Liberty County Judge Jay Knight is the new chair-elect for the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC). Knight, who started his term as chair-elect on Friday, Jan. 20, is the first Liberty County official to serve in this capacity for H-GAC, which serves 13 counties in the greater Houston region.
Knight was unanimously elected by the entire assembly of H-GAC, an honor that Knight says humbled him. Knight will serve alongside the Chairman Trey Duhon, who is the elected Waller County Judge, and H-GAC Executive Director Chuck Wimple.
“I feel very good about being unanimously elected. I have been really involved in H-GAC since I was first elected Liberty County judge,” Knight said. “It’s an honor and I don’t take it lightly, by any means.”
Prior to being chair-elect, Knight served on four committees for H-GAC – Audit Committee, 911 System, Transportation Improvement Program and the Transportation Policy Council. He has been active with H-GAC since being elected county judge eight years ago.
Serving on these committees, Knight has been part of the fight to keep federal and state funding within the H-GAC region.
“Before we formed the 911 committee within H-GAC, all of the tax money from cell telephones in the 13-county region went to the state, the better part of it at least. We carved it out so that it now stays in the 13 counties,” Knight said. This money is being used to provide programs that will better assist emergency responders during a crisis.
“Eventually we will have it so it will ping your phone and route your call to the nearest 911 dispatch center. The funds we saved by forming this committee and recouping those funds have aided in a better 911 system for the Houston area,” Knight said.
The two transportation committees perform vital work to improve and strengthen mobility in the entire H-GAC region.
“We work hard to make sure we get our fair share. In the last three years, we have nailed down more than $100 million in grants just for transportation improvements, like the railroad overpass project in Dayton. That contract will be let in May 2024, and it will be an 18-24-month project. I have been working on this project for seven years and we are just now getting there. As with any big transportation project, the experts will tell you it will take 10 years from the start of the project to its completion,” Knight said.
Recently, Liberty County was awarded a $21.3 million grant through H-GAC, by way of FEMA, that will fund a drainage study and drainage plan for the entire county. Once the drainage plan is adopted by commissioners court, developers doing business in Liberty County will have to adhere to those rules.
“This puts the responsibility of creating appropriate drainage systems on the developers and not the County or its taxpayers. Our goal with this is to not have another taxing entity involved. The developers are the ones reaping the benefits of their developments, so they should be the ones to pay for the drainage systems,” Knight said.
While Knight vows to work hard for all 13 counties within H-GAC, he admits that being chair-elect will give Liberty County a little more recognition.
“If you aren’t at the table, then you are the menu,” Knight said with a chuckle, when asked why the appointment is important for Liberty County. “I think it gives us great visibility in the entire region. It’s something we’ve never had before.”