Andy Brown sworn in as Travis County Judge, accepting baton from interim Judge Sam Biscoe

Screen shot of two men and a little girl in the Travis County Commissioners Court chambers
Former Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe, left, swears in newly elected Judge Andy Brown. (Courtesy Travis County)

Former Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe, left, swears in newly elected Judge Andy Brown. (Courtesy Travis County)

Travis County Judge Andy Brown was sworn in Nov. 17. Brown was elected earlier in November to replace former Judge Sarah Eckhardt, who stepped down in March to pursue her current seat on the Texas State Senate. Sam Biscoe served as judge in the interim and was the one to swear Brown in.

"I believe in a Travis County that works for everyone. I’m confident that together we can meet the challenges that lie ahead as we respond to the impact of COVID on our community and invest in working people and communities of color," Brown said in a speech following his swearing-in ceremony.

Brown touched on several of his key election platforms during the speech, including battling systemic racism and implementing a "Travis County Green New Deal," especially in regards to wildfire and flood prevention. He said criminal justice reform will be his top priority as judge. Having pushed for the creation of the Travis County Sobering Center in 2014, Brown said he will look for more solutions to divert nonviolent offenders from prison.

"A lot of people don't know that the jail is the single largest line item in the Travis County budget," Brown told Community Impact Newspaper. "I'm looking for other creative solutions, like the Sobering Center, that can divert people completely away from the criminal justice system—investing more in mental health and behavioral health to keep people from going to jail."

After his swearing-in ceremony, Brown took over the ongoing meeting of the Travis County Commissioners Court, at which he presided over several items, including a resolution reaffirming the county's commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement and an approved plan to allow 75% of county employees to work remotely on a permanent basis.

Earlier in the meeting, commissioners and county staff expressed their appreciation to Biscoe, who now enters his second retirement from the county judge role; Biscoe retired in 2014 after serving as judge from 1998-2014 and agreed to return as Eckhardt's interim replacement in March of this year. He first served as Travis County's Precinct 1 Commissioner beginning in 1989.

"We've got great people in this community, but I will tell you, we don't have anybody greater than Sam Biscoe," outgoing Precinct 2 Commissioner Gerald Daugherty said. "You are one heck of a public servant."

Daugherty's fellow commissioners similarly praised Biscoe for stepping up during an unprecedented year and navigating the county through an election, a pandemic, a massive development agreement with Tesla and other challenges. They also presented a video tribute to Biscoe highlighting some of his memorable moments in his public life—from his first day as a county commissioner in 1989 to his involvement in 2011's Dancing with the Stars of Austin competition, when he danced to "Boogie Wonderland" by Earth Wind, & Fire.

"My coming back was kind of a tough decision," Biscoe said, "I had no idea that COVID-19 and remote work would be such a prevalent part of the job, but I did live through it, and I feel good enough about it to help Judge Brown through the transition period."

Biscoe will stay on as an advisor to the court for undetermined period of time.
By Olivia Aldridge
Olivia is the reporter for Community Impact's Central Austin edition. A graduate of Presbyterian College in upstate South Carolina, Olivia was a reporter and producer at South Carolina Public Radio before joining Community Impact in Austin.


Q2 Stadium
Austin FC preseason scrimmages planned for late March start

Preseason matches for Austin FC will be held in South Austin ahead of the team's inaugural MLS season.

Lawmakers began hearings Feb. 25 to hear from energy executives about what led to dayslong power outages following a Feb. 14 winter storm. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin weekly roundup: The storm is over, but the questions are just beginning

In hearings last week, a state senator from the Houston area called the power and water outages in Texas "the largest trainwreck in the history of degregulated electricity."

Crawfish season,  from mid-January through June, is the busiest time at Shoal Creek Saloon. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
Shoal Creek Saloon brings a piece of New Orleans to Austin

COVID-19 has dealt the Shoal Creek Saloon a blow, but owner Ray Canfield is hanging in there and said he was prepared for a disaster. He just thought it would be another flood, not a virus.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee recommended Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine for emergency authorization use Feb. 26. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine recommended for emergency authorization use by FDA

This is the third COVID-19 vaccine that has been approved for emergency authorization use after those produced by pharmaceutical company Pfizer and biotechnology company Moderna.

Josh Frank, owner of Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-in for more than a decade, holds up a Blue Starlite-branded mask. (Photo by Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
Long-time Austin theater Blue-Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In takes on new life in pandemic

Drive-in theater Blue Starlite found itself in a unique position in 2020: After more than 10 years as a small business “just getting by,” demand for drive-in movies exploded, owner Josh Frank said.

The University of Texas Radio-Television-Film department will be offering virtual camps this summer. (Courtesy The University of Texas)
2021 Central Austin summer camp guide: 44 options including virtual and in-person offerings

Our list of camps happening in Austin this summer includes options focusing on academics, arts, sports and language.

Samsung's proposed $17 billion chip-making plant would dwarf other recent megaprojects that sought tax incentives in the region.
Samsung’s request to pay no property tax on $17 billion plant tests Austin’s incentive policy

Samsung is asking for 100% property tax reimbursement over 25 years, which would mark the most aggressive corporate tax break in Austin history.

A new Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine could help expand vaccination availability in Travis County, according to local health officials. (Courtesy Pexels)
Johnson & Johnson vaccine could mean additional supply, easier distribution rollout in Travis County

If approved, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be a valuable weapon against the ongoing pandemic, according to local health officials.

Austin ISD students will begin the 2021-22 school year Tuesday, Aug. 17. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Take a look at Austin ISD’s newly approved calendar for the 2021-22 school year

Austin ISD trustees have approved the academic calendar for the upcoming 2021-22 school year.

Snow covers I-45 in Houston during a winter storm that hit Texas the night of Feb. 14. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Legislators probe energy officials over power failures, lack of preparation heading into winter storm

The Texas Legislature held hearings Feb. 25 with energy companies including Oncor Electric Delivery and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in response to last week’s historic winter storm, which left millions of Texans without electricity for days.

Austin ISD students are scheduled to return to classrooms March 1 for the first time since Winter Storm Uri. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Winter storm damage could prevent 10 Austin ISD campuses from reopening next week

Austin ISD students are scheduled to return to classrooms March 1 for the first time since Winter Storm Uri.