By Seema Hakhu Kachru
Houston, Nov 13 (PTI) Indian-American Democrat K P George has won yet another term as Fort Bend County Judge in a narrow race as he earned 52 per cent of total votes.
George, who hailed from Kerala, after winning the race said he was thankful for the public's choice.
“The residents of Fort Bend County spoke. At the end of the day, that’s the most powerful institution. Democracy spoke. And so, I respect it. And I hope everybody respects,” George told PTI.
The 57-year-old Democrat defeated Republican challenger Trever Nehls by 52 per cent of the vote, earning a second term.
He held off Nehls by nearly 8,000 votes on Tuesday in a race that saw nearly 2,46,000 ballots cast, according to unofficial election results released by Fort Bend County.
George said that under his leadership, Fort Bend County has been leading the nation in public safety, job creation, educational attainment, and health.
“I am honoured to have been re-elected as the Fort Bend County Judge to keep moving FortBendForward” and continue to keep Fort Bend County the #1 place in America to raise our families, he said.
“I will continue to lead our communities with the values of compassion, common sense, and unity, and we will accomplish even more in the next four years because we will do it together — united and stronger. This is a time to continue to move Fort Bend Forward and that is what I intend to do,” he said.
“We are going to continue the good work that we have been doing in my office,” he added.
George said his overarching goal for the next four years is to improve the lives of Fort Bend County residents.
Mobility and transportation infrastructure, public safety, and emergency management and response are among his priorities, he said, along with attracting good-paying jobs and combatting mental health issues and human trafficking.
When asked what his potential legacy might be – as a Democrat and Indian-American elected official in a suburban area that historically preferred conservative Republicans – George said he's more concerned with the jobs.
"In 2018, when I came into office, nobody knew what to expect," he said. "Today, they know what to expect. Leaving Fort Bend County 10 times better than when I started, that's my legacy. But I don't think about my legacy. My citizens' well-being is the best way to look at it, and I want to continue to work toward it."
“We brought high-tech employment opportunities to Fort Bend by attracting Amazon, Tesla, TikTok, Samsung, and more. We will attract more companies for more good jobs for Fort Bend residents,” he said.
In the US, county judges' duties vary from state to state. Depending upon the size of the county, they perform a wide range of judicial and administrative duties.
George is the first person from the Indian-American community to hold office in one of America's most diverse counties.
Proud of his humble beginnings in India, George, originally from Kokkathodu village near Pathanamthitta in Kerala, said his father, a truck driver, earned only a couple of US dollars a day and he studied using a kerosene lamp.
While in India, George grew up speaking Malayalam and lived in a straw-thatch hut. When he was 15, his family moved to a bigger city where he attended college.
After his graduation, he got a job in Mumbai, where for the first time he started speaking English. He worked in West Asia before moving to New York in 1993 to work for a financial firm.
Later, he moved to Texas and has been living in Fort Bend County ever since, along with his family.
George, whose win in 2018 made him a trailblazer in the Houston area and beyond, said he hopes it stays that way now that he's been granted another four years as the chief executive for one of the most diverse and fastest-growing counties in the country.
"I'm hoping it is in the past. I want it in the past," George said of the prejudice and bigotry he has experienced. "We need to move forward. People are sick and tired of all this garbage."
George said he was "humbled" and "honoured" to be reelected, adding that it happened because of his track record during the last four years.
He touted Fort Bend County for being among the leaders in Texas in terms of COVID-19 vaccination rates, educational achievement and economic growth and prosperity.
According to the latest census, Fort Bend is now the most diverse county in Texas, and among the most diverse in the country with 35 per cent Anglos, 24 per cent Hispanics, 21 per cent Asians and others; and 20 per cent African-Americans.
Rice University professor Mark Jones said George is the most prominent Indian-American to hold an executive position in the US government.
“George, an Indian American, is holding the most prominent executive position in the US Govt as he governs a county with a larger population and a bigger budget than the Indian-American mayors of cities like Anaheim, California, and Hoboken,” Jones said. PTI SHK PY PY