Candidate 2018 profile: Todd Little

Todd Little

ELLIS COUNTY — Learn more about Todd Little in his own words as he runs for Ellis County Judge in the 2018 Republican primary.

Election day voting will be held on March 6, 2018 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Click here for a list of election day polling locations. Early voting will take place February 20, 2018 through March 2, 2018. Click here for a list of early voting locations and times.

Click here to view and compare all County Judge candidates' answers on one page.

Todd Little questionnaire responses

1) Age:

48

2) City of Residence:

Red Oak, Tx

3) Years Living in Ellis County:

46 years

4) Family:

Wife, Dawn, Registered Nurse, Health Science Teacher, Tanner, 21, Baylor University, Houston, 20, Lindenwood University, Stefani, 16, Red Oak High School

5) Education:

Bachelors of Business Administration in Financial Planning

6) Previous Public Office Experience:

Mayor, City of Red Oak 2000-2006

7) Occupation:

Financial Advisor & Risk Management

8) Church and Civic Involvement:

The Oaks Fellowship-Member-Meals on Wheels Board of Trustees-2007-2015-Hope Clinic Board Member-2003-2008-Fellowship of Christian Athletes-Southeast Dallas/Ellis County-2015-Current-Red Oak ISD Education Foundation-Founding Member-2001-Mayor City of Red Oak-2000-2006, Ellis County Courthouse Restoration Committee-2001

9) Please provide a biographical narrative.

Todd is a 3rd generation Ellis County resident. Lived in Red Oak since 1970 on family ranch and relocated after college to raise family with his wife Dawn and three children and manages his family’s small business.

10) What motivated your interest in running for Constitutional County Judge in Ellis County?

Concerned in the future of Ellis County with the impending growth headed this direction, I believe it is important to maintain quality of life including public safety, quality growth, managed road and bridge improvement, manage government efficiencies and work to lower taxes. Felt with my experience in finance and management experience, I have the tools to lead and manage a team to work toward sustaining quality of life and work with citizens toward common goals. Now my wife and me have raised our family and are entering the “empty nest” stage of our lives I become interested in giving back and getting back into public service.

11) Briefly and succinctly define the job responsibilities of the office you are seeking.

County Judge serves as the Lead Budget Officer, parliamentarian for the Commissioner’s Court, planning facilitator for casting vision, organizing future goals and implementing objectives based on desired outcomes. Meets with Department Heads to establish budget objectives annually, plans future budgets and builds consensus among teams while also seeking state and local funding options including grants and public funds from state and national agencies.

12) What qualifications and professional experiences do you possess that are applicable to county judge responsibilities the position you are seeking requires? Be specific.

My education in Finance and 25 years of consulting in areas of risk management, retirement planning, and financial planning as well as my local government experience as mayor have uniquely prepared me to serve as County Judge. I enjoy working with a team to achieve defined goals and objectives. I enjoy working alongside with professionals while also having the leadership skills to make tough decisions when necessary.

13) What qualifications do you possess that will enable you to manage a budget of over $63 million for Ellis County? Be specific.

My finance degree and business experience as well as my city council experience enables me to work within and manage any size budget.

14) How has your education and professional experience prepared you for this office?

As a former mayor and board member and chairman for multiple non-profits I have the skills and have managed large budgets over the years. I believe in a common sense approach to solving problems while always realizing that resources are limited.

15) Do you own property in Ellis County, and if so, for how long?

I have lived in Red Oak since 1972, moved back to Red Oak in 1992 after college. I own approx. 1 acre attached to my residence.

16) Have you declared bankruptcy or have had any liens placed upon you in the past 10 years? If so, please explain.

I have never filed bankruptcy. To my knowledge, I have no liens on any property I own and I am unaware of any liens being filed on my property within the last 10 years.

17) Prior to your candidacy, or prior to your election for your first term (for incumbents seeking re-election), have you attended Commissioners' Court meetings? If so, how often during the previous 12 months? If not often, please explain why.

I have attended many Commissioner’s Court meetings in the past, probably attended approximately 6 to 8 meetings in the last 12 months and have spoken at Commissioner’s Court as it related to the appointment process for the County Sheriff. I find it hard to attend regular Commissioner Court meetings as they take place during my work hours from 10am or 2pm in the afternoon.

18) What distinguishes you from your opponent(s)?

I’m a small business owner, I’m not an attorney, I have a degree in business finance and administration and have served in local government and was elected to subsequent terms by my constituency. I have never been appointed to any political position and I do not desire to be a “career” politician.

19) What are the three greatest challenges facing Ellis County? If elected, what measures would you propose to resolve them?

1) Public Safety 2) Managing Growth 3) Increased Taxes and Property Valuations

1) Work closely with the Sheriff’s Dept. to implement a stepped budget that will effectively serve public safety needs over time as population increases. The sheriff’s department must remain competitive to retain and hire the top talent needed to provide for improved public safety. I would also propose some type of citizen firearm training program to assist citizens with maintaining their own security and safety. There is no reason why Ellis County couldn’t be the most safe county in the State of Texas with the laws currently established.

