Shouts of “Hale Yes!” greeted the newest member of Collin County Commissioners Court as Darrell Hale was sworn in Monday to the county’s governing body.
Hale was elected in November to fill the unexpired term of former Precinct 3 Commissioner and County Judge-elect Chris Hill.
The position had been held since November 2017 by John Thomas, appointed by outgoing County Judge Keith Self when Hill resigned to run for his new office.
Precinct 3 covers the northeast quadrant of the county, including parts of Allen and McKinney, along with Anna, Fairview, Farmersville, Lucas, Melissa, and Princeton.
Texas Scorecard spoke with Hale Monday about his plans for serving Collin County.
From small business owner to public servant
In the interview, Hale said his concerns about rising property tax burdens being imposed by local governments kicked off his interest in public service.
“I had thoughts about maybe running for office at some point in my life,” said Hale, a West Point graduate with a degree in engineering, an Army veteran, and most recently a local small business owner. As he started paying more attention to property tax issues and “getting more involved in the political side of things,” Hale began seriously looking at positions where he might serve.
Engaging in citizen-led fights against Frisco’s failed 2016 school tax rate increase, Collin College’s 2017 bond proposition, and McKinney’s attempts at forced annexation solidified Hale’s commitment to pursue public office.
Hale said helping McKinney City Council candidate Derek Baker in his 2017 campaign gave him a sense of what it takes to run for office. He prayed about it, sold his business, stayed involved in local issues, and when a position opened up that matched his skill sets, Hale and his family were ready.
Serving Precinct 3
Rising property tax burdens were also the top concern for the Precinct 3 residents Hale spoke with on the campaign trail, along with mobility and public safety issues. Hale said he knocked on almost 10,000 doors and talked to over 3,500 voters while campaigning for the Republican primary in March and the November general election.
Hale said running a small business and being out in the community over the previous five years prepared him to run a successful campaign. “Some of the same skills in a retail small business applied to running for office,” he said. “Getting out, knocking on doors, talking to people.”
He also credited his participation in McKinney Tea Party’s leadership team for preparing him to campaign and for the work ahead.
Hale earned conservative grassroots support from fellow McKinney Tea Party members, Collin County Conservative Republicans, DFWPAC, Grassroots McKinney, and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, among others. His campaign slogan “Hale Yes!” proved popular as well.
On election night, Hale won 62 percent of the vote over his Democrat opponent David Azad. Now he’s ready to serve 100 percent of his constituents.
According to Hale, his new job isn’t about making big changes but maintaining the court’s successful administration of county business, continuing to be a good steward of taxpayers’ money, and keeping property tax burdens low. Collin County adopted the taxpayer-friendly “effective” rate this year for the seventh time in 10 years.
Hale sees infrastructure projects as the top tasks ahead for commissioners, including implementing the $750 million transportation bond program approved by voters in November.
He said Proposition A bonds, which will fund engineering studies and right-of-way acquisition for limited-access roadways including the Outer Loop and potential North-South highways, will allow the county to work with property owners “way ahead of time” to avoid the kinds of conflicts playing out now over the Highway 380 expansion.
Hale also said the court will be developing policies over the next couple of months on how to score arterial and joint city-county road projects funded by Proposition B bonds, “so there’s a predictive model on which ones are going to have higher value.” Preserving right-of-way should be a factor, he said. “That way we don’t have these troubles, these heartaches in the future.”
Commissioners will also soon be considering new district courts and more jail space. Hale says the county’s legislative agenda already includes a request for new courts. “It’s all infrastructure-based,” he said, “expansion of the courthouse, expansion of the jail.”
Hale added the county has previously-approved bonds still available to fund jail expansion. “The county’s already been a really great steward.”
Hale is officially on the job as Precinct 3 Commissioner, but he’ll join Judge Hill, Precinct 2 Commissioner Cheryl Williams, and Precinct 4 Commissioner Duncan Webb for the ceremony when they take their oaths of office in January. Williams and Webb were re-elected in November to new four-year terms. Precinct 1 Commissioner Susan Fletcher, whose current term runs through 2020, completes Collin County’s all-Republican commissioners court.