Image: Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough at the Woodlands Bible Church on Sunday, December 15, 2019.
Eric Yollick, Guest Reporter to The Golden Hammer
Montgomery County, December 16 – Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough is the fifth most powerful person in Montgomery County and is The Golden Hammer‘s Power Top Ten #5. Keough brings a pastoral touch to his position for which he took the oath of office on January 1, 2019.
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, he or she can get things done in Montgomery County.
So far, The Golden Hammer has named five other people in the Power Top Ten:
#6, Montgomery County Sheriff Rand Henderson.
#7, Bobby Jack Adams, civil engineer and Halff Associates Regional Vice President who presides over the “deep state” of vendors who control many of the decisions within the Montgomery County government.
#8, Quadvest President and property rights advocate Simon Sequeira.
#9, Conservative Republican activist and Party Official Jon Bouche.
#10, Conroe Independent School District Superintendent Curtis Null.
#5: Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough
The style of Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough, the “People’s Judge,” could not contrast more with his predecessor, the dictatorial, secretive, and disgraced former County Judge Craig Doyal. Keough has brought his talent and skills as a pastor to the job of County Judge.
When he first made clear that he’d seek to apply a pastoral touch to his relationships with members of the Commissioners Court and County employees, this newspaper’s staff and many others had severe doubts. Nevertheless, his personal honesty, his willingness to listen to others and allow them to speak their minds, and his tone of a desire to work together have brought a trust and cohesion to the Montgomery County Commissioners Court and entire County government which did not exist during the secretive and severe Doyal era from 2015 to 2018.
Keough had a steep learning curve at the beginning of his term. Serving as County Judge is quite different from serving as a member of the Texas Legislature, Keough’s previous position.
Presiding over a 5-person governmental entity, the Commissioners Court, is very different from the mass confusion of the Texas House of Representatives. One of the challenges for a County Judge is dealing with the strong personalities of County Commissioners each of whom presides over their own fiefdom. That challenge has actually suited Keough remarkably well.
Since the criterion of power is the ability to get things done, looking at this first year of Keough’s tenure reveals just that. Here is a sample of what the Commissioners Court has accomplished during calendar year 2019 under Keough’s light touch of leadership:
- The Commissioners Court finally voted to remove the State Highway 242 flyover tolls, an action which Doyal had refused to do and which should have occurred in early 2018.
- The Commissioners Court passed the first “effective tax rate” budget in the history of the Montgomery County government, meaning that taxes did not actually increase. Keough’s deft touch during the “budget hearings” was a major factor in that accomplishment.
- Keough lobbied intensely for passage of the JD Lambright Local Government Ethics Reform Act, which the Texas Legislature passed as House Bill 1495. Keough was involved in that process almost every step of the way. The legislation allowed for Montgomery County’s government to appoint an Ethics Commission to formulate an enforceable County government ethics code. Keough then successfully led the process to appoint the Ethics Commission through the Commissioners Court.
- Keough’s first act as County Judge, as he had promised when he campaigned, was to reduce his salary by twelve percent (12%). It was an important symbolic act of leadership. Keough was the only County employee who didn’t take a pay increase with passage of the Fiscal Year 2020 Budget.
- Keough presided over the appointment of a new Child Welfare/CPS Board of Directors. In that instance, Keough really put the entire new Board together himself with the assistance of his skillful Chief of Staff Jason Millsaps. The new Board is a refreshing change from the corruption of Terri Jaggers, who is now a convicted felon.
- Keough has created a strong and positive work environment for new County Auditor Rakesh Pandey. That has already paid off in many ways, including the Fiscal Year 2020 Budget. Pandey and Keough have worked closely together to create much more transparency and accountability in the County Budget. This newspaper has pushed very hard for those accomplishments during the past three years.
- Keough has established a terrific system of presenting policy changes to the Commissioners Court while engendering the individuals Commissioners to do their jobs well and to receive the central administration support to do so.
- Keough’s positive attitude and pastoral touch have fostered a much happier work environment for County employees and County Department directors.
After one year, Mark Keough has clearly gotten the job done and has much for which he and his team should be proud.