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Jo Clifton is the Politics Editor for the Austin Monitor.
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Monday, November 9, 2020 by Jo Clifton
County Judge-elect Andy Brown eager to start new job
Travis County Judge-elect Andy Brown is getting ready to start his new job. The most likely date for his first day on the job is Nov. 17, since commissioners will be canvassing the vote this week. Democrat Brown, who will serve the remainder of former County Judge Sarah Eckhardt’s term, won with 70 percent of the vote, which was no surprise as Travis County declined to elect any Republicans on Nov. 3. Eckhardt was elected to the Texas Senate in July to fill the spot vacated by Kirk Watson.
Sam Biscoe, who has been filling in as interim leader of the Commissioners Court since May, will be able to retire once more when Brown takes his seat. Some of the duties Brown will inherit include pandemic precautions, such as ordering bars to remain closed to prevent further spread of the virus.
Brown, who spoke with the Austin Monitor on Friday, said he was “excited to work with Dr. Mark Escott,” the interim Austin-Travis County health authority, and other elected officials, to make sure “we’re doing the science-based approach to getting through the coronavirus as quickly as possible.” He said any decision he might make about allowing Travis County bars to reopen would be based on Escott’s recommendation.
“If you look around the state, things are getting worse,” he said. Travis County needs to follow the advice of its medical experts to make sure that citizens remain safe, Brown said. “That’s the way that we get back to business the quickest, by being safe and following the science.”
Next on Brown’s list is criminal justice reform. Though he is not a judge in the usual sense of the word, Brown said, “I think we had a very clear mandate from the voters to look at what the county budget is investing in. I want to make sure that we are investing in mental health, behavioral health and health care access across the county.”
The Travis County Jail, particularly the women’s section, will likely be a bone of contention between Brown and other officials, particularly Precinct 1 Commissioner Jeff Travillion. Travillion wants a new women’s jail that will include a comprehensive clinic. He was in favor of slowing down the process to make sure that the new jail would serve therapeutic and medical needs, he told the Monitor last week, but now he is ready to move forward with a new design.
Brown, on the other hand, wants to give newly elected Travis County District Attorney José Garza and County Attorney Delia Garza, both of whom take office in January, a chance to implement the policies they campaigned on. Those policies include reduction or elimination of cash bonds for people charged with but not convicted of a crime.
“I think we can’t act on the women’s jail until we see the effect of their policies,” Brown said. He added that he is in favor of “making investments in mental and behavioral health that make our community safer.”
Brown is also committed to helping Central Health do everything it can to improve the health care of people in the eastern part of the county. That includes bringing to fruition a new health care facility in Del Valle near Bailey Middle School.
Editor’s Note: Andy Brown is on the board of the Capital of Texas Media Foundation, which is the parent nonprofit of the Austin Monitor.
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