A county judge presides over the county’s Commissioners Court and has a number of judicial and administrative powers, according to the Texas Association of Counties. The county judge also plays a role in elections by posting notices and canvassing returns.

Brazoria County Judge Matt Sebesta—who was elected in November 2014—grew up in the county he now serves. After graduating from Angleton High School, Sebesta earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Texas A&M University in 1984.

“My folks lived in [the community of] Old Ocean in the Phillips 66 work camp,” he said. “They moved to Angleton in late 1963, and I’ve been here all my life.”
Galveston County Judge Mark Henry took office in January 2011. He was born in Houston and grew up in Pasadena. After six years of active duty in the Air Force, Henry moved to League City in 1995.

Henry earned a bachelor’s degree in behavioral sciences from the University of Houston and has about 30 hours of post-graduate credit after beginning three different MBA programs. Because of relocations, Henry was not able to finish any programs during his time with the Air Force, he said.

Matt Sebesta, Brazoria CountyMatt Sebesta, Brazoria County


When did you decide you wanted to be county judge?
I never had politics in my goals. When I graduated from Texas A&M, I took a job back here in Angleton working for a small surveying firm. I had the opportunity to work with drainage districts in the area, planning and zoning, and City Council making presentations and that type of thing. [I later spent] nine years on City Council, 4 1/2 years as mayor and eight years as county commissioner. When Judge [E.J.] King announced he was retiring, I had a lot of support from folks who were on the [Commissioners] Court.

What did you learn from County Judge King that helped your transition?
Judge King had such an even keel about him. What I learned from him is—no matter what—stay calm. That has been something that had an impact on me. The way he dealt with issues was to stay calm because when things are getting excitable, you look to the calmest person in the room. He was always that calming influence.

What are the responsibilities of a county judge?
The primary responsibility is to preside over Commissioners Court. I also serve on the juvenile board with the rest of the judges in the county. It seems like I sign my name 20 times a day on just about every document that comes through the county. I’m very involved in the budget process, facilities, human resources, the county auditor and the civil division of the [district attorney’s] office.

What are some of the challenges facing Brazoria County?
Our challenge right now is growth. Our economy is doing great in Brazoria County. We’ve got over $25 billion being invested with more to come. We’re on a good expansion [trajectory] right now. Our biggest challenges [deal with] growth, and a lot of that is mobility. Of course when you’ve got a lot of good things going, crime seems to [increase] a bit. Our environmental health department is [also] seeing some additional pressures.

How do you plan on addressing those challenges?
We’re trying to figure out more effective ways to do business. Our biggest traffic problem is on
[Hwy.] 288. We’ve been working on that for awhile. We hopefully will be turning dirt next year on the [Hwy.] 288 expansion. We’ll see [Hwy.] 288 over the next three years under construction, and once that’s completed hopefully that will relieve a lot of the congestion that we’re seeing.


Mak Henry, Galveston CountyMark Henry, Galveston County


When did you decide you wanted to be county judge?
I ran for Congress in 2003 and was unsuccessful. In 2006 the Galveston County Republican Party contacted me and [asked] if I would run for county judge. I said, ‘I can’t. I’m selling one business [and] I’m moving another one. It’s just a horrible time.’ I couldn’t do it. They called back again in 2010—much different circumstances for me at the time—and I said, ‘OK, I will run for judge.’

What are the responsibilities of a county judge?
County judge is, interestingly, the one job that I’m aware of that [involves] portions of all three branches of government. The job is really a very full-time job. [The county judge] is the CEO of the county in addition to all the other functions that I have to perform.

What are some of the challenges facing Galveston County?
One is [that] we’re growing at such an explosive rate. It’s really hard for us to keep up with the infrastructure needs of the population that’s growing as fast as it is. We were 290,000 people after the census of 2010. We’re currently estimated at 310,000 people. That’s just really fast growth, and our infrastructure needs to keep up. Secondly—along with that growth—[a challenge] is our guaranteed supply of fresh water. I’ve been looking at this for five years now: What can we do to guarantee that we’ll always have enough fresh water for the growth that we anticipate for the next 20 years?

How do you plan on addressing those challenges?
Water [issues are] a multiprong approach. One [solution] is that we need to concentrate on conservation and reuse. That’s going to be helpful, but I don’t see a way around desalinization as being the final answer. I suspect that the conservation and reuse [approach] will get us 10, maybe 15 years, but it won’t get us 30 years. Therefore we’re going to have to look at desalinization. The cost of desalinization is expensive, but it’s coming down. The cost of fresh water is going up. At some point they’re going to intersect, and at that point it will be the same whichever direction we go.

What makes Galveston County unique?
I don’t know of any county that has two Ferris wheels, cruise ships, live shrimp and live cattle. I think our region offers a tremendous tourist destination as well as a lot of highly skilled people from the NASA area and [University of Texas Medical Branch]. I’m the biggest pitchman for our county. I can’t imagine any county that has more to offer than we do.