Roles of the County Judge

County Judges in Texas serve in a number of varied roles, from judicial officer overseeing the County Court to the chief administrator of the County.  And, each of the 254 County Judges in Texas is as diverse as the county they serve.  In Smith County, the County Judge wears a number of hats, including:

  1. Presiding Officer of the Commissioners Court.  The County Judge is the presiding officer over the Commissioners Court, which is made up of four Commissioners elected from four distinct precincts within the County.  In this role, the County Judge is much like the Mayor of a city by serving as the head of the policymaking body for the governmental entity.  The Commissioners Court approves the budget, approves contracts and expenditures involving the County, manages certain administrative departments of the County, oversees maintenance of roads and bridges, calls elections, and maintains all County facilities.
  2. Chief Administrative Officer of the County.  The County Judge also serves as the chief administrative office of the County—much like the city manager of a city—handling day to day oversight of County administrative offices, along with the other Commissioners.  In all, there are eleven administrative departments overseen by the Commissioners Court: Elections, Information Technology, Purchasing, Facilities, Road & Bridge, Pre-Trial Release, Collections, Veterans, Human Resources, Records, and the Fire Marshal.
  3. Judge of the Constitutional County Court.  In addition to administrative responsibilities, the County Judge also serves as the judge of the Constitutional County Court, which has primary jurisdiction over probate, mental health, and guardianship matters in the County.  As a judicial officer, the County Judge also assists with magistrate responsibilities, and can execute arrest and search warrants when needed.  In counties with smaller populations, the County Judge also presides over misdemeanor criminal matters and juvenile matters, but here in Smith County where the population is higher, County Courts at Law have been established by the legislature to handle these matters.
  4. County Budget Officer.  Another statutory role of the County Judge includes that of the County Budget Officer.  By statute, the County Judge is required to draft and timely present an annual budget for deliberation and adoption by the Commissioners Court.  Normally, the budget is adopted in August of each year after several months of discussion, ahead of the October 1 fiscal year beginning.
  5. Head of Emergency Management. One of the least known roles of the County Judge is that of Head of Emergency Management in the County.  It’s a role that rarely comes into play, but is crucial when there is a man-made or natural disaster that affects the County.  In conjunction with the Fire Marshal’s office, along with local, regional, and state emergency personnel, the County Judge is tasked with ensuring the safety of the citizens of Smith County during an emergency.