With more than 607,000 residents, 1,800 employees, five senior division chiefs and 28 elected officials, Williamson County is hardly a sleepy Texas hamlet any more. Having earned 103,740 votes on election day, Bill Gravell is already asking himself how he can inspire the remaining 400,000 next time.
On his transition from JP3 to County Judge, Gravell says he is looking forward to new challenges and is preparing now for the job; “We are a multi-million dollar corporation and the business of this County doesn’t stop. Additionally, the Texas Legislature goes into session January 8, and we can’t wait until the oaths are taken January 1 to start preparing. I am confident if we handle it well, the transitions will be flawless and no on will notice much more than one name drifting into the news and one name drifting out.”
Judge Gravell’s meetings to date have given him a sense that what most of his electeds and officials seek is leadership and a path to emerge from current conflicts and move forward. “My first priority is to remind all of our elected officials that we are here to serve and customer service should be everyone’s top priority. Internally, in 2019, we are beginning the ‘customer service matters’ campaign. What my staff accomplished at the JP3 level, in terms of kindness and service, is about to be a major initiative for the entire County. And we have a wall of awards to show that we know how to do that well.”
Judge Gravell has enlisted Tax Assessor Larry Gaddes to lead the way and is confident that he will do that job and set an exceptional example.
I want people to know we notice and appreciate all the people who keep the county running smoothly, and I will be visible about it. I went to a symposium for training our emergency communications staff recently. I wanted to say thank you to Adam Moulton. He has been up in the middle of the night for years, kindly and professionally calling me to report to death scenes. I wanted to thank him publicly but he wasn’t there. It turns out he has chosen to work the night shift because he wants to be home during the day as he is raising his 11-year-old nephew and that day he had taken the boy to a professional football game. Those are the people I want to celebrate, and the values I want to share. Fortunately, Adam is just one of 100 stories I can tell about our great County.
On a larger scale, Judge Gravell will implement a leadership program, “Wilco University”, which will be instrumental in preparing lower level management to be the next generation of leadership in the county. “We will use the amazing teachers, leaders and equippers who already work here to facilitate the 18-month programs so there will be no additional expense to the county. Our progress will mean more to the county in terms of succession planning so we are well prepared when senior jobs change hands.”
Outside County government, Judge Gravell also will have monthly breakfasts with the cities’ mayors. “Some of the brightest minds I know are in city government. Why shouldn’t we want the folks in Liberty Hill to learn from the Mayor of Round Rock, or the Mayor of Granger helping the Mayor of Taylor? I plan to discuss not just our challenges and struggles, but also about life and how we can all learn to live, work, play and fight together. Not among ourselves but together, and for all the people of the County.”
The Judge also plans to encourage elected officials to take a day off to “take off the robes and uniforms and put on their jeans” to volunteer at The Serving Center, Habitat for Humanity, or R.O.C.K. and see what people do for our citizens every day. “I want us to share ups and downs, work together and expect to be exceptional for the sake of the values of the people who live here.”
What is not going to change is his level of visibility. “You’re going to see more of your Judge; I will tweet and take selfies and you will hear a lot of stories about a lot of people doing good. We spend too much time talking about what people do that’s bad. I want to celebrate the good things and the people who do them.”
For now, Judge Gravell continues to manage his duties as JP3, which he says never stop. But he is confident that his JP3 and transition teams are managing both very well. “We are making deliberate choices, taking steps and doing it right. And, as always, at the end of the day, it is my job to ask everyone I meet, ‘What can I do to help you?’ The answer always leads me to what matters to people and that’s where the service, and kindness, begin.”