Harrison County Judge Chad Sims announced this week that he will seek reelection for his second term in office, as the opening of the state’s 2022 primary election filing season officially commences.
With nearly three years of his first term under his belt, the county judge would like to continue building on the strides that have been made in the county. He will be running in the Republican Primary.
“I’ve almost completed three years. Jan.1 will be three years. Like most people say, it’s the undone things that we have,” he said of his bid for re-election. “We started making some progress on a lot of different projects, and you want to see that vision you have accomplished.”
“My goal is to continue to making progress on broadband and restoring some of the building projects we have,” said Sims.
Certain building projects include the construction of a new county road and bridge office after the former one was destroyed by the severe February snow storm. Another building project is the renovation and repurposing of the former ARC of Harrison County facility.
“We’re in the middle of working on those as well,” Sims said.
And just like his last campaign, Sims said supporting economic development efforts still remain one of his top priorities. He is excited about the economic growth he’s seen during his tenure.
“We’ve gotten two large projects since I’ve been here,” Sims said.
“One was the Eastman Chemical project. We did an abatement over there for them, and Air Liquide,” said Sims, referring to the county’s approval of tax incentives, back in February 2020, for Eastman Chemical Company and Air Liquide Large Industries to help promote expansion projects — totaling nearly $200 million in investments — at the companies’ current site.
Most recently, the commissioners court approved a seven-year tax abatement in support of Prysmian Group’s expansion plans, which includes the creation of 75 additional jobs.
Judge Sims said he is proud they were able to support the economic development efforts of those existing businesses.
“While we would like to bring in new businesses, a lot of times if you focus on what you have here and help them to grow, then it’s easier to do and more beneficial,” the county judge said. “So we’re happy to support those exiting businesses here, help them expand and grow and continue to be healthy.
“As far as economic development those are the things I’ve been excited about,” he said.
Sims is also thrilled about the progress of broadband opportunities for the county, as he believes internet access contributes to a thriving economy.
“The broadband fits right in there with that — not only serving our residences out in the county, but if we’re able to develop good broadband coverage, businesses will be interested in locating here,” said Sims. “That’s one of the first questions you get is: ‘How is the internet service?’ When we tell them we don’t have any, they’re not so eager to come. So that’s why it’s a priority of mine to work on that.”
Sims said his other priority is to improve the condition of county roads. The court proposed the creation of a County Assistance District during this past November election. The proposal would have enabled the county to capture tax revenue from those traveling through the county to be used for the maintenance of county roads.
“I’m disappointed that our county assistance district didn’t pass, because I feel like internet and county roads are what make people want to live out in the rural parts of the county,” Sims said. “Those are what make businesses want to locate out there, so as we’re able to improve the internet service and the county roads, it will greatly approve the face of Harrison County.”
“Those have been and will continue to be priorities for me,” he said.
Reflecting on successes, Judge Sims said he’s been pleased with the lease programs the county has implemented to help upgrade the county fleet.
“One good thing that we did for our large departments was to update vehicles,” he said. “We did a lease program with Enterprise, the rental car agency, and they have a leasing business that they do for municipalities.”
Through the lease program, the county has been able to get new vehicles for large departments, including the sheriff’s office, road and bridge, the fire marshal’s office and Willoughby Juvenile Detention Center.
“The average age of our vehicles was over 9 years old, so the maintenance on those, the fuel efficiency, it is not good when you have vehicles that old,” Sims said. “So I was happy to get to do that for those departments.”
Sims said he’s also proud that the county was able to refresh several offices through renovations, led by the county’s own maintenance department.
“We have remodeled many of the offices in the courthouse,” Sims said, noting offices such as the district clerk, human resources, tax assessor and auditor have received an overhaul. The purchasing department is currently getting a makeover
“They’re still over there working,” Sims said. “Brad Thomas is our maintenance supervisor and he’s done a terrific job of doing it in-house, keeping our cost low and the results are terrific.
