Longtime Brown County Judge Ray West presided over what was effectively his final commissioners court meeting Monday morning before stepping into the adjacent county courtroom for a reception in his honor.
A large turnout of friends and colleagues crowded into the county courtroom and space outside the courtroom to offer the 64-year-old West their best wishes, handshakes and hugs. West was accompanied by his wife, Jane, and daughter, Lori Russell.
The commissioners court will have one more meeting this year — on Dec. 31, the day West leaves office after nearly 27 years — when the only agenda item will be to pay bills, West said. He said he did not know if he will attend that meeting.
West, who was been county judge since 1992, lost his bid for another term when challenger Paul Lilly defeated West in the Republican Party Primary election in March.
Before leaving the commissioners court meeting Monday, commissioners presented West with a gavel.
“For all the commissioners you’ve served with, you’ve always been concerned about Brown County,” commissioner Gary Worley said as commissioners prepared to adjourn. “That was your main objective, and we thank you for the 26-plus years, 27 years of service.”
West said, “I don’t know if I’ll be here the 31st or not, but this could be my last meeting and I will tell you that I have enjoyed all of this, with every commissioner.
“It’s time to pay bills, and it’s time for me to take care of a probate case, so with that, I bid you adieu.”
West spoke further, saying “there has not been a commissioner yet who has not also shared my concern for the county. This court has gone from being one of, let’s just try to keep the status quo, to one that’s very progressive, and you all are progressive.
“I think the measure of an entity such as the commissioner court is, so we leave the county in better shape than it was when we came on board, and I can unequivocally say that we have. It’s hard to make a decision that people sometimes disagree with, because it’s not always of matter of right and wrong. It’s a matter of what is best for the county.”
West said the commissioners court has managed the county’s debt service “in such a way that we have not burdened the taxpayers with too much tax. We have increased our infrastructure and I have always felt that if you try to maintain what you have and not better it, that you’re going backwards.”
West concluded by telling commissioners “it’s been an honor to serve with you … thank you for the 27 years.”