Hudson Oaks Mayor Pat Deen believes he’ll already be in top gear by the time he picks up the gavel as Parker County judge.
“I knocked on several thousand doors in this election,” said Deen, who takes office the first week of 2019. “That’s how you gauge what’s important to people.”
Deen, who won the Republican primary over 20-year County Judge Mark Riley and has no Democratic opponent in November, said the greatest concern he heard from county residents is public safety.
“I met with Sheriff Larry Fowler this week to kind of look at his operation, familiarize myself with the jail and what he’s got going on,” Deen said Friday. “It was a first step toward the transition. My goal is to give him the resources he needs to get response times down and keep our community safe. That’s priority one, especially as we continue to grow.”
Priority two is bringing together the county’s cities and getting them to share ideas, enthusiasm and resources.
“The goal I think I accomplished was to reach out to every community in the county and really understand what their needs are, and how we can unite the communities to work together,” Deen said.
Deen, who after 20 years with Duracell took early retirement to run a family business, said he hasn’t talked with Riley since the election but has visited most of the commissioners.
The job of leading the court is so important that Deen said he will divest himself of involvement with the family’s battery business when he’s sworn in.
“You won’t see me doing anything that isn’t in the best interest of Parker County,” he said.
Not even his beloved Hudson Oaks will intrude on Deen’s days. He will officially step down on May 17, in a ceremony that seats Marc Povero — a public information officer for Fort Worth Police Department — as the fifth mayor in the 41-year-old city's history.
“We’re flying in Gene Boyles, the third mayor, who I replaced, from Mississippi to be part of the ceremony as well,” Deen said.
Deen's victory with about 65 percent of the vote means residents want change, want the county to go in a new direction and want the Commissioners Court to focus on new priorities, Deen said.
Calls to Riley for comment were not returned.
“In the first week after the election, I’ve been to the North Texas Council of Governments Regional Transportation Council with the city of Weatherford administrators to learn about the traffic projects Weatherford has,” Deen said. “Today I’m meeting with Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley to discuss Tarrant’s western-boundary initiatives and a great deal of other things. We need to partner where we can and have the best relationship we can in all dealings.”
Deen said he copied Whitley’s initiative in creating the Tarrant County Mayors Council.
“I took that idea, and we’ll have the second meeting of the Parker County Mayors Council within the next two weeks,” he said. “There are six new mayors in the county. I believe the 15 or 16 cities in Parker County can come together like those in Tarrant County did.”
One of Deen’s constituents is looking forward to the change. Damon Stedifor, a construction superintendent who said he’s lived in Parker County for 18 years and ran for Commissioners Court six years ago, knows only a little about Deen, “but I know a lot about Mark Riley.”
Stedifor said he has nothing personal against Riley, “but 20 years of intrigue, investigation and inappropriate activities — I have an inclination to dump the incumbent anyway.”
And to the incoming judge, as well as all other elected officials, Stedifor had a request.
“Quit defaulting to raising taxes every time there’s a budget crunch,” he said. “That’s the automatic default setting for Republicans and Democrats. How great would it be if anytime money got tight at home I could call my boss and say, ‘I’ll be making $200 more a week, now?’”
Deen said he harbors no animosity toward Riley.
“The thing that we tried to do is run a clean campaign that promoted accountability,” he said. “We were both out to win the election. Now the work begins.”