Power Top Ten #4: County Judge Chief of Staff Jason Millsaps

Power Top Ten #4: County Judge Chief of Staff Jason Millsaps

Image: Jason Millsaps, Chief of Staff to Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough.

The Golden Hammer Staff Reports

Conroe, December 16 – If you want to get something done in or with the Montgomery County government, Jason Millsaps is most surely the man with whom you should deal, with one group of exceptions. Millsaps is the Chief of Staff of County Judge Mark Keough and the overseer of the County’s Department of Emergency Management.

The group of exceptions are road and bridge projects for which the County Commissioners still largely have autonomy. Outside of those issues, Millsaps is clearly the chief executive and operating officer of Montgomery County, especially since his boss, Keough, is mostly absent from the County Judge’s job. Keough received The Golden Hammer‘s 2022 “Mad Cow” Award for the worst elected official in Montgomery County.

Please see “Gaslighting Extraordinaire: The Golden Hammer Presents 2022 ‘Mad Cow’ Award to Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough,” The Golden Hammer, December 1, 2022, https://thegoldenhammer.net/gaslighting-extraordinaire-the-golden-hammer-presents-2022-mad-cow-award-to-montgomery-county-judge-keough-to-begin-power-top-ten/

The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, continues the tradition of listing the Power Top Ten, the ten most powerful people in Montgomery County. The Power Top Ten doesn’t commemorate the ten best people in Montgomery County necessarily, but the most powerful people who are actually able to accomplish political or policy goals. In other words, she or he can get things done in Montgomery County. This year is the fifth that The Golden Hammer is publishing this list. In 2016, the former Publisher of this newspaper published the list on social media before this newspaper began.

So far, The Golden Hammer has named six other people in the Power Top Ten:

#5, Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon

#6, Conservative Republican political activist Ginger Russell

#7, Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley

#8, Conroe ISD Superintendent Curtis Null

#9, Businessman and power broker Simon Sequeira

#10, Precinct 1 Montgomery County Commissioner Wayne Mack.

#4: County Judge Chief of Staff Jason Millsaps

Jason Millsaps, Chief of Staff to the Montgomery County Judge, is easily the Fourth Most Powerful of the Power Top Ten, the ten most powerful people in Montgomery County. Millsaps worked for the County Judge before Keough came to that position and was still a state legislator. Millsaps had been Keough’s Chief of Staff when Keough was a State Representative.

In Austin, Keough developed a reputation in the Texas House of Representatives that he didn’t say or do anything without Millsaps telling him what to do or say. Even other staffers of Keough observed that relationship between Keough and his Chief and often asked “who is the boss?” The answer was obvious: Millsaps. When people wanted to get business accomplished, they went to Millsaps, not Keough, in Austin.

The relationship has continued and actually become more pronounced in the Montgomery County government. The County Judge actually has minimal authority under the Texas Constitution and Texas Local Government Code. He really does nothing other than to preside over the Commissioners Court and oversee the emergency management of the County government.

Millsaps became the official Director of the Montgomery County Emergency Management Department in early 2020 just in time to take the lead on the County’s Chinese Coronavirus response. Millsaps urged Keough to sign orders shutting down local businesses and churches in March, 2020. Keough followed Millsaps’ direction, particularly on March 16 and March 27, when Keough ordered sweeping business and church closures which resulted in tens of thousands of job losses, dozens of suicides, and a spike in family violence cases.

Millsaps has also overseen the County’s expenditure $105 million of CARES Act federal stimulus funds, a position which has made him very popular with County government department directors as well as some local government leaders throughout Montgomery County. Some local government leaders, particularly those in The Woodlands, are not too happy with Millsaps’ decisions. Millsaps has also taken the lead on the County government’s search for how to spend funds under President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act.

Millsaps runs and oversees the day-to-day operations of the Montgomery County government. He works with and directly oversees most of the County Department heads who are not elected officials. That Millsaps is the hub in the center of the County government becomes apparent in every Commissioners Court meeting during which Millsaps often appears at the podium to brief the County Judge and Commissioners. Millsaps doesn’t always have all of the information but he provides authoritative sounding answers sufficient to dazzle the Commissioners Court, nevertheless.

Keough’s conviction for DWI and the circumstances of the two major vehicular collisions he caused on the morning of September 10, 2020, certainly weakened his continuing efforts as Montgomery County Judge, as law enforcement officials rarely take him very seriously. That situation, his use of County tax dollars and personnel to bring him to and from work after the state suspended his driver’s license, and his haphazard and panicked handling of the County’s COVID-19 response also raise doubts about Keough’s ability to lead.

Millsaps has a pleasant personality, many political contacts, and strong friendship with the political “establishment” of Montgomery County. At the same time, however, he’s done a great job playing to conservative groups. He always has an opinion and is skillful at sounding knowledgeable. Millsaps has developed strong contacts with the local media and regularly places stories he wants the newspapers and television stations to cover. He conducts his and Keough’s political operations from his office on the fourth floor of the Montgomery County government’s Sadler Administration Building.

There is no question that Millsaps is the real “chief executive” of the Montgomery County government, as Keough’s powers of concentration have easily reached their limit. Millsaps can get things done.

Comments

comments

You must be logged in to post a comment Login