Business Acumen Bringing Greater Order to the Court
The race for Williamson County Judge is heating up in the brand new year and The Advocate sat down with Judge Bill Gravell to discuss some of his qualifications and experience related to managing Williamson County’s growth, finances and priorities.
Judge Gravell has been Justice of the Peace in Precinct 3 since his appointment in 2013. Even before his subsequent win in the 2014 election, Judge Gravell increased county revenues collected by his office by 250 percent and maintained the 22nd busiest court (out of 821) in the state, with 4077 cases in his first six months.
As a result, JP3 received the 2013 award for Collections Improvement Program of the Year in Texas.
As JP, Judge Gravell continues to direct a staff of 17 clerks and administrators who manage criminal, civil and small claims cases. Justice criminal cases require sentencing and admonishments that involve fees rather than jail time. Judge Gravell and staff have been recognized and awarded for a number of programs and customer service efforts that have made collections more efficient, convenient and accountable.
Public Sector Excellence
In 2015, the JP3 office was chosen for Tyler Technologies’ national “Public Sector Excellence Award”. The award highlighted Gravell’s use of technology to transform business processes to save time, reduce operating costs and taxpayer burden, and increase the level of service to the public and other agencies. Judge Gravell did not take full credit; “Without County Attorney Dee Hobbs providing extra prosecutors, Constable Kevin Stofle providing extra law enforcement, and Commissioner Valerie Covey providing resources, we would not have such success.”
Commissioner Pct. 3 Valerie Covey said of that award; “I want to commend Judge Gravell’s leadership. Under his leadership the team did exactly what was right; using all the technology available to them. They have really worked hard toward a most efficient and effective court and I’m proud of the entire team.”
Also in 2015, the JP3 office was the first court in Texas to receive the national “Innovation in Business Process in America” award for contributions to the judiciary in technology and court business processes.
Judge Gravell also serves as chairman of the Data Committee for the Office of Court Administration and the Criminal Justice Committee.
Additionally, under his guidance, JP3 is in a beta test phase for an international program that will allow citizens to file and execute civil claims cases virtually. This program will save time, resources and even travel for litigants while making use of cutting-edge technology rather than manpower to save taxpayer dollars.
In 2015, Judge Gravell was selected Judge of the Year in Central Texas by the JP and Constables Association. His staff recommended his high standards of patriotism and morals, which he applies to every aspect of his court; “He continually moves his office toward greater efficiency and effectiveness. He has the utmost compassion for juveniles and uses all available resources for their success. He has gained the support and trust of law enforcement, fellow residents and judges, and always makes his voice heard for every cause he believes in.”
Judge Gravell and his staff have affected change on a scale from national judicial operations to individual high school students having trouble with truancy. “He is a problem solver,” said one courtroom observer. “He doesn’t just throw money at a problem where personal mentorship is the answer.”
His efforts in Williamson County drew the attention of Texas Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, who appointed him to the Texas Judicial Council. That same year Gravell was selected by the Texas Association of Counties for their Leadership school where he has served on the teaching faculty for the past two years.
He was later nominated by Justice Hecht to be one of only 15 judges to attend the National Judicial College for specialty training in the area of Judicial Coaching and Mentoring. Not surprisingly, Justice Hecht wrote and submitted the nomination letter that resulted in Gravell being named Texas Constable and Justice of the Peace Association “2017 Judge of the Year in Texas”.
Closer to home, Judge Gravell and JP3 have been recognized for other, compassionate programs. In one particularly moving day in court, Judge Gravell adjudicated a single mother who was struggling to finish high school because she had no way to provide quality care for her child. Rather than punishment for truancy, Gravell personally reached out to the community action agency that manages the Head Start program and found a space for her child. “That young mom was able to graduate and is now attending college,” Judge Gravell says. “She has gained greater independence for them both, and she has every chance to break the cycle of poverty for her family.”
Judge Gravell has also been a strong advocate, with County Judge Gattis’ support, to hire death investigators for Williamson County. All JPs are required to appear and certify deaths that occur outside a doctor’s care, and with the population growth, the task takes an increasing amount of time away from the bench and the business of managing justice and fee collections.
“Hiring death investigators will help ensure the highest level of justice is always readily available to those in their most serious times of need, while freeing JPs’ schedules to accommodate burgeoning caseloads, which affect a majority of citizens in the justice system. History will record our efforts favorably if we do what we know is right and just; look to the future, lead, and plan.”
Judge Gravell is on the ballot in the March 6 Republican primary. He is opposed by Round Rock City Councilman Frank Leffingwell.