“Now ultimately we’ve got to have three votes,” O’Hare acknowledged in an interview with The Texan.
While he had reviewed the budget before being elected to office, he was still surprised at how much money the county spends each year. “I’ve been frankly quite stunned at all the money that flows in and out of the county and all the federal and state grants that exist,” he said.
But he says staff and commissioners are engaging in conversations about cutting spending and trimming the budget.
He also wants to put a homestead exemption in place for Tarrant County as allowed by state law.
O’Hare leads a court with two new commissioners, Alisa Simmons (D-Pct. 2) and Manny Ramirez (R-Pct. 4). He replaced retired county judge Glen Whitley, who occupied the office since 2007.
“I love the job,” O’Hare said of his position. “I wake up every morning thinking about ways to improve things and do things better. As long as I’m here, my heart and soul will be put into the job, and I’ll do everything I can to make our community an even better place to live.”
Having served as mayor of Farmers Branch, O’Hare was already familiar with the basic structure of local governments and the rules associated with running county commissioners court meetings.
He says he’s developing relationships with other members of the commissioners court and with the county staff. He wants to find common ground with other members of the commissioners court without compromising his principles.
The staff is very professional, O’Hare said, but they need the commissioners court to be “a strong oversight board to make sure spending doesn’t get any further out of control and rein it in.”
In the first few meetings of the year, O’Hare pulled some items off the consent agenda to examine them more closely and ask questions about them, such as a consultant contract for technology and a bathroom remodel.
“We owe it to the taxpayers to make sure that we are spending their money wisely and only spending the money we need to spend to provide the basic core services,” O’Hare explained of his questions related to agenda items.
He pointed out that the commissioners court is meant to be more than a “rubber stamp” of what the staff brings. “Leaders have to ask tough questions and make tough decisions,” he said.
“I want to get everyone, commissioners and staff, thinking, ‘Is there a better way to do this? Is there a less expensive way to do this?’”
One of his goals is to help ensure people understand all of the ways the government impacts their lives.
“Government has become such a dominant force in people’s lives and has its hands in everything,” he pointed out. “But we don’t live in a government-centric society, so we’ve got to get back to the basics.”
Not long after taking office, O’Hare rescinded the COVID-19 emergency declaration for the county. He said he wants the public to know that the virus is probably here to stay and “we can’t live in fear.” He also sees it as part of fulfilling his campaign promise not to close down churches, schools, or businesses.
O’Hare said he checked with county staff and that rescinding the declaration has no budgetary impact on the county.
Fort Worth is the largest city in Tarrant County and so the relationship between the city and county is important. O’Hare says he has a good relationship with Mayor Mattie Parker and that they’ve had conversations about working together on items.
O’Hare wants the people of Tarrant County to know that, “I love my wife and kids dearly, I love the Lord, and I’m a firm believer in faith, family, and freedom. I will always try to treat people with respect and conduct myself with class.”
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Kim Roberts is a regional reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.