What is a Judge Executive?
Since I filed for election as McCracken County Judge Executive many people have asked many questions about the position. They typically start out “Hey Judge” and then the question. And so is born this continuing “Hey Judge” column addressing questions regarding McCracken County government. Today:
“HEY JUDGE” What is a Judge Executive?
Although it is called “County Judge/Executive”, and the person elected to the position is called “Judge”, he or she has no judicial responsibilities. The Judge Executive (JE) is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the county. The position is established by section 144 of the Kentucky Constitution.
The JE is elected to a four-year term and serves as the head of the executive branch of the county’s government, but also is an ex officiomember of the county’s Fiscal Court, the legislative body, having an equal vote with the county’s three Commissioners.
Before the Kentucky Constitution of 1850, the primary county administrator was the “justice of the peace” who did have judicial, legislative, and executive powers, until Kentucky government was reorganized into three separate branches in 1975.
The powers and duties of the J.E. are found in Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) 67.710, and generally the J.E. “…shall be responsible for the proper administration of the affairs of the county….”
The statutory duties include, but are not limited to:
- Execute all ordinances, resolutions, contracts and laws applicable to the county.
- Prepare and revise administrative procedures for county operation to be approved by the fiscal court.
- Inform the fiscal court of county operations.
- Require all officials, except city government, whose offices use county funds to make an annual financial report.
- Prepare, submit to the fiscal court, and administer an annual budget.
- Advise the fiscal court as to the county financial condition and needs.
- With the fiscal court approval, appoint, supervise, suspend, and remove county personnel.
- With the fiscal court approval, appoint and remove members from boards, commissions, and administrative positions.
A most important duty, not expressly stated, is to serve as the county’s ambassador to other governments; state, federal, and city, and maintain positive relationships for the common good.
Next “Hey Judge” segment: What are the top priorities for McCracken County?
McCracken Circuit Judge, Retired
What do you see as the top priority?
The first action will be to take inventory, just like when acquiring a new business. But the inventory is not just counting tangible things like equipment, supplies etc. We will have that. It is to determine the intangibles; how are we performing? Is McCracken County government doing everything we should, everything we could, and doing it as efficiently as possible? If not, why not, and let’s fix it.
I strongly believe in limited government. There are areas that local government should be in and areas that government should be out. Some “ins” are public safety, infrastructure (roads, utilities etc), and promoting a prospering, enjoyable community for the citizens. Some “outs” are overreaching regulations, favoritism, promoting one lifestyle over others, and acting without regard to the majority’s wishes.
Public safety is JOB 1. It is absolutely the top priority. If we and our children are not safe, anything else is a distant second. I hold a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement and have nine years of experience in police work. I know our Sheriff’s department is outstanding. I will immediately assess how we can further support these men and women. They are not adequately compensated for what they do. We will find a way to cure that.
Our county is protected by volunteer firefighters. They train, they maintain, they respond with their lives on the line, all out of a love for this county and a heart-felt desire to serve the people who need them. Think about that. Take the opportunity to show your thanks. Beyond thanks, let’s assure they have top quality vehicles and gear when called upon to save our lives and property.
To recap, the top priority is to assure that our county government is efficiently doing all it should and could, and not doing what it should not; and the assessment must give priority to government’s greatest responsibility: public safety.
Next “HEY JUDGE” we address the next priority: What can be done to get good-paying jobs in McCracken County?
What can be done to get good-paying jobs in McCracken County?
There are three basic types of programs which focus on creating good-paying jobs: 1. Existing business program; 2. Attraction-recruitment program; and 3. Start-up program.
The Existing Business Program focuses on the retention and expansion of businesses already in the community. It is both the most important and least expensive program. Before we attract outside business, we assure government is doing all it can and should to reduce costs and perhaps expand market so that established business profits increase.
Existing businesses are vested in the community with their sweat and their money. They want profit, but they also want to be good neighbors. We take care of them before reaching outside to bring others in. Mutual trust between the business and the community is essential. We must be cautious to not give a financial advantage to a new business that will disadvantage an existing business.
The Attraction-Recruitment Program encourages new companies to locate here. There are two main goals: To increase the amount of wealth in the area and, create diverse types of business so that a downturn in one industry won’t devastate the community.
It is time-consuming, expensive, and often slow to show results. An attraction is that it can focus its efforts toward bringing specific types of businesses that fit the community’s desired direction and growth.
We determine what assets we have in the community, examine the various business sectors to determine who needs those assets, and recruit them. What we sell is our geographic location with all our economic assets that will cause a company to be profitable when it locates here.
The Start-Up Program a local person or entity create a business from a new idea for a product or service which can be marketed outside the area. The person may not have the resources or the knowledge to develop his or her idea into a profitable business.
The community has professionals to guide the entrepreneur through the analysis of merit, development, and marketing. Assistance with venture and investment capital, and land or building development may be needed.
Next “Hey Judge”: Does McCracken County have what we need to attract good jobs?
Does McCracken County have what we need to attract good jobs?
Short answer: We do, but we can improve.
The most important issue in creating new jobs is to have an “improved” and “approved” site. “Improved” means the site is more than a patch of land. It has at least some infrastructure (utilities, roads, sewer, parking etc.) all the way up to a ready to go building. “Approved” means that the site is cleared through government’s planning and zoning for the desired use.
A company looking to locate does not want to wait for government “red tape” to be permitted to come, nor does it want to wait for time-consuming infrastructure development. Having a site that is at least building-ready is a huge plus. Not having one will likely result in our not being considered. No site is a no sell. This applies equally to existing local businesses wishing to expand.