2) It will be challenging to manage county growth as demand increases and people want to move to Ellis County for the same quality of life reasons as existing residents. This will require a careful balance of development standards while also reducing burdensome regulations that hinder what citizen’s desire to do on their own. We must remove undue pressure on property owners while also managing public health and public safety.

3) Increased taxes and property values are a major threat to the affordability of ownership…there must be a concerted effort to reduce taxes while also managing capital needs over time. Future demand and development should allow for increases in equipment, facilities, capital improvements while decreasing taxes over time will help property owners sustain their ownership and continue to maintain their property as time goes on.

Property Valuations are based on fair market value in the State of Texas, I would work to study and negotiate with state officials on any proposal that would benefit Texas taxpayers as it relates to a reduction in taxes. It is important to continue to reduce undue hardship on owners.

I would propose a reduction, freeze or increased exemption for seniors over age 65, as they enter their years in retirement on a fixed income, I would look for ways to give property owners tax credits for investing in older properties such as historic homes, buildings, or remodeling.

I would study ways to accelerate rapid improvement in road and bridges all over the county including not only state highways but also county roads. Many bridges need additional safety precautions and widening. I would create a Capital Improvements Committee to discuss priorities and analyze costs. Then look at all types of funding mechanisms to prioritize completion.

20) If elected, what are your top three priorities? How will you work with other elected officials and county staff to achieve them? Be specific.

*Candidate did not provide an answer.*

21) Is there a specific item you would add or remove from the county budget? Please explain.

*Candidate did not provide an answer.*

22) If elected, will you work with others to reduce county spending? Please explain how and in what areas.

As Chief Budget Officer for the county I will always look for ways to reduce county spending in places where the least impact for services will be felt by citizens. I think it is wise to look at efficiencies within departments while also examining the need for the service being rendered. Some funds that are passed down from the state should be managed carefully and designed to get the most service for the money spent. One example would be Indigent Healthcare. We must examine whether these monies are being spent in a manner that we are doing the best job in providing the healthcare for our indigent population.

23) Would you vote to increase or decrease property tax rates? Please explain.

I would vote to decrease county property taxes as revenue for the county increases. With the current expected growth rate, there should be budget surpluses that would allow for the tax rate to decrease. If there is a time when county revenue begins to decrease if property values go back down, there should be a plan implemented to stabilize the then current tax rates so county officials wouldn’t need to increase taxes like the latest recession in order to balance a budget. It is simple like in business, when your business has a year of reduced revenue…there must be adequate spending cuts to keep from going into debt. We must continue to balance the budget and pay off county debt rapidly.

24) In 2016, County Judge Carol Bush asked a salary grievance board for a raise. She received a $70,000 per year increase in her salary, thus resulting in a 74% increase over her previous $94,835 salary. With a new salary of $165,000, the Ellis County Judge position now pays more than the $153,000 salary of the Texas Governor. What do you believe is a fair salary for the position of County Judge and what would you do to ensure your salary matches what you believe to be a fair salary?

I have heard much controversy regarding the current County Judge’s salary. I believe the grievance process was an inappropriate way to handle the salary increase. This should not have been taken out of the normal budget process. This discussion should have been handled through a discussion in commissioner’s court as it relates to the annual budget that is approved annually. If it was determined through studies and surveys that the county judge salary was low, the increase could have been stepped up over a multiple year budget process. I don’t believe the county judge salary should be higher than the Governor of Texas.

The larger the increase the greater the chance that the salary places unnecessary burdens on other department budgets. I have not done any study or survey of other county judge’s in the state. I would think we would need to look at current population and counties of our size to get some idea of the need for a competitive salary. This will allow for candidates with proper education, experience and professionalism to serve the citizens at the highest level of performance expected. For this reason, I will pledge to completely re-look at the county judge budget and will surely abstain from any final vote taken by the commissioner’s as it relates to the salary of the county judge if elected. The will allow for proper transparency of the budget process, while gaining back the trust of the Office of the County Judge and sending a message to build moral within all departments. If elected, the county judge salary will definitely be reduced and will involve the commissioner’s court approval of whatever amount is determined to be the appropriate salary amount. The county judge serves at the pleasure of the citizens of Ellis County.

25) Would you vote in favor of a pay raise for yourself and other county commissioners during your first and second year in office? Please explain your position.

As county judge, I would not vote for a pay raise for myself. I believe it is in the best interest of the citizens if the commissioner’s court establishes the pay for the county judge as part of the annual budget process. I do believe I could participate in the study and survey process for analyzing all commissioner court salaries. As county judge, I do believe I could vote and have input on the pay of the commissioner’s. It would take a majority vote of all commissioners to set the salary of commissioner’s court. I do believe all salaries for elected officials should be discussed in open forum as part of the normal budget process. The county commissioners also serve at the pleasure of the citizens of Ellis County.

