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Johnson County Judge candidate Chris Boedeker took to the stage by himself on Monday night, after his opponent, John Harmon, failed to show at the forum cosponsored by the Keene Chamber of Commerce and Johnson County Republican Women.

Monday’s candidate forum cosponsored by the Keene Chamber of Commerce and Johnson County Republican Women played out a decidedly one-sided affair with several in the audience of about 50 chiming in on the notable no show by one candidate. 

Organizers invited candidates Christopher Boedeker and John Harmon, but only Boedeker attended.

Both are competing in the May 24 runoff election, neither having received 51 percent of the vote in the March Republican Primary, at that time a four man race. 

Both hope to replace outgoing Johnson County Judge Roger Harmon, who decided not to seek reelection.

Early voting in the May 24 runoff is from May 16-20.

Throughout the campaign, Boedeker and others have stressed that John Harmon is not related to Roger Harmon.

Although Roger Harmon will remain in office until Dec. 31, the runoff’s winner will become the next county judge given that no Democrats filed to compete in the race.

Boedeker noted his opponent’s absence as well.

“Johnson County needs a judge that’s willing to show up,” Boedeker said during his opening statements. “This is the fifth debate we’ve been to without Mr. Harmon participating. I’m here tonight to answer questions and don’t know what I’m about to be asked. 

“I’ve never met Mr. Harmon. I can’t say anything bad about him because I don’t know who he is. That terrifies me. Because, if he’s the next county judge, no one knows who he is or what he stands for.”

John Harmon, who has worked in real estate and other professions, expressed a desire to see U.S. 360 extended into Johnson County and other infrastructure needs addressed if elected when asked, earlier in the campaign, why he chose to run.

Boedeker, an assistant attorney with the County Attorney’s Office and Cleburne councilman, cited experience and lifelong Johnson County roots.

Boedeker answered growth when asked the biggest issue facing the county.

County population sits poised to double in the near future, requiring intense planning for infrastructure, law enforcement and other needs, Boedeker said.

“I think that’s exciting; I don’t see that as a threat,” Boedeker said. “This is the most exciting time in our history. But we have to do things the right way to make sure, as we grow, that we can have the best version of Johnson County that can be. We don’t want to be Tarrant County south. We want to maintain our character as a place people move because they can raise a family here.”

In answer to a question about how best to ensure the county’s continued financial health, Boedeker returned to growth and said the county has a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to grow tax base while shrinking tax rates.

Cutting costs where possible is important as well, Boedeker added, but only part of the picture.

“We want to make sure we spend money conservatively and efficiently,” Boedeker said. “But we also have to invest in the future. Deferring spending on maintenance, avoiding investment in our infrastructure, law enforcement are the kind of things that sound cheap right now, save a few bucks But 10 years from now, we’re going to be in a position we can’t build our way out of. We’ve got to start planning now. We care about the tax rate tomorrow, but we also care about it 10 years from now. We want to make sure we don’t defer maintenance and have our children pay the bills later on.”

Infrastructure planning through development of a master thoroughfare plan and other means and investment in law enforcement will go a long way toward maintaining Johnson County’s unique character and heritage even as the county continues to grow, Boedeker said.

Forum moderator Justin Hewlett asked Boedeker what he hopes to accomplish over the next four years if elected.

“I think the next four years could be the most important in Johnson County’s history,” Boedeker said.

From the days of Camp Henderson to the coming of the railroad, Johnson County has seen substantial change and growth, he said.

“But the pace of change is fundamentally different now,” Boedeker said. “Whoever is involved with the commissioners court over the next four years  has the opportunity to help set the precedent of what we expect this community to look like.”

Realizing that opportunity, Boedeker said, will take not only the commissioners court bu also the community working together.

In answer to other questions, Boedeker voiced opposition to tax increases and called for “small government done the right way” but added that county government has an obligation to provide necessary services to residents.

His experience working with both the county and the city of Cleburne lends him the necessary tools, knowledge and relationships to excel as county judge, Boedeker said, especially now since recent changes in annexation laws and other factors have led to counties handling issues formerly reserved for cities in many cases.

Boedeker also fielded two audience questions the first concerning reducing or eliminating property taxes.

Boedeker commended Roger Harmon and the current commissioners for exercising conservative fiscal responsibility resulting in the county’s strong financial foundation. 

While the commissioners court sets the tax rate, they have no involvement determining property valuations.

“The county has to have a budget and by and large it has to be funded by property taxes,” Boedeker said. “Anyone who says, ‘Elect me county judge because I can eliminate property taxes,’ is trying to sell you a bridge too far.

“But the county judge can make sure the money is spent efficiently and that means we have to get our money’s worth, spend money efficiently on projects we have to have.”

As the representative of Johnson County residents, Boedeker said he will happily take their concerns about property tax burdens, requests for increased homestead exemptions and other concerns to Austin.

In answer to the second audience question, Boedeker said his children when asked his greatest contribution to Johnson County’s future.

“Every decision I make is based on I want them to grow up in a Johnson County that’s kind of like the one I grew up in,” Boedeker said. “I have a heart for service and a mind to work at making this county the best place it can be. I want that to be our legacy, all of us working together.

“If you believe Johnson County can grow into a better version of itself and can do that by government getting out of the way and doing an excellent job in the things that it has to do then I’m your candidate.”

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