Eckhardt, who announced her pending resignation March 10 with plans to run for the seat of state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, was initially expected to step down as county judge March 23, but developments with the coronavirus and a delay of the special election for Watson’s seat caused Biscoe and Eckhardt to agree on an altered timeline. May 13 was chosen as day of transition because it is the last day for Eckhardt to formally file for state Senate candidacy.
“I, for one, am glad that we’ve had this longer period to hand off the baton,” Commissioner Brigid Shea said at the court’s May 5 meeting. “It’s like a relay race, and you want to have a good run-up to let the next runner get up to speed.”
According to multiple commissioners, Eckhardt expressed willingness to return in a volunteer capacity to help advise Biscoe in coronavirus matters. However, Brotherton said he preferred Eckhardt be formally employed by the county.
“I see that there’s value in actually hiring her and establishing an employee-employer relationship for all of the things that such an arrangement brings: legal obligations, duties, confidentialities, immunities and so forth. I think that doing this ‘on the books,’ so to speak, even at a nominal sum—for a dollar a year, or nothing except for the health benefits that might be associated with the full-time position—I think that there’s value in doing that,” Brotherton said.
Brotherton said Eckhardt would start the new position May 13, the same day Biscoe is scheduled to be sworn in as her replacement on the court. She would continue as deputy emergency management coordinator until Travis County rescinds its standing emergency order related to the coronavirus.
Because Travis County instituted a hiring freeze April 15, Eckhardt’s hire would likely be considered a special circumstance as an essential position to manage coronavirus response. She would not be the first exception to the county’s hiring freeze; commissioners voted May 5 to approve a limited round of hires.