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Gerald Daugherty looks back on years of service

Monday, December 28, 2020 by Victoria May

After serving as a Travis County Commissioner for 14 years, Gerald Daugherty recently reflected on his final term as commissioner for Precinct 3.

The pandemic gave rise to quite a few challenges during his final term, Daugherty said, but overcoming these challenges also gave way to some of his greatest achievements during his last term.

In fact, he said the biggest challenge he faced this year was keeping the budget in check. Citing the extreme limits placed on economic activity during citywide shutdowns, Daugherty noted the struggles associated with the reduction in tax revenue being funneled into government entities.

“We have been fortunate because of the federal dollars that have come our way,” Daugherty said. “But even when you take the federal dollars, they don’t stretch to take care of everyone’s particular needs. The county has always got to find ways to assist as much as we possibly can. Obviously the pandemic has really caused lots of issues. We probably have dealt with it best that we could, and there’s still a lot of people that are really hurting.”

Despite voting against the proposed budget at first, Daugherty was pleased not to have exceeded the 3.5 percent tax increase laid out in Senate Bill 2.

“Just looking at the budget overall and making sure that you’re not spending money where you’re not getting a good return on it is something that I think that the Commissioners Court has done a pretty good job with,” Daugherty said. “And, I think we’ve done a decent job with that most of the years that I’ve been in office.”

Daugherty attributed his successes to knowing how to be a team player. He prided himself on being an elected official who was “dedicated to working as hard as they can for the overall good of everyone” while maintaining fairness and reasonability. Achieving goals, like getting State Highway 45 Southwest built, would not have been possible without these qualities.

“Especially in this political climate that we have been in for the last several years, you can’t let partisanship get to the point where it keeps you from doing things that really need to be done,” Daugherty said.

Just because he likes to keep things amicable regardless of political affiliation does not mean he is not worried about Travis County’s future without any Republican representation on the Commissioners Court. Following the election of Democrat Ann Howard as his successor over Republican Becky Bray, Daugherty expressed feeling “a little frightened” to see a completely Democratic Commissioners Court.

“There are 57 elected officials that are elected in general election races where you have to run with party affiliation,” Daugherty said. “Fifty-six were Democrats. One was Gerald Daugherty. Now you have 57 officeholders, and you have 57 Democrats.”

Engaging in dialogue about policy and taking an introspective look at potential pitfalls are healthy parts of the democratic process, Daugherty said. Though he will now be “just another taxpaying citizen,” he wants the government to be the best it can be.

“Hopefully we won’t just become so myopically positioned with things that other points of view are not considered,” he reflected.

Further taking issue with this election season, Daugherty criticized Project Connect and Proposition A.

He thinks the lack of clarity about costs to taxpayers and the “$7.1 billion down payment” are cause for concern, especially because money is already tight due to the pandemic. He maintains there is not a substantial enough percentage of people who use public transportation to make the proposition worthwhile.

“Thinking that you’re gonna go out and pull this much money out of the community and that it’s going to affect most likely a very small percentage of people – it just didn’t make any sense,” Daugherty said. “That’s the practical side of Gerald, and that’s the reason that I’ve always been so hard to bring along with some of this public transit spending.”

Daugherty believes the passage of Prop A is “the worst thing the community has ever done,” and he plans to keep a close eye on it, even in retirement.

Despite his misgivings about the future, Daugherty, a firm believer in term limits, said it was time for him to step down.

“I feel good about what I’ve done, what I’ve accomplished,” he said. “I can leave with my head held high, thinking that I have been true to my convictions. This is a good time for me to sail off.”

Even without an elected position, Daugherty plans on staying involved in public policy. Now, however, he can fully balance his love for politics with his status as a restaurateur.

“I probably will do what I’ve always done,” Daugherty said. “And that is stay involved in businesses that I have ownership in and just stay part of the community and stay engaged.”

This story was written by a journalism student at the University of Texas at Austin. The Austin Monitor is working in partnership with the UT School of Journalism to teach and publish stories produced by students in the City and County Government Reporting course.

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