During his first commissioners court meeting as Midland County Judge, Terry Johnson fulfilled a campaign promise of closing the county’s promotions account—saving residents tens of thousands in wasted tax dollars on subsidized events.

After requesting it be added to the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners voted unanimously to dissolve the account and transfer the remaining funds, $50,000, to the general fund.

The promotions account was created by Midland county commissioners in 2015 to promote and subsidize performances at the county’s tax-funded event venue, the Horseshoe Complex. After each subsidized performance, fifty percent of the profits from ticket sales go back into the promotions account, while the remainder is deposited into the county’s general fund.

Since its inception, commissioners have used the fund for several performances including a Jeff Foxworthy show in 2015 and a Doobie Brothers concert in 2018. Both shows netted a negative $80,000 and $32,000, respectively, due to poor ticket sales—losing taxpayers a total of $112,000.

Johnson was an open critic of Horseshoe’s management throughout his campaign for county judge, stating that the venue should have been taken to voters for approval to begin with, and that residents should be more involved and aware of the financial decisions related to the complex.

The promotions account was no exception, and Johnson noted during the campaign he would strongly encourage the court to dissolve it completely if elected.

“The Commissioners Court has shown they are not good at making a profit investing our money in the entertainment business and should bow out of that activity as gracefully as possible,” Johnson said at the time. “Although not an illegal act, this is a misappropriation of public funds. Government on any level should not compete with the private sector; it is a lopsided competition to use public money against the public.”

In an attempt to fulfill another campaign promise on Tuesday—making county business more accessible to the public—Johnson included an additional agenda item to discuss the hiring of a public information officer, which was met with some pushback. County Commissioner Scott Ramsey noted that counties of comparable size to Midland do not have a Public Information Officer (PIO) and the duties of such a position typically fall on the county judge and commissioners. Midland District Attorney Laura Nodolf also said she did not feel comfortable with a PIO speaking on behalf of her office, given the confidential nature of the department.

The decision was tabled so further discussion could take place.

As a business owner with no prior experience serving in public office, Johnson ran on bringing a private-sector mentality to the county and making changes to help foster more resident involvement in county business. Based on his first meeting as judge, it seems Johnson is set on fulfilling those campaign promises.

Lauren Melear

Lauren Melear leads the West Texas Bureau of Texas Scorecard. When not working, Lauren enjoys spending time with her husband and their dog, as well as cooking, working out, traveling to the hill country, and cheering on the fightin' Texas Aggies.