The Golden Hammer sat down with Georgette Whatley, a business lady, Hospital District Board of Directors member, and longtime educator. Whatley is everywhere in business, community involvement, and political events. She’s a sweet lady, keenly intelligent, and a lot of fun. She’s someone who has stood for her beliefs for a long time.
The Golden Hammer: What’s your basic background, Georgette?
Whatley: I was born in Houston . My family moved to Conroe in 1972, the year I entered high school. I graduated from Conroe High School at the age of 16. I attended Sam Houston State University for one year, then attended community college off and on while working full time. I again enrolled at SHSU in 1982 and graduated in 1985 with a BBA in Accounting (cum laude) while still working full time. I worked for Mitchell Energy in The Woodlands after graduation until oil prices fell a year later and I was laid off. I wasn’t too disappointed because I had a newborn at home, my daughter, Stephanie . About a year later, I returned to college and earned a teaching certificate. I worked for three years in Houston ISD, then twelve years in Conroe ISD at Lamar Elementary in The Woodlands. I had another child in 1993, my son Geoffrey. In 2000 ASAP Bail Bonds was born. I continued teaching until 2002.
The Golden Hammer: Do you like being a bail bond lady? If so, why?
Whatley: Citizens have a constitutional right to bail. I enjoy helping families navigate the complicated criminal justice system from bonding out to seeing their cases resolved. I have learned a lot more about government than I learned in high school or college by seeing it happen in front of my eyes.
The Golden Hammer: You’re now one of the senior Board of Directors members of the Montgomery County Hospital District. How did you get involved in MCHD?
Whatley: In about 2003, I noticed that MCHD was constantly in the news and the articles weren’t flattering. You, Eric Yollick , were the landlord for ASAP Bail Bonds and had recently joined the MCHD Board. We had several discussions about what was happening at the District and what being on the Board was like. I thought about running and you encouraged me to do so. I was elected and took office in 2004.
The Golden Hammer: Explain why you got involved in MCHD?
Whatley: Having taught 1st and 2nd graders for 15 years, I felt I had some experience in conflict resolution, and conflict among board members seemed to be the recurring theme of most of the articles I had read. As it turned out, the parties who had been involved in many of the conflicts were the parties who chose not to run for re-election.
The Golden Hammer: Did you see wasteful government spending at MCHD?
Whatley: There seemed to be a lot of wasteful spending. I believed that my fiscally conservative nature and my accounting skills would be an asset to the Board.
The Golden Hammer: What is the current state of MCHD?
Whatley: I believe MCHD is operating much more efficiently than it was in 2004, but there is always room for improvement. In May of 2004, the tax rate was $0.1082, so a taxpayer with a home valued at $100,000 was paying $108.20 to MCHD. For fiscal year 2017, the tax rate is $0.0665, which means that a $100,000 home is taxed at $66.50.
The Golden Hammer: Is there a problem with home valuations in our community?
Whatley: Taxpayers are rightfully concerned that even as tax rates are lowered, appraised values continue to increase. If a taxpayer owned a $100,000 home in 2004 and still owns it, it would have to be worth $163,000 now to pay the same $108.20 to MCHD they were paying in 2004.
The Golden Hammer: Where does MCHD stand compared to other taxing authorities in Montgomery County, as far as taxation and spending?
Wheatley: For a very long time MCHD was the lowest taxing entity in the County. I believe we still are, but I have not double checked that. Considering the value of the services provided by MCHD, being the lowest taxing entity is something I am happy to brag about. We continue to look for ways to cut costs while increasing our service levels. Our customer satisfaction rating for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is consistently at the very high end of the scale compared to other EMS departments across the nation. We also cut our EMS transport fees by 50%. Our employees are our greatest asset and I am very impressed by their professionalism and dedication, even though I wish they could be paid more for the wonderful things that they do. I could go on and on about the great things that MCHD is doing for very little cost to the taxpayers.
The Golden Hammer: What would you like to do on MCHD in the next couple of years?
Whatley: MCHD will remain focused on providing the highest quality of service in both EMS and our Healthcare Assistance Program while being mindful that the taxpayers are paying for it all. [Editor’s Note: The Healthcare Assistance Program is a federally mandated indigent care program that every county in the United States must provide.
The Golden Hammer: What is the state of politics in Montgomery County right now?
Whatley: Speaking as an individual now, not a representative of MCHD, I am concerned about politics in Montgomery County . I would like to see all elected officials view their position as that of servant rather than master. A few do; most do not. As a taxpayer who owns multiple properties, I pay a significant amount in property taxes. I would like to see property tax abolished. Until that becomes a reality, I would greatly appreciate a homestead exemption from all taxing entities.
The Golden Hammer: Thank you, Georgette. Keep up the great leadership!