The chief executive officer for county government is the county judge.
The county judge is elected to a two-year term of office with the requirements that he or she is a qualified elector and resident of the county.
According to Fulton County Judge Charles Willett, as chief executive officer, the county judge authorizes and approves the disbursement of all appropriated county funds, operates the system of county roads and administers ordinances enacted by the Fulton County Quorum Court.
"With the roads, right now we have 2,100 to 2,200 miles of roads in Fulton County that we take care of. That is mostly gravel roads. We only have 100 miles or so of blacktop roads," Willett said.
The county judge works with Richard Fraser, Fulton County Road Department foreman, to maintain the roads and correct any problems.
"We try and keep the water in the ditches instead of running across the road. We currently have a lot of tile to put in to govern that. We work to control the water instead of letting the water control us," Willett said.
The county judge also has custody of county property, accepts grants from federal, state, public and private sources and hires county employees. However, county personnel employed by other elected officials of the county, are not hired by the county judge.
Willett presides over the Fulton County Quorum Court without a vote, but with the power of veto.
"The county judge presides over the quorum court. The judge appoints all the special committees like the insurance committee, budget committee; we have several different committees. The judge is presiding but not a member of the quorum court. I rule on motions and guide debates according to the rules of the procedure. I can't make motions or participate in the debates. However, any member of the quorum court can certainly solicit my views," Willett said.
The county court has jurisdiction over county taxes including real and personal taxes collected by the government. Willett also has jurisdiction over tax collections and the disbursement of tax proceeds.
The court's jurisdiction extends to any action related to human service programs that help county residents. The county helps finance the attorney cost for people who cannot provide a lawyer themselves and funeral costs for residents that need burial assistance.
Also, jurisdiction includes each case where internal improvement and local concerns of the county are involved. This includes county financial activities and works of general public utility or advantage designed to promote intercommunication, trade, commerce, transportation of people and property, or the development of natural resources.
According to Willett, to assist the county judge in the performance of his duties, the judge can appoint as many assistances as the quorum court will approve by funding. The county judge generally supervises the personnel within his employment and may discharge them and regulate their employment, within the guidelines established by the quorum court.
In addition to the duties of the county court, the county judge is responsible for supervising the activities of the various state and federal agencies operating at the county level. The county judge must also apply for all federal and state assistance monies for which the county is eligible and appoints the members to all administrative and advisory boards in the county.
"We participate in state aid programs. Each year we receive usually around $200,000 and we then set down and figure out what project we are going to use that for. This year the main thing on the agenda is the Union-Bexar Road. We are going to do the base work on that; we are going to try something we have never done before. We are going to try and bid the work ourselves and do it through our county because fuel is up so high anything we can do to reimburse our fuel accounts we are going to do. The work order will be done in May," Willett said.
"In day to day operations we are always looking for grant money for county improvements. Any grant is administered through our office. Resolutions have to be passed for fire departments or anyone looking to make improvements. Public building projects have to be approved by the quorum court and administered through the judge's office. Everything then comes through the county judge's office, checks are written and then disbursed from there," Willett said.
Elected to the office of Fulton County Judge in 2005, Willett has lived in Salem for 48 years, and seen nearly half a century of Salem's changes and developments. Willett said he is proud to serve his community in which he has been a part of for so many years.