Vot­ers to de­ter­mine fate of sur­veyor of­fice

Po­si­tion faces elim­i­na­tion with a de­part­ing in­cum­bent and not much land to sur­vey.

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Brad Stutz­man Round Rock Leader contributing writer

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.”


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