Get to know Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough

Mark Keough assumed the role of Montgomery County judge in 2019. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Mark Keough assumed the role of Montgomery County judge in 2019. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)

Mark Keough assumed the role of Montgomery County judge in 2019. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)

Mark Keough assumed the role of Montgomery County judge in 2019, moving from his previous role as a representative for District 15 in the Texas House of Representatives, which includes part of Magnolia ISD. He was elected to the House in 2014, and he was elected county judge in 2018. Before entering politics, Keough worked in the automotive industry and as a minister.

How did you get into politics?

I was kind of a news junkie, and I just didn’t like the direction things were going given my perspective on life in general, and so I thought I’d need to quit throwing my shoes at the TV and get up and run for office. And sure enough, when I did, I became surrounded with good people who were able to help me, and I was able to work on, really ... quite a bit of legislation in the Texas House.

Why did you decide to move from the Legislature to Montgomery County?

There were some ... undesirable things that were happening at the county level. And when I addressed a couple of those things, it was really met with, ‘It can’t change.’ ... I formulated some things that I thought were important, that, if I had the opportunity to come into this position as county judge—that I actually could do. And so I came up with a contract with Montgomery County. ... The very first thing is, we serve the people. This is a republic, and elected officials are servants. Another thing is about issues of transparency. We have an ethics policy here in Montgomery County, but it doesn’t really have teeth in it to enforce. And so part of this ethics policy is we’ve developed an ethics commission. ... This is a huge step and was a major component of our deal.

How would you evaluate your first year as a judge?

One of the things I want to continue to work on is really getting to a place where all of us on the court are all pulling in the same direction. I think it does mean that we really do come to a place of transparency where we don’t want to be deceptive to the people. ... So I made a pledge. ... If the [property] appraisals go up, in order to keep last year’s same effective tax rate, the rate’s got to go down. Another big deal is mobility. ... How do you keep from waiting in traffic and keep it as cheap as possible? Whatever that takes, that’s what we have to do.

What are the biggest challenges in Montgomery County right now?

The fact of the matter is Montgomery County has got a statewide reputation of not being the most upright. But what I’m finding is that the commissioners—as I get to know them and the people—are good people. I have really enjoyed getting to know the commissioners. The issue of water and flooding and drainage: One of the challenges that we’re seeing is that the people south of us are contiguous to the city of Houston [and] Harris County. And Montgomery County faces a lot of heat and false narratives that, ‘Montgomery County, they’re not going along with the standards that have been established’—absolutely not true. We’ve been accused of not having detention as a way to control water. [But] 95% of our developments have detention, and all the ones that don’t are previous to the requirements that were established to put those things into place.

What is the county’s financial situation going into next year?

We’re looking fabulous. The commissioners, especially Commissioner [James] Noack, are a tremendous asset. ... We did not sacrifice any services; we had residual moneys, a lot of money laying there, that when the sheriff and some others wanted additional people going into 2020—we looked back at what we had from 2019, and we paid those forward with those to keep the budget down. And as we go on, our revenue sources, fees, courts, all that stuff—it continues to be good.

Is a new county road bond in development?

We’re doing studies right now, and at some time in the future, there has to be some means to pay for this. Specifically, I can’t tell you, but we voted as a court to develop a countywide thoroughfare plan—to take our current thoroughfare plan that was done with H-GAC [Houston-Galveston Area Council]. And since we did a significant study in south county, much of that residual effect of the study has been done for these other [parts of the county]. You’ve got it going on over in east county, you’ve got it in west county with commissioners [James] Metts and [Charlie] Riley, and stuff up to the north. ... We voted to move forward with a countywide thoroughfare plan, so I think there’s beautiful things coming ahead.
By Ben Thompson
Ben joined Community Impact Newspaper in January 2019 and is a reporter for The Woodlands edition.


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