Image: When Montgomery County Airport Director James Brown appeared before the Montgomery County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, March 23, 2021, he showed preparation, thoughtfulness, and careful stewardship of tax dollars the expenditure of which he oversees. He’s what government service is all about.
The Golden Hammer Staff Report
Conroe, March 30 – The concept of “public service” has disappeared from almost all government employees, especially in the free spending Montgomery County government, known as the “most corrupt county government in Texas,” where Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough and Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley, the true leader of the Commissioners Court, have engendered an “us versus them” mentality towards local taxpayers. There are some outliers, however, who still maintain an attitude of “public service” and show careful stewardship of public financial resources rather than attempting to take all they can fleece from the citizens.
James Brown, who has now served as the Director of the Airport Maintenance Department for two years, has shown a genuine care for the good of taxpayers, even though he oversees a County Department, which shouldn’t even exist. Not only is Brown thoughtful, a good manager of people, a careful financial steward, but also he clearly understands the role of citizens in government and appreciates that he works for the people of Montgomery County who are his bosses. Brown seems to work well in an open government with open information environment, because he seems to have nothing to hide.
When Brown appeared before the Montgomery County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, March 23, 2021, to ask for consideration of the purchase of a $171,650 runway cleaning truck, he did some things, which Montgomery County government department heads rarely do. Please see “Brown asks lemminguesque Montgomery County Commissioners Court to commit $172K for Airport cleaning truck in face of heavy losses, poor performance,” The Golden Hammer, March 29, 2021 https://thegoldenhammer.net/brown-asks-lemmingesque-montgomery-county-commissioners-court-to-commit-153k-for-airport-cleaning-truck-in-face-of-heavy-losses-poor-performance/
Brown showed himself as a standout public servant last Tuesday, because:
- He came prepared for his presentation;
- He carefully presented the financial options for the rather thickheaded and stiffnecked members of the Commissioners Court;
- He readily answered many questions and revealed the thoughtful considerations in which he engaged behind the presentation, such as whether there were other purchase options for the truck, whether rent-to-own was viable, and whether the taxpayers would receive warranties with the truck purchase;
- He recommended an expenditure option consistent with the direct purpose of his County Department; and
- He revealed no attitude whatsoever against any member of the Commissioners Court who might challenge some of his analysis.
Similarly, this newspaper has had a very positive experience in dealings with Brown. Brown is well aware of this newspaper’s anti-government spending philosophy. He acknowledged concerns about the financial advisability of a County government owning an airport. Nevertheless, Brown has made clear that he will do his best to manage limited public resources wisely.
Brown’s answer to this newspaper’s question whether the Airport will ever be profitable, Brown responded:
“Thank you for your question. Unfortunately it is a tough question to answer, but hopefully the following information will help:
“The vast majority of the operational budget of the airport should be looked at more in line with what a public works department would be. We are mainly tasked with the infrastructure improvements/maintenance (runways/taxiways/lighting/etc.). This should be compared to the same manner as a road and bridge or public works depart who improves/maintains roadways, and traffic signal lights among other things within a county or city. Fortunately though, we do have some revenue streams that help to offset this cost, which are land lease fees, and fuel flowage fees. The County took a different approach to the development of the airport many years ago allowing private development of the hangar facilities, as well as FBO’s. What this did was create a much more fair and competitive atmosphere to spur development. These hangars are built by private individuals which allows the improvements to be added into the tax roll under a land lease agreement that is typically 40 years. During those 40 years the improvements are funding the tax dollars that are ultimately budgeted for the operation and maintenance of the airport (this is not calculated nor shown on a profit/loss statement and would likely show the airport to be self-sufficient if it were). Where we will start to see and operational change in positive revenue is when the land lease terms begin to expire. Upon expiration, the improvements will transfer into the ownership of Montgomery County. At that time the land lease revenue of the specific facilities will cease and the County (Airport) will negotiate a fair market value to then lease the facility to either the current tenant (they have right of first offer) or we would advertise it out and lease it to someone else. The difference in lease rates between the land lease and what the hangar, or facility would lease for are significantly different and revenues will increase exponentially at that time. With that being said, so too will the operational cost of the airport, due to the responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of the hangars, although they would be priced accordingly so that revenues would outweigh expenses. We should start to see the land leases expiring beginning in about 8-10 years, but will not be an all at once occurrence due to the commencement dates of the lease agreements being staggered. I hope this information helps, and if you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to reach out.
“I know many people believe that the airport is a waste of tax dollars, but in fact an airport like ours is a huge economic driver for the region and spurs a lot of growth in the job sector, as well as education not just on the airport but also in the community. If looked at from this prospective most will begin to see that with the taxes generated by the airport users through the hangars and facilities on the field to the aircraft themselves as well as lease and fuel revenue the airport does in fact sustain itself financially.”
Although Brown’s ebullience about the airport as a “huge economic driver” seems idealistic and downright unrealistic, given the decades of vast financial losses for the Montgomery County Airport, unlike many government employees, particularly in the troubled Montgomery County government, Brown revealed his thoughtful consideration of criticism of the Airport as a recipient of public tax dollars.
Brown has revealed his willingness to make his Department open to the public, including its financial records. At the same time, he reveals an excitement for his job and for the Airport in general. Most importantly, Brown is willing to engage his bosses, the citizens of Montgomery County, answer their questions and concerns and reflect upon the context in which he operates.
Mohandas Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Brown seems to have lost himself just like that to the betterment of Montgomery County citizens.
The Airport loses over $1 million per year, has no profitability prospects, and has done a very poor job spurring economy development. A private company would and could run the Airport into profitability. Brown would be nothing but a positive asset to such an organization.