Bridgeport Mayor Keith McComis announced Monday that he would run for Wise County Judge.
The longtime public servant will face Chico Mayor J.D. Clark and Kyle Stephens of Decatur in the March 4 Republican primary.
“I’ve really enjoyed being the mayor, and this is the same thing,” he said. “It’s just a bigger venue. It’s the county instead of a town, and I know that I can do the job.”
McComis said if the late Judge Bill McElhaney had not passed away, he wouldn’t have considered running.
“I had a great respect for him and thought he did a great job,” he said. “But I thought maybe this is the time to try it.”
In his first term as mayor of Bridgeport, McComis battled some major problems. He said he’s prepared for the challenges of county government. If elected, he would work to develop a county water plan, pursue the idea of a county economic development corporation, and review the county’s long-range plan.
“I’m sure they have all that in place … but there are things we might want to look at or update,” he said.
He’s also interested in establishing a central purchasing department for the county, and he’d like the county to continue its involvement with the North Central Texas Council of Governments.
For the last year, McComis has worked at Bridgeport Pump and Supply, but for 32 years prior to that, he ran his own construction business.
“One of my last jobs was redoing a plant that builds the world’s biggest loaders,” he said. The budget for his first project was $20 million, and he said he came in 21 percent under budget. He finished his second job for the company 24 percent under budget.
“I know how to run a business, and that’s basically what this is … a business with a lot of people to serve.”
That mentality served him well when he was elected mayor in 2010. The city faced financial crisis, and McComis was forced to make some tough decisions.
“We had approximately 126 employees, $3 million in debt for the hospital, $1.1 million in debt for the airport and all these payments were being made interest-only,” he said. “The water plant needed improvements. We were in trouble from the state and had 15 to 20 violations, and the sewer plant was the same way. The big one was the electric department … we had a 14 to 19 percent loss.”
Now the city operates with 70 employees, having saved $1 million his first year just by cutting payroll. Hospital and airport debt are both on notes with two annual payments – interest and principal.
Upgrades on the water plant are complete and he hopes work at the sewer plant will be finished soon. The electric department’s loss is down to 6 to 8 percent, and the goal is to offer citizens a rate cut next year.
“I didn’t do this all by myself,” he said. “The staff has worked hard, and it took them being willing to give up a few things to get here.”
Just three years ago, the city had the lowest financial rating possible, but it has moved up four places to an “A.”
McComis said he’s anticipating the start of a $5 million program for downtown sidewalks, streets and water lines, and he’s happy to report that they’ve been able to purchase equipment recently for various departments.
“None of this has made taxes go up,” he said. “We haven’t gone up on rates, and we’ve done it with the budget we had.”
McComis said he has probably made some unpopular decisions, but he did what he thought was best for the city.
“That’s why people elect you,” he said.
McComis and his wife, Carolyn, have three kids and seven grandkids, ages 3 to 11.
He and Carolyn started Santa’s Helpers, which grew into the Spirit of Christmas, in the mid ’80s.
Carolyn was the first-ever recipient of Bridgeport’s Dr. Hunter Humanitarian award. Keith was the second.
McComis said he and his wife share a passion for community involvement, with the same motto: LSA, Leadership, Service and Accountability.
“I believe in accountability,” he said, “and serving everyone the same.”