We have many sites that are both approved and improved. The industrial park contains several. Others, including ready-to-go- buildings, are available and suitable for a variety of new business.
The second most important issue is availability of trained or trainable labor. High wage companies and industries, require more than just people. They require a community with a workforce that is either trained or trainable (has the aptitude) for the tasks they demand. They also require skilled building trade workers, engineers, construction workers, plumbers, and others to build or remodel a facility if one is not present or suitable.
When a company examines an area it will look at the existing industries to see if a suitable workforce is present. If not, and time is crucial, it will look elsewhere. If the move is further in the future, it will determine if a workforce can be trained and ready at start-up. We are blessed with a solid workforce and with two secondary schools, MSU and WKCTC, to provide training and education when skilled employees for a particular task are not present.
Another important issue in order to attract new jobs is a positive community attitude. If the community doesn’t want jobs, doesn’t want economic development, it won’t happen. This is particularly true with community leaders’ attitudes. Leaders must demonstrate a business-friendly attitude. They must encourage economic growth. There is no room for excessive regulation, red-tape, unnecessary hurdles, and certainly not for berating new prospects. All areas of public and private enterprise must consider what can be done to increase profitability of existing and potential business, including sites, training, incentives, and transportation.
A challenge we face is high electricity rates through Paducah Power System. Many industries use enormous amounts of electricity. Those who would otherwise locate here but must pay high rates may well move on, despite all our other attributes. Hopefully a resolution is coming.
Finally, city and county leaders must work together to promote our community. Our community is McCracken County, including Paducah. What is good or bad for Paducah is likewise good or bad for McCracken County.
Next “Hey Judge”: What do you see as McCracken County’s greatest strengths?
Where do you see our county headed?
That’s a question for the community. It is not up to the government leaders to decide the county’s future. The citizens of the county determine that. But the judge executive and commissioners (the fiscal court) are ultimately responsible for addressing the community’s needs, within the budget.
McCracken County is at a point where we need to do some soul-searching and analysis. We need to develop a plan for assessing our local needs and resources. I previously wrote about some priorities, but now I’m talking about determining what we want our community to be long-term; and do we have the resources to get there.
It is an assessment of the community culture and social structure. It is determining priorities for programs designed to improve our county and thus improve our lives. Once priorities are determined, then we can examine what is needed to accomplish our goals and we can identify what challenges we must overcome to get there.
The assessment of priorities involves input from the community; the full community. Priorities differ across the economic scale. Low income people may have basic, subsistence needs. The wealthy do not. By including representatives from the whole community in assessing needs, a sense of trust develops and a county-wide buy-in and support can be accomplished.
Early-on a plan must be developed for the assessment. How to select the representatives, how to set priorities, how to gather information, what information is already available?
All this proceeds with a careful eye on possible unintended consequences. A dollar spent on A is a dollar that can’t be spent on B. If we spend resources for the primary benefit of one group, does it justify not spending for a different group’s benefit? Those who receive a benefit are happy and those who don’t are not. That is why it is essential to seek to fund those priorities that have the greatest benefit for the county as a whole.
Finally, it is imperative that the government leaders not waiver in their duty to support what is best for McCracken county, despite pressure from individuals or groups to do otherwise. I look forward to an opportunity to do just that.
Next “HEY JUDGE!” What’s a “SWOT”?
How do we determine what McCracken County can do and should do?
The first thing is to determine what the majority of the citizens want. The people determine the “what we should do”. That can be determined through questionnaires, public forums, civic group input, etc. Where do we want to develop, where do we want to be in 5 years, 10, 25?
The “what we can do” is the tougher question. Everything is governed by legal restrictions; but assuming legality, we can do an assessment, much like a business, to determine what is possible, given what we have. A SWOT analysis is helpful.;
A SWOT analysis is a simple tool to help work out the internal and external factors affecting government It is one of the most commonly used business analysis and decision-making tools. A SWOT analysis helps to: Determine Strengths (S); Minimize weakness (W); seize opportunities (O); and counteract threats (T).
To get the most out of a SWOT analysis, we need to conduct it with a particular objective in mind. For example, a SWOT analysis can help decide if we should enter into a new service or program for the community’s benefit.
A SWOT analysis is often part of strategic planning. It can help us better understand the county’s business and work out what areas need improving. It can also help understand possible new endeavors and predict changes that must be addressed to make sure we are successful in the planning process.
Building on strengths: A SWOT analysis will help identify areas of government that we are performing well. These areas are the critical success factors and they give us a basis to build upon in serving the county.
Minimizing weaknesses: Weaknesses are the characteristics that put us at a disadvantage in accomplishing goals and competing with other communities. Conducting a SWOT analysis can help identify these characteristics and minimize or improve them before they become a problem. When conducting a SWOT analysis, it is important to be realistic about the weaknesses so they can be dealt with adequately.
Seizing opportunities: A SWOT analysis can help identify opportunities that we can take advantage of to better serve the community and accomplish our goals. Opportunities are created by external factors, such as new laws, potential new businesses, and changes in the market. If the county doesn’t have the capability to seize an opportunity but decides to anyway, it could be damaging. Similarly, if we do have the capability to seize an opportunity and don’t, it could also be damaging.
Counteracting threats: Threats are external factors that could cause problems for the county, such as changes to the market, an adjoining county’s competitive activities, or new government policy. A SWOT analysis can help identify threats and ways to counteract them, depending on our strengths and weaknesses.
Through a SWOT analysis McCracken County can continue to develop a professional plan for moving forward in an effort to accomplish desired goals, giving serious consideration to our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.