“They’re just going all over that courthouse and refreshing the offices, which it’s nice to have a pleasant work environment,” Sims said. “We want to provide that for our employees.”
Judge Sims is also pleased that the county was able to support the City of Marshall’s new animal shelter project by contributing $250,000 towards its construction.
“I was glad we were able to get that done,” he said.
And while he is happy about the successes, the county judge is also glad to have overcome some challenges faced during his tenure as well.
“The first one I had was the flood,” he recounted. “Earlier in my term here, in 2019, we had a flood at Caddo Lake that damaged a number of homes and I was able to work with our fire marshal’s office, road and bridge and the sheriff’s department to set up a dumpster’s site up there where people could get rid of their damaged property and expedite them, getting things cleaned up and try to get their lives back to normal.”
Following the flood, the county was faced with another challenge, surrounding a heated debate on the proposed removal of the Confederate statue from the lawn of the county courthouse.
“Very quickly after the flood event, it wasn’t an emergency but we had a lot of debate and heated discussion over the Confederate statue,” recalled Sims. “And certainly I want to try to be as considerate and thoughtful of both opinions and don’t mind having discussions, but I don’t like to see our people get overheated and upset about any issue. It’s a difficult discussion and we made it through that.”
Shortly thereafter, the spotlight was removed from the statue because COVID struck, he said.
“That has consumed the last year-and-a-half,” Sims said of the global pandemic. “Frequently, it was awfully busy there with the changes that the governor had given us to close some businesses and all that. We went through the shutdown, forcing people to stay at home and then finally we get the vaccine and there was this rush (with vaccine availability), and now you can get it here.”
The county judge said he’s grateful to see the county’s COVID cases decline, but is saddened by the number of fatalities.
“It hurts your heart to know… people that I don’t know out there in our county have died, and when I do run into those families it’s just sad it had to happen,” Sims said. “I’m sorry we had to go through that.”
Another challenge the county survived was the severe snowstorm in February.
“I don’t think anybody saw it coming,” Sims said. “That was a very interesting time — the whole county shutdown. Everybody stayed home for a week, it seemed. Only our sheriff’s department was still operating and road and bridge, but we made it through that as well.”
Sims said the county has now put some measures in place to ensure water supply companies are prepared for any future disasters.
“There was some damage to many of our water supply corporations that are scattered all over the county and we’re planning to use some of the American Rescue Plan funds to help support those guys,” he said. “We’ll be getting some funds into their hands so they can be very well prepared for the next unknown event.”
The county judge is looking forward to running for another term in office, and appreciates the support he’s received during his tenure. Knowing that his service has helped someone has been most fulfilling. He’s always humbled by the many thank-yous he receives from citizens, as an expression of appreciation.
“It is a number of thoughtful notes that I get from people, who appreciate not just what I do, but what the county does for them,” Sims said. “That’s what keeps you going. And I keep those just handy. I enjoy helping people and doing what I can for them. That’s what keeps you going.”
A 1989 graduate of Elysian Fields High School, Judge Sims received a bachelor’s of science degree in environmental science in 1993 from Stephen F. Austin State University. He worked in the oil and gas services business for more than 20 years, served as county chairman of the Republican Party of Harrison County for seven years, is a member of the Rotary Club and current chairman of Marshall Prayer Force.
Additionally, Sims is active with East Texas Council of Governments (ETCOG), sits on the I-69 Alliance board, is vice chair of the I-20 East Texas Corridor Advisory Committee, and is a board member of the Tri-County Community Action Committee.
Judge Sims is married to Jana Sims. The couple has two children, Grant and Cara, who attend Elysian Fields schools.
Countywide positions up for grabs for the 2022 Primaries include: district attorney, county clerk, county judge, county court-at-law judge, district clerk, county treasurer, Pct. 2 county commissioner, Pct. 4 county commissioner, Pct.1 justice of the peace, Pct. 2 justice of the peace and Pct. 3 justice of the peace.
Filing ends at 6 p.m., Monday, Dec. 13.