Wise County Messenger

Voters to decide fate of county surveyor position

A special election for a proposition “abolishing the office of county surveyor” for Wise County will be held in November, as ordered by county commissioners in their regular meeting Monday.

It will appear on the general election ballot, and citizens will vote “for” or “against.” On the same ballot will be the election for that office. Surveyor Davey Edwards of Alvord is the lone candidate for the position, one which has not been filled since the 1960s.

Davey said he did not know the commissioners planned to discuss this issue until he read it in the Messenger’s Update Monday morning.

“You’ve known about the position; you knew I was running for it,” Edwards said. “Why now?”

His father, surveyor Tommy Edwards, also asked County Judge Bill McElhaney why he wanted to abolish the position.

McElhaney outlined the history of the issue: Tommy had requested to be appointed county surveyor in 2009, and Davey requested the same appointment in 2010. Neither appointment was granted.

McElhaney said Davey included a budget that was “kind of light the first year at $20,000, but by the end of the fifth year, it was $64,000 or $65,000 for that department … and the proposal was to come to each court and work six days per month.”

The judge said there was no office space for a county surveyor, and those duties are now performed by the county clerk and have been for many years.

Davey reminded commissioners that the Edwards Surveying office is just one block off the Decatur Square on Walnut Street.

He indicated he could use this space in his capacity as county surveyor and otherwise all the county has to provide are the books and a phone. The county is not required to pay the surveyor a salary at all.

Davey said when discussing the possible appointment with commissioners “they could see a position for me,” he said. “They could also see me reviewing plats of record and being at commissioners court to answer questions that need answering.”

Davey said he could be a part of that but since it would be more than the basic county surveyor duties, it would be a salaried position.

“So the budget that I presented in 2010 was to handle that position to be a person to the court to answer those questions,” he said. ” … so yeah, I didn’t get the appointment, but I did at the time have the blessing of the commissioners.”

Davey said the judge had also mentioned a potential problem with giving surveying jobs to Edwards Surveying if Davey was the county surveyor.

“As far as I can see, we have had work with the county, but typically the work goes out of our hands into Kimley Horn’s hands. They have their own surveyors, and they do their own work.

“We had to adjust a plat that was done by one of their surveyors recently because of an error,” he said.

He explained that since the primary election, he has kept up with everything required of him by the Elections Administration office, and he had been working on his budget. Since he did not draw an opponent, he would win the office by default at the general election.

“I talked with (County Clerk) Sherry (Lemon) to get the cost of the books,” he said. “I had to create a budget somehow. I called and tried to set up an appointment with the judge to talk about the budget. I had not gotten that appointment.

“The budget I’m requesting is nothing compared to the overall county budget,” he said. “I understand that you may not have an issue with the county surveyor’s position but with me personally.”

McElhaney fired back: “Do not accuse me … I’m trying to be civil. There are no personal issues … I told you exactly back during appointment time why. It wasn’t a personal thing.”

At times the discussion ran in circles.

“Why is this so controversial?” Davey asked.

“It’s not to me,” the judge said. “You’ve got an opinion we need (a county surveyor), and I’ve got one that we don’t.”

Davey said he thought the way McElhaney had handled the situation was “underhanded and sneaky” by not formally notifying him the position was up for discussion.

His wife, Sonja Edwards, made a tearful plea and said whether it was personal or not, it now looks that way.

“I get frustrated when he’s frustrated … he has told me all along how he has talked about this position,” she said. “If you had 40 years to abolish this position, why would you wait 40 years to do this? It could have been abolished before he put his name on it.”

Davey said he is fighting for the position itself and the fact that it is needed in Wise County.

“In the last five years, since I’ve been a licensed state land surveyor, I’ve been working on five vacancies,” he said. “A vacancy is unsurveyed, unsold public school land in the state of Texas.”

He explained it to the Messenger Tuesday afternoon as a “gap between original surveys that are usually caught by errors or omissions between generations of surveyors.”

He said as vacancies are discovered they need to be added to the survey books, and he said Lemon has told him she won’t be adding the vacancies to the books.

“I’m sure this is the protocol of all county clerks,” Davey said Tuesday. He said if a county surveyor is in place those vacancies could be added to the books.

“(A surveyor) is needed to protect the public and get these records to the surveyors who need them,” he said in Monday’s meeting. “The books need to be readily available and kept current.”

Of the 254 counties in Texas, only 43 have county surveyors, said Don King, who has been Brown County’s surveyor for 35 years and is head of the Texas Society of Professional Surveyors’ historical committee.

According to the Natural Resources Code in the state constitution, the county surveyor is elected to a four-year term. The 2012 election would be to fill a two-year vacancy in Wise County. The surveyor position would have been up in 2010, but no one ran for the office. It would be up for re-election in 2014.

The county surveyor’s position was first established in 1837, and according to King, a state election was held in the 1980s that allowed counties to choose whether or not to abolish the office of county surveyor.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Harry Lamance made the motion to allow the proposition, and Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns seconded it. It passed 4-0.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

You have 3 free stories remaining!