Williamson County judge stands behind election results, says there are no known affidavits alleging election mishandling
The Williamson County Commissioners Court voted Tuesday on a proposed maximum tax rate not to exceed $0.458719 per $100 valuation. This rate matched the current tax rate that comprises the General Fund, Road and Bridge Fund, and Debt Service Fund tax rates.
Read full story: Anthony Flores, Liberty Hill Independent
Read the full story, and local reactions, at Georgetown View Magazine, June 2020
100 Days of COVID
IN AN INTERVIEW MAY 14, 2020, JUDGE BILL GRAVELL SHARED HIS REFLECTIONS AND HISTORIC EXPERIENCES AS WILLIAMSON COUNTY JUDGE DURING THE COVID19 PANDEMIC. HE PROVIDED, EXCLUSIVELY FOR GEORGETOWN VIEW READERS, A MACRO VIEW OF THE FIRST 100 DAYS OF THE CRISIS — ITS CHALLENGES AND TRIUMPHS, AS WELL AS THE EMOTIONAL IMPACT IT HAS MADE ON THIS FORMER PASTOR’S LIFE.
On Day 105, Judge Bill Gravell looked at the handwritten list of names he keeps with him—the people in Williamson County who have died from COVID. “Twenty years from now, in spite of a few negative comments, what I will remember is the ‘I CAN’ attitude of our people. I’m going to look at this list of names, and ask myself again if I did enough, or could I have done more?”
DAY 1: On January 30, 2020, Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell was listening to a conference call about a disease in a foreign country, wondering, “Why am I on this call?”
One hundred days later, on May 9, he was at a free-standing, drive-through, public COVID testing facility in Taylor, when he received a text that two county residents had passed away, bringing the number of CVD-19 victims to 19. “My thought at that moment was the next day was Mothers’ Day and one of those people was a mother and a grandmother. How horrible the day would be for her family.”
He says it also struck him that she was 107 years old, and had lived through the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, the Great Depression, both World Wars, the Korean and Vietnam wars, Communism, and the moon landing. “Losing her memories is a loss to us all.”
Despite any person’s individual history, Judge Gravell says he feels an obligation to everyone who has lost a life to this sickness, and has committed to reach out personally to their families, as well as make a public statement about each. “When this started, I didn’t have any idea what that might mean, or how many there would be. I know—as I sit here today—we have not seen them all.”
THE SCARY ROOM
If you look at the collection of crisis management manuals in Williamson and other counties, you will find binders entitled TORNADO, FLOOD, and ACTIVE SHOOTER. In none of those libraries, until now, was there any guidance for PANDEMIC. Yet leaders across the county, state, and nation come under fire for nearly every decision they make, and the average citizen struggles to know who, or what, to believe. Still, more than 100 days in, there continue to be things left unsaid, which leads to some of those criticisms, but perhaps for good reason.
Judge Gravell and his pandemic team number just under 100 people. While it was often necessary to have many of them in the same room for response and preparation, there was also another room…in the back. In that room, only 12 team leaders were invited to discuss the most delicate of emergencies. “It started out as an executive meeting room,” Judge says, “but was soon renamed ‘The Scary Room.’ I heard things in that room you don’t want your children to hear. Things discussed in that room would take your breath away. Because of those things, we prepared for the absolute worst that could have happened, and it was a burden that became so very heavy.”
May 9 ended our first 100 days. I’ve waited a long time to tell this story.
Judge Bill Gravell
135,000-square-foot, 36-bed hospital will house emergency and trauma services, 2 operating rooms, endoscopy/procedure rooms and sleep labs.
Read the full story at Georgetown View Magazine • January 2020
A MULTI-FACETED LOOK AT YOUTH LEADERSHIP
The Williamson County Livestock Association hosted the 74th Annual Livestock Association Show and Sale December 2-6 in Taylor.
Among the human participants at the livestock show were many members of local Future Farmers of America (FFA) and 4-H Clubs, many of whom are GISD students. Walking around this event, the predominant thought is this; if there is any doubt in your mind about the integrity of Texans and even the future of our country, these are the kids you need to volunteer with or at least get to know.
James (14) is a Special Ed student at Taylor High School. He spent time with Treasure at the Livestock Show Special Event. Treasure is a frequent visitor for therapy and other special events.There is no greater responsibility than to provide primary care for a living thing. The missions of FFA and 4-H Clubs are about exactly that. Programs and learning focus on youth development and leadership specific to agriculture and experiential learning.
County Judge Bill Gravell was at the show every day and was impressed with the character and commitment of the youth who participated. “The thing that strikes me about these young people is that every one of them knows how to look you in the eye, shake your hand, and speak confidently about him or herself. They take on great responsibility and I cannot express enough the value they represent for the future, not just in agriculture and animal science, but in all manner of leadership.”
From Advocate News, Georgetown • December 2018
The more we do life together, the more we learn from each other
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.”
From Advocate News, Georgetown, TX • May 2018
Judge Bill Gravell, Republican nominee for County Judge, recently traveled to New York City to secure loan funding after purchasing 452 acres of land for economic development for Williamson County in Hutto. The combined current lending environment and Hutto’s A+ rating means funding is available at unprecedented levels for government entities.
Making the trip personally as President of the Hutto Economic Development Corporation, Judge Gravell was able to meet face to face with individuals who provide necessary bond funds for major projects in Williamson County.
“It is exciting that the story of Williamson County is not just one we’re telling at the capital in Austin. It’s being told in New York, Washington DC, and even in India. This is an amazing place to live, work and play and that is really resonating with business and industry. Many of the people I met in New York have actually been here and driven through Round Rock, Georgetown, and Jarrell so they know, first-hand, exactly what we’re talking about, and it is energizing to share that story with city folks who manage some of the largest municipal bond funds in the world. They are ready to partner with us to move forward.”
Among the platforms for his campaigns, Judge Gravell has consistently said the best way to offset higher property taxes for citizens is growth in economic development. “The number one complaint I hear from citizens is that our property taxes are too high. I believe the fuel that drives our economy is development and we have to continue expanding; bring in industry and commercial business to offset increases from the appraisal district.”
Gravell has long advocated that an increase in the County’s commercial and industrial base is not expansion for its own sake, but to take the pressure off residents so they can be personally successful.
His vision for the County also includes a balance and maintaining the quality of life that has become standard for Williamson County. “What we have now is pretty amazing, but what’s coming in the days ahead will be stunning, and residents will be in awe of the major businesses we are bringing to the area.”
From an East Coast perspective, Gravell says Williamson County is still a factor in the greater economy of Texas, which continues to have a larger GDP than the entire former Soviet Union. “We are positioned very well geographically for exponential growth, and while Texas is doing well, Williamson County is special, and doing even better. We are the best of the best here, as a superlative reflection of growth state-wide.”
Gravell expects that growth to be distributed across the county as well. “My goal as next County Judge is that we don’t just look at where we have business now. A rising tide lifts all boats and I see every community in Williamson County as a boat, and a tool in my belt. If an opportunity is not a good fit for Round Rock or Jarrell, I can look to Liberty Hill or Florence for optimum conditions. Anything we do in Georgetown or Cedar Park raises all areas, and I’m very passionate about that. I’m excited about the possibilities of elevating all of our cities. There is no one city that is a priority; Williamson County is the priority.”