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OPINION: Leadership is on the ballot in Erath County.

Distrust and dissension are common byproducts of leadership vacuums. They can occur at every level of government, business or corporate management.

Sadly, over the past four years, I’ve seen this reality take hold of Erath County’s government. Upcoming elections may provide an opportunity to reverse it.

Prior to casting my ballot this week, I had not promised my vote to any candidate. I made no endorsements.

I have, however, made a concerted effort to meet with elected officials to discern what is happening. What I’ve learned in those meetings has led me to believe that Erath County needs an immediate change in leadership.

Nearly four years ago, we experienced a dramatic turnover in county offices. Many long-time elected officials retired and the elections to replace them were competitive. Since then, rumors of significant divisions have percolated. Unfortunately, I have come to see them first-hand. A major fault-line exists between members of the Commissioner’s Court and fellow elected leaders in County office.

The refrain I’ve most commonly heard is: “I wish people would just act like they’re on the same team!” This has come from virtually every elected official and stakeholder I’ve spoken with on all ‘sides.’

Asserting that a division exists is not a controversial viewpoint among either participants or other close observers. Setting aside questions of cause or blame, the most pressing issue for the people of Erath County is solving the problem.

And that is my immediate interest: solving the problem.

In order for our government to effectively serve the citizens of this county, we must ensure that we elect a County Judge who has the leadership ability and personal capacity necessary to rebuild badly burnt bridges.

My accumulated conversations and observations have led me to conclude that resolution is not possible without a new County Judge.

The buck stops there, even if all problems do not originate in that office.

Erath County needs a Judge whom his fellows can view as a partner rather than an adversary. Someone who can approach peers with humility and bring cohesion back to our government.

This task will be most difficult and of the highest importance. While there is no guarantee, I am confident that with new leadership we have an opportunity for restoration and trust.

Raz Shafer

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