As it relates to whether I’d vote for a raise for commissioners in the first or second year, it would be necessary discussion at the normal budget process, as it would be for any other department head salary or elected official salary.

26) Do you support a raise for non-elected county employees? If so, by how much?

I would favor a merit based, performance evaluation process for non-elected employees. This would give employees opportunity for advancement and salary increases based on performance standards and metrics. Usually a merit based system would provide an opportunity for increases based a scale of 1%-5% if performance was determined to be above average or exceptional. This merit increase would in no way be automatic or expected on an annual basis. This would remove any type of inflation guard/automatic increase. In an example of an employee performance review determined to be average or below average this would not allow them to receive the automatic 3% inflationary increase we hear about. I believe this would provide incentive to employees interested in doing their best for the county and then in return receiving a reward based on merit. In the opposite case of poor performance, that could be grounds for removal, reduction or simply continuing with the same salary as the previous year.

27) The current County Judge has been accused of giving select individual non-elected county employees more significant raises than the across-the-board raises for non-elected county employees? Do you believe this is appropriate and fair? Please explain.

I am unaware of these types of accusations.

28) What will happen with your current occupation if elected?

My current occupation would be on hold if elected county judge. I would either sell my small business or hire a general manager to take my place while I serve as a full time county judge.

29) Name one county program or department you would like to improve. Please explain.

County Department of Development-I have heard many examples where people have been financially injured by improper engineering or permits being issued that have involved the wrong property owner or inadequate research or a permit denial with the incorrect determination of facts surrounding the permit. I believe the Department of Development will be the primary department which will be impacted most by future growth. They are the first line of defense to manage growth and maintain quality standards as it relates to the building of new infrastructure, roads, proper easements or rights of way (ROW). This staff must be made up of professionals that understand efficiency while also understanding the right of the property owner to do what they want with their property. It is important this department not overstep their role as a guiding official in the development of the land of private citizens.

30) In recent years there have been situations where other elected officials have had disagreements with some members of the Ellis County Commissioners' Court and the perception of budgetary revenge has ensued from some of those members of the court. How would you handle these situations and what would you do to prevent this from occurring in the future?

This would not be a professional manner to handle budgetary practices and could be grounds for future employment lawsuits if it could be established as a retaliatory type of revenge. If elected county judge, these types of budgetary practices would be used. The budgetary process is always the process by which each department is given the appropriate resources to meet the pre-determined goals and objectives of the citizens of the county. This type of practice would only hamper their ability to do each job effectively and ultimately reduce employee morale and increase turnover within departments. There is always a cost factor to employee turnover and an increase in training cost which overtime ends up slowing down the efficient delivery of services.

31) If elected, what measures would you take to ensure the efficient operation of Ellis County?

*Candidate did not provide an answer.*

32) If elected, what measures would you take to generate economic development opportunities for Ellis County?

*Candidate did not provide an answer.*

33) Government transparency has been an issue at all levels of politics for the past few years. Do you feel that the county is transparent enough? If not, what needs to change?

*Candidate did not provide an answer.*

34) If elected, would you support changing one daytime Commissioners' Court meeting to an evening meeting so that daytime working residents can participate in our county government meetings? If so, how soon would you propose the change after taking office? Please explain your position.

*Candidate did not provide an answer.*

35) In order to successfully represent the residents of Ellis County you will have to work with people who do not share your opinion on issues. What is your plan to ensure that all residents are fairly represented and that their voice is heard?

*Candidate did not provide an answer.*

36) If elected, how would you reach out and form relationships with residents of Ellis County and how would you reach out to those residents in the outlying areas of the county?

*Candidate did not provide an answer.*

37) What are the factors on which you will base your decisions as County Judge?

Information & Knowledge, Fairness, Justice, Ethics, Transparency, Openness and Humility

38) Is there any additional information that you feel voters should know about your political views?

I believe that I’m the “True Conservative” in this race. I’m your pro-life, lower taxes, smaller government guy that’s been in Ellis County since I was 2 years old. I chose to come back here to raise my family in the same quality of life I had as a young boy in Red Oak. I know change is imminent but we can work together to keep the culture and quality of life here even though we have new citizens moving here every day. We must carefully define our future and work to plan it.

39) Why should voters choose you?

I ask the voters of Ellis County to give me the opportunity to earn back their trust. I would be honored to serve as their county judge for the next 4 years.

I will give it my best and will utilize the resources I’ve learned from the last 25 years in business and the experiences I’ve gained from 10 years of public service. I will use my education, research skills and intrapersonal relationships to gain information and then communicate the options that present themselves, as we go down this road together, while working to continue to obtain the quality of life we all are searching for here in Ellis County and to make this a better place for our children, grandchildren and the next generation.