McLennan County commissioners voted unanimously today to appoint retired banker Scott Felton as county judge to replace the retiring Jim Lewis.
Felton, a Republican, is a former bank president who served 19 years on the Hallsburg school board and two terms on the McLennan County Appraisal District board. He is chairman-elect of the Waco Business League.
“I feel good,” said Felton, 67, who was picked from a pool of 18 applicants and three finalists. “I feel honored.”
Commissioners also appointed Bill Helton as county treasurer to fill the vacancy created by Danny Volcik’s resignation. Helton served as county treasurer for 20 years before Volcik unseated him in the November 2010 election.
Lewis announced Felton is expected to take office on Oct. 1. Helton will assume county treasurer’s duties as soon as possible. The appointments will expire at the end of 2014.
“Bill’s been there and done that,” Lewis said, explaining why commissioners chose Helton. “And with the county judge, members were impressed with Mr. Felton’s work history.”
Commissioner Lester Gibson said he believed Felton and Helton were the best qualified applicants.
“I think they’ll do a good job,” he said.
Commissioners considered applicants’ background, knowledge, community involvement and leadership skills in making the decisions, Commissioner Joe Mashek said.
“Scott has been around for a long time and has been so involved,” Mashek said. “Most of the business community in the county highly recommended him. I probably had more emails and calls about Scott than anybody.”
Some commissioners had said they hoped to appoint someone who would not seek a full term in the November 2014 election because they wanted the field free of incumbents. Felton said he has no desire to seek election in 2014.
“What I want to do is serve the people of McLennan County the best way I can,” Felton said. “My general knowledge is in business, so obviously economic development is something that I want to promote.”
Felton arrived at the courthouse soon after the votes to meet privately with Lewis. He plans to “shadow” the judge for the next two weeks, he said.
Felton was one of three county judge finalists commissioners interviewed in closed session Monday. The others were County Clerk Andy Harwell and Lynne Lockwood, Lewis’ longtime chief administrator.
Commissioners also interviewed two of the six applicants for county treasurer Monday: Helton and Staci Britton Stone, an assistant county auditor.
Volcik, 67, a Republican, is resigning as county treasurer because of health problems with two years left in his first term. Volcik had publicly opposed the appointment of Helton, who was a Democrat when Volcik unseated him but now is a registered Republican.
Volcik said he was disappointed in commissioners’ decision. He said Stone is better qualified because she already works closely with the treasurer’s office and is well-versed in the new computer payroll and timekeeping systems the county is launching next month.
Mashek said Helton served as county treasurer for 20 years “with no problems whatsoever.”
“He’s so experienced in investments, moving money, and has done a great job,” Mashek said. “We felt like we needed to get somebody back in that office that works well with the ladies that work there and that knows the office. And he knows that office like the back of his hand.”
The votes on both appointments were unanimous and came with no public discussion after a nearly hourlong closed session. Commissioners voted in open session but deliberated behind closed doors using an exception to the Texas Open Meetings Act for personnel matters.
Read Wednesday's Tribune-Herald for the full story.