My goal in serving the Grayson County taxpayers is to serve with sincerity. I am running for the office of county judge for the same reason I ran for county treasurer four years go: I wanted to make a difference in our county. I wanted to make good decisions." He said while serving as county treasurer, he has been able to save a lot of bank fees and refinanced the Highway 289 bonds.


"The Commissioners Court led the push on that but we are actually going to save the taxpayers over $1 million over the life of those bonds." He said his background of forecasting financial plans uniquely qualifies him to understand what the county government will need in the future and how it will need to plan for those investments. "I think those values are very critical to your next county judge and I have proven a record of savings and a record of team building in the county."


He said the duties of the county judge are listed on the County website. "But primarily it’s the chief budget officer," Bass said. "I think there is a lot of savings in our county government that we can do. We can work better with our elected officials. We can work better together with our county commissioners. There’s costs inside of there that we can start eking away at immediately. I plan to do that." He said that he thinks the county judge is a full-time position.


"My vision for the County and goals for the County are simple. Transparencies. We need to be more transparent not just for the voters and taxpayers, but also for the benefit of the employees," he continued. He said if elected he would work immediately to get the Commissioners Court meetings put up on the County’s website so employees can see and hear for themselves what happened in Commissioners Court each Tuesday. He said he plans to increase taxpayer interaction with the County through technology. He used as an example the fact that people can follow his campaign with a simple text these days.


The four then yielded the floor to other candidates for their moment on the hot seat before returning to answer another list of questions. The group will return the East Courtroom of the Grayson County Courthouse on Feb. 7 to answer more questions from the group Concerned Citizens of Grayson County. Early voting for the election begins Feb. 18.