County eyes 4th leader in 16 months
Last updated 7/2/2019 at Noon
For The Record
The musical chairs have begun again in Orange County.
Orange County Judge Carl Thibodeaux and Precinct 3 Commissioner John Gothia announced their resignations, effective July 10, at Tuesday’s weekly meeting of Orange County Commissioners’ Court.
Gothia announced he planned to seek the appointment as new county judge. Before a new county judge can be appointed by commissioners' court, Thibodeaux must fill the vacancy left by Gothia.
Kirk Roccaforte, former mayor and current city councilman for Bridge City, said he wants to be considered as replacement for Gothia in Precinct 3.
That choice will be made as soon as the next commissioners’ court meeting, Wednesday July 10, by Thibodeaux.
According to Texas Government Code, the county must have filled all four commissioners’ seats before a new county judge can be appointed.
Thibodeaux, who was county judge for 20 years, from 1995 through 2014, returned as the county's top administrator in late March, following the sudden resignation of Dean Crooks.
Thibodeaux’s replacement will be Orange’s fourth county judge in 16 months.
After Thibodeaux announced his original retirement in 2014, Stephen Brint Carlton won election and served from January 2015 through early 2018. After being defeated by Crooks in the March 2018 primary, Carlton resigned with seven months left in his term and Crooks took over in May 2018.
Crooks, in turn, resigned in March 2019, with more than three and a half years left in his term after making a social media post opposing the workings of the Orange County Economic Development Corporation and its handling of tax abatements as incentives for new businesses to locate here.
At the time, the OCEDC was in delicate negotiations with Chevron Phillips Chemical. The petrochemical giant has listed Orange County as a finalist for a new $5.6 billion plant.
“It was a matter of getting the Chevron project back on track, to where they would be comfortable dealing with a judge that was pro-abatement, repairing some PR issues that were not too good,” Thibodeaux said Tuesday, when asked why he returned to lead the court.
Now he believes the bumps have been smoothed.
“To be very frank about it, you’ve got four commissioners here that can do the job. You don’t need me up here,” he said.
He resigned at the start of Tuesday's meeting. Gothia, longtime Orange County booster and commissioner since January 2017, resigned at the end of the meeting "so I can be eligible" to be appointed new county judge.
Whoever is named to fill Thibodeaux’s and Gothia’s seats will have their current terms end in 2020, with elections coming as soon as March 2020 primaries, for terms that begin January 1, 2021.
“However it lays out after this, hopefully it’ll stay the same until March,” Roccaforte said. “Hopefully it’ll be stable until January of 2021.”
Precinct 1 Commissioner Johnny Trahan will also be up for re-election in 2020.
The commissioners approved the paying of $357,806 in bills.
Among those were $10,000 to Weaver and Tidwell for the 2018 audit presented a week ago. So far, the county has paid $75,000 to the accounting firm with $20,000 more in invoices to go, Pennee Schmitt, county auditor, said.
And the county made its final payment of $81,345 to Way Services for work done on a controversial green energy overhaul agreed to by the 2015 court, of which no members remain.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Theresa Beauchamp voted against making the final payment to Way Services because the county had not yet received all the paperwork.
It was the only non-unanimous vote of Thibodeaux’s second tenure as county judge.
Vickie Edgerly, the district clerk, said Tuesday she was OK to wait three more months for a fix to her office’s leaky roof.
Joel Ardoin, county emergency management coordinator, said a conference call with FEMA Tuesday ended with the county being told it would be at least three months before any decision would be made on paying for the roof.
Also, if the county went ahead with the repair without the approval, it would get no government reimbursal.
Commissioners did approve $5,900 to replace the roof at the county mosquito control office, 690 Old Timer Road.
Resource providers host Housing Fair Saturday
Orange County Disaster Rebuild is partnering with local resource providers to host a free Housing Resources Fair to help families on the road to recovery from Hurricane Harvey.
It will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 6 at the Orange County Convenrtion and Expo Center, 11475 FM 1442.
Representatives from Tax Assessor-Collector Karen Fisher’s office will be on hand along with reps from FEMA and HUD.
“Government help is not available to those who are behind on their taxes and we’ll have people there to talk about working out those problems,” said Michelle Tubbleville of Orange County Disaster Rebuild.
Registration for case management services and free legal services will be available. Survivors can also meet with disaster recovery nonprofits and get information about housing options.
Additionally, free pizza and kids’ games will be available.