Voters to determine fate of surveyor office
Position faces elimination with a departing incumbent and not much land to survey.
Williamson County Surveyor Joe Baker, the lonely Maytag repairman of elected county officials, is out of a job. Apparently, he wants it that way.
County commissioners in mid-July voted to put elimination of the office up for public approval on Election Day, Nov. 7. The reason, officials said, is that Baker is not running for re-election and there just isn’t very much land left to be surveyed.
At a July 18 Commissioners Court meeting, County Judge Dan Gattis said the surveyor has not performed any duties for years. And with Baker not running for office, he said, it is a good time to eliminate the position.
“I’d rather get it out there now, rather than somebody run for county surveyor and it looks like we’re jerking it back from them,” he said.
In 1854, the Texas Constitution established the office of county surveyor. A memo provided to commissioners described the office’s duties as surveying open land for the county and recording and examining field notes of surveys made in the county.
But, as the memo stated, “the importance of the office has decreased and in many counties the office has remained vacant. An independent surveyor can be contracted to fulfill the functions of the office if it is ever needed.”
While the Nov. 7 vote to eliminate the position will coincide with a statewide constitutional amendment election, a statewide vote isn’t needed to do away with the local office. Hal Hawes, who provides legal counsel to the Commissioners Court, said the election will be conducted as a local option.
Hawes added there are no properties open to survey within the county.
Unlike other elected county officials, Baker did not draw a regular salary and did not have a taxpayer-provided office. He conducted business from the civil engineering and surveying office of Baker-Aicklen & Associates on East Liberty Avenue in Georgetown.
A call to that office revealed the phone has been disconnected. Hawes said the office is closed and Baker has moved to Burnet County.
County election records state Baker, a Republican, was elected to four-year terms of office in 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014. He kept a low profile, but was known as a generous silent-auction donor at the Williamson County Republican Party’s annual Ronald Reagan Dinner.
“Joe Baker has done a phenomenal job and has always been there for the community,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Cynthia Long of Cedar Park said. “It would be a great tribute to him that he was the last county surveyor.”