Local Government Revealed: Judge Executive Orbrey Gritton

The Judge Executive is the highest elected official in the county.  Do you know what the responsibilities are of the Judge Executive?  Do you know what else the Judge Executive impacts?  We talked with the current Judge Executive, Orbrey Gritton, to find the answers to these questions.  But first, let’s learn about him.

A lifelong resident of Anderson County with a couple of years in Redding, CA, Orbrey is married to Denise, and between them they have 3 boys and 3 girls. He enjoyed growing up here.  He was a star basketball and football player at Anderson County High School, as well as being elected as one of the 25 all-time greats in basketball at Transylvania University.  He even still holds the record for the longest field goal in ACHS history.

Orbrey cares about the children of the county and wants to create opportunities for them right here in Anderson County. He wants to see business and industrial growth. He knows that we are conveniently located between major transportation routes (I-64 and the Bluegrass Parkway), and we have a railroad that goes right through town. This makes us very attractive to new businesses. The increased tax revenue that this growth will bring will help make this a great place for children. It can be a place that young ones raised here have interesting and productive jobs to go to when they graduate high school or college.  “Anderson County is home and home is only what you make it…I want Anderson County to be the best,” Orbrey said.

An example of how he cares about the residents of the county is with the recycling program.  When he became Judge Executive, the original recycling program was bringing in $15 per ton but costing over $30 a ton to have it transported.  The revenue was obviously far less than the cost.  The new curbside recycling program that has been implemented under his leadership is actually operating at a profit, at no additional cost to the residents.

So, as an elected official, what does the Judge Executive do?  The Judge Executive supervises all the county department heads, whether they are elected or appointed.  This is true from Animal Control through the Sheriff’s department.  The job requires meeting and/or talking with them regularly, sometimes several times a day in order to stay on top of what is taking place in the county or what issues or concerns may be coming up.  It requires organization, time and commitment to understanding the needs and responsibilities of each department.

For example, the care and maintenance of roads is a major importance to the county.  Currently, the roads are worked on rotationally, from one magistrate’s district to another, with a magistrate being able to decline if they do not have roads in need of repair.  However, the districts differ in size.  The smallest has one-tenth of a mile in county roads while the largest has 135 miles of county roads.

It is the Judge Executive’s role to ensure that the county’s roads are in the best condition possible. Currently under discussion is a program to have each magistrate select several roads in their district in need of repair and then prioritize the repairs on the basis of need, not on whose district the roads are in.  Sounds simple, right?  Remember, the Judge Executive is responsible to the county as a whole and wants to make sure the dollars required to repair the roads are spent in the most productive manner possible.

The budget is another area that requires considerable time.  Each department will submit a budget for the next fiscal year, based upon the current year’s budget results and any anticipated changes in the coming year.  Each department will estimate their revenue (if any) and itemize the anticipated expenses. The Judge Executive then takes all the department budgets, analyzes them, reviews projected incomes from taxes, fees, etc., and determines what adjustments need to be made.  He will balance the needs and wants of the individual departments with the overall needs of Anderson County.

This is much more complicated than it sounds.  For example, the Jailor has expenses for housing prisoners in Shelbyville, transporting some for trial, salaries and other expenses.  But, there is no revenue produced in that department.  And, the number of prisoners in jail has increased so the budget must be increased. On the other hand, the Sheriff’s Department certainly has expenses, but they also produce significant income based fees collected.

Then the Judge Executive needs to look at other areas that may need funding if the county is to grow.  It also involves looking at what can be done to increase the revenue for the county and possibly lower property taxes, which new business can. He will also look at ways to reduce existing expenses, like the recycling program overhaul.

Examples of encouraging growth can be getting manufacturers and businesses to locate in Anderson County.  This requires the infrastructure necessary for the businesses to be in place like roads, water, gas, and electric services.  It also requires funding the Economic Development Agency to have the funds to contact and attract new business.  Or, he can look at how the county park can be used to produce more revenue which in turn can aid in park expansion and improvement.

Once the Judge Executive puts all these numbers together, he then needs to get the budget approved by the Fiscal Court. The Judge Executive presides over the meetings of the court which typically meets twice a month.  The department heads, whether elected or appointed, are requested to be there to give reports and answers questions as needed.

The Judge Executive also serves on several committees or attends their meetings as part of his responsibilities, including the Health Board, Work Force Investment Board, the Economic Development Board, the 911 Committee, and more.  Bottom line, he is busy.

The Judge Executive is always on duty so to speak.  If he is walking around town at lunch in one of the restaurants, people approach him with questions and concerns, as well as compliments. He understands and appreciates their comments.  We should all be aware, his office door is always open.  Feel free to call, text, email or drop by.  If you drop by, he will be busy, but if he cannot make time then, you can schedule an appointment to talk with him.

-Written by Don West

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Posted in Business & Government, Family & Community.

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