Travis County commissioners, staff discuss hiring County Judge Sarah Eckhardt as deputy emergency coordinator when she departs current role

A screen shot of Sarah Eckhardt at a Travis County Commissioners Court Meeting
Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt will officially hand the reins to interim replacement Sam Biscoe May 13. (Courtesy Travis County)

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt will officially hand the reins to interim replacement Sam Biscoe May 13. (Courtesy Travis County)

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt is slated to officially step down May 13, handing the reins to her interim replacement, former Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe. However, a proposed plan is in place to rehire Eckhardt in an advisory role on matters related to the coronavirus. If approved by commissioners at a May 12 meeting, Eckhardt will be hired as a deputy emergency management coordinator, reporting to Travis County Executive Charles Brotherton and directly assisting Biscoe on matters related to COVID-19.

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.
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.


Courtney Manuel (center), I Live Here I Give Here executive director, and and board chair Kathy Smith-Willman (right) stand with Edward B. Burger, St. David's Foundation executive director, during Amplify Austin Day 2020. (Courtesy Trent Lee Photography)
Here's how to support Central Texas nonprofits during ninth annual Amplify Austin Day on March 4-5

The annual 24-hour giving campaign will begin at 6 p.m. on March 4.

People wait in line to receive a vaccine at an Austin Public Health vaccination site. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Texas offers COVID-19 vaccinations to school, child care workers

Educators, school staff and child care professionals are qualified to receive coronavirus vaccines effective immediately.

In response to Gov. Greg Abbott's March 2 announcement that Texas' statewide mask mandate and COVID-19-related business restrictions will be lifted as of March 10, the Texas Education Agency released updated public health guidance March 3. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Updated Texas Education Agency guidance allows individual school boards to determine mask policies

"Under this updated guidance, a public school system's current practices on masks may continue unchanged. Local school boards have full authority to determine their local mask policy," the release reads.

H-E-B will continue to require employees to wear face masks until further notice. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
H-E-B to require employees, ask customers to be masked despite upcoming expiration of governor's mandate

H-E-B officials announced their employees and vendors would still be required to be masked while on the job, and customers would be encouraged to wear masks while in stores.

Photo of DSISD headquarters
See the latest school zone options under consideration for Dripping Springs ISD

Adjustments between February and March included making students from The Views at Belterra community eligible to attend Rooster Springs Elementary School.

Snapology is hosting camps in person this summer. (Courtesy Snapology)
2021 Southwest Austin and Dripping Springs summer camp guide: 37 options including virtual and in-person offerings

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

Photo from inside a movie theater
Alamo Drafthouse files for bankruptcy, closes theaters in downtown Austin and New Braunfels

Most theaters will remain open under an asset purchase agreement to the company's senior lending partners.

Jeanne Cooper (left) and Melissa Greenwell opened C'est Chic in 2009. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Gift shop C'est Chic has been a presence in the Southwest Austin community for more than a decade

C'est Chic owners Melissa Greenwell and Jeanne Cooper met in 1995, when both their children attended Kiker Elementary School, and opened the store in 2009.

Winter Storm Uri ice
Winter storm closures deepen financial woes for Austin’s pandemic-battered restaurant scene

Some restaurants in Austin lost thousands of dollars in lost business due to business closures during Winter Storm Uri.

The 15,000 square-foot building is located on Signal Hill Road. (Nicholas Cicale/Community impact Newspaper)
First look: Upscale wedding venue The Arlo coming to Texas Hill Country

Owners Ron and Lisa McGuire purchased the 9-acre property in 2004. The Arlo opens in March and is booking for the 2021 and 2022 wedding season.

Photo of a SpaceX sign
Elon Musk's SpaceX is coming to Austin

Job postings on the SpaceX website say the company is breaking ground on a "state of the art" manufacturing facility in Ausin.

Austin ISD and other districts in Central Texas are waiting for further TEA guidance on mask requirements. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
UPDATE: Most Central Texas school district say they will continue requiring students, staff to wear masks; updated TEA guidelines expected later this week

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced March 2 that mask mandates and business capacity restrictions will be lifted in Texas.