In-Depth

Fort Bend County Judge KP George Names Emergency Management, Voting Infrastructure As Top Priorities

Financial planner KP George grew up in poverty in southern India. He took office as Fort Bend County judge in January.

Fort Bend County Judge KP George says he’s focusing on streamlining the county’s emergency management and upgrading the aging voting infrastructure.

Fort Bend County is one of the most-diverse counties in the United States. But that diversity wasn’t reflected in its political leadership until recently. Last November, Fort Bend voters turned out long-time incumbent County Judge Bob Hebert, electing KP George, a member of the Fort Bend ISD Board of Trustees, as his replacement.

George grew up in poverty in a village in southern India, immigrating to the United States in 1993.

“My father was a truck driver, and he made maybe a couple of dollars a day but sent seven of us to school,” he said. “And he said if you don’t like where you are or what is happening in your life, get educated. That’s the only way out.” George followed his advice, pursuing a career in financial planning before entering politics.

Fort Bend suffered severely during the floods of Hurricane Harvey. George decided soon after he took office that the county’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) needed a complete overhaul.

“There is a lot of room for improvement,” he said. “And that is why I got rid of the existing coordinator and brought in our fire marshal as an interim coordinator for OEM.”

George wound up combining the OEM and Fire Marshal’s Office, improving their joint efficiency and saving taxpayers roughly $250,000 a year.

George’s other top priority is upgrading the county’s aging voting infrastructure. Fort Bend County’s voting machines are now roughly 14 years old. In some cases, the vendors have ceased to service them, which means the county has to perform the repairs on its own. Replacing the machines will cost Fort Bend about $10 million. But George said the end of straight-ticket voting means the county has to bite the bullet.

“Usually, with the straight ticket in place, many citizens only spend around two to three minutes in a booth. Now, they’re expecting seven to eight minutes,” George said. “Our elections administration directory is predicting around 476,000 registered voters in [the] 2020 election.”

George said he worries that the eight minute average voting time will discourage many from casting a ballot at all. He hopes that newer, easier-to-use voting machines will prevent that from happening.

There’s a sense of urgency to all of this because the county is growing fast. Fort Bend had fewer than 80,000 residents in 1970, and it’s on track to hit 1 million within the next five years.

In the past, Fort Bend was a place people drove home to, after a day working in Houston. George wants to encourage businesses to move closer to his constituents. “We just signed a contract with Dollar Tree,” he said. “They are building their largest distribution center in Rosenberg, creating around 400-plus jobs.”

George is touting the large amount of land available on the county’s south side. He’s reaching out to companies as far afield as his native India. “We don’t want to be a bedroom community anymore,” he said. “We want it to be a thriving business community where people continue to want to move in and excel with their life.”

Listen to the full interview with Fort Bend County Judge KP George in the audio below:

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media’s business reporter, covering the oil...

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