The northeast Tarrant County Republican is the second-longest-tenured commissioner on the board, trailing Roy Charles Brooks, a Democrat who has represented Precinct 1 for the past 20 years. Prior to taking the county position, Fickes was the mayor of Southlake from 1989-96.
Fickes spoke with Community Impact about his tenure, what he thinks the future of the Commissioners Court will look like and his plans for retirement. Answers have been edited for length, style and clarity.
Looking back, what are things that stand out during your tenure?
We kind of came into office wanting to do something about the highway problems that we had in northeast Tarrant County—mainly meaning the lack of adequate infrastructure. That and health care off the top of my head.
Are there any projects that you consider monumental in your tenure?
We were able to secure the needed funding for a project called the DFW Connector project. It was Grapevine, partly Coppell, Irving and Southlake. Primarily it was in Grapevine. It’s on the north side of the airport. And it was basically a $1.5 billion project, and we didn’t have the money. When I became a commissioner we started working on the money part of it with [the Texas Department of Transportation] and the federal government. Putting this in a time perspective, when President [Barack] Obama established what they called stimulus money, we were able to secure about a half a billion dollars of stimulus money. As matter of fact, I was told our project, the DFW Connector, was the largest project funded in the United States.
How has the precinct changed in your tenure?
My precinct now has probably surpassed 550,000 people. It was probably in the high 200,000s when I became a commissioner. One of my goals was to continue to help make northeast Tarrant County, my precinct, the best precinct in the state of Texas from a lot of different angles—from health care to certainly road construction and economic development. That was the hardest and the easiest part. We had something people wanted in our area, and I think a lot of people moved here because we had a desirable area for people to live, and the biggest part was the quality of our school districts. Carroll, [Hurst, Euless, Bedford], Grapevine-Colleyville, Keller, Birdville ... I don’t want to leave anyone out. The whole group. We always felt people came to Southlake when I was mayor because of the quality of the school. I think that is why people come to northeast Tarrant County. People want the best school system and safest school systems for their kids, and we offer that.
You're on the Regional Transportation Council. Are you still going to do that?
No. I will be replaced by someone on the Commissioners Court. That board ... you are in the know when you are on regional transportation board. You know what’s going on as far as transportation and who is working on things like high-speed rails and/or who is working on the latest in autonomous vehicles. You get an insight on a lot of that. We have a great director in Michael Morris. He’s kind of been our leader forever. I’ll miss working with him. Really, that whole group. We have developed a group from Tarrant County where we watch out for what’s going on for our area. We look at the big picture of the whole region, but we do pay attention to our area.
Do you have plans for retirement?
Someone asked me yesterday. I think I told them, I probably won't totally retire. When you totally retire, you fade away, and I’m not sure I’m ready to fade away. I've got a lot of organizations to keep me busy.