KP George has spent his whole life beating long odds.
He’s now trying to make his mark and a difference in Fort Bend County while inspiring others that success is possible with hard work, faith and perseverance.
“When your purpose is pure, God is going to open the door for you,” he said. “… I always believed God put us here for a purpose.”
George now sits in a cushy office at 401 Jackson St. in Richmond after being elected last year as Fort Bend County Judge, but his journey to that seat has been far from easy. He grew up in the small South Indian village of Kakkodu that had no running water or electricity. Receiving an education meant George and his six siblings must walk barefoot to the local schoolhouse and do homework by the light of a lamp in the family’s straw hut.
But his humble roots never deterred George, the Star of the Year for his ground-breaking impact on the community, from pursuing big goals. He is a devout Christian who leaned on his faith even as a boy.
“I always had a desire to succeed and had God in my heart,” he said.
George’s desire to live out the American Dream began coming to fruition when he moved to the United States in 1993 on a work visa. He moved to Fort Bend in 1999 and later served on the Fort Bend ISD board of trustees for more than four years before being elected as the first minority county judge in 2018.
He has made a home in Sugar Land with his wife, a math and science teacher at Drabek Elementary, and three kids. His son, Rohit, recently graduated from Hightower High School and is in medical school, while his oldest daughter, Helen, is a nurse and his youngest daughter, Sneha, is a senior at Elkins High School.
All of that would not be possible, however, without the guidance of his father – a truck driver who George said always pushed him and his siblings to strive for something greater.
“I will always have gratitude for my father, because a lot of people from that village never went out like us,” he said. “After (finishing school), you went into your family’s business, whatever that was. But my father always insisted we go to school. He wasn’t able to do it, but he wanted us to do it so we could have a better life.”
A dream is born
It didn’t matter that George, who remembered getting his first pair of slippers around fourth or fifth grade and then not having a second set of good clothes until 10th grade, didn’t have material means at the time. His father had a vision.
“That’s the whole reason I’m sitting here right now. He always told me that education was something someone can never take away from you. Once you have it, it is yours,” George said. “He was always telling us, ‘If you don’t like it here, this is the way out.’ His vision for us made all the difference. Me and my siblings have reached various places largely because of that.”
Once here, George made every effort to become entrenched in the Fort Bend community even before going into public service. He helped establish the Hightower High School Academies’ Booster Club in 2013 and served as its first president. He has also served in the Sugar Land Rotary Club, the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce and local Indo-American groups.
However, he knew there was still more to be done. So in 2014, he decided to make first foray into public service by running for the FBISD school board, inspired by a desire to engage the less-heard voices.
“I thought representation for any community was extremely important,” George said. “A lot of these (minorities) keep it to themselves if they have an issue – but now people feel comfortable coming and talking to me. Previously, that connection was not there for them. I also had a couple of instances where I thought I was not fairly treated, so instead of complaining I decided to do something about it.”
Even so, he faced an uphill battle and stiff odds as a relative political newcomer with a face unfamiliar to voters. But alas, he beat the odds again.
“People looked at me funny,” George said. “But that was the best experience I’ve ever had, working with the kids and fighting for their needs.”
Then last year, he decided to challenge 16-year incumbent Bob Hebert as county judge. George had little name recognition on the political front despite his service with FBISD, but once again refused to be denied.
George overtook Hebert to become the first Democrat to serve as Fort Bend County Judge in more than two decades. He also was the first Indian-American to be elected as Fort Bend County’s top boss.
“Running is spending the money you don’t have, talking to people who don’t believe in you yet and having all these negative things. People laughed at me, but that’s why I always tell people you’ve got to believe in yourself,” he said. “You’ve always got to see there is always a possibility – and if you see it, go for it.”
George is now in the best position to do what he believes is his prime purpose in life – serving others in an uncommon way.
“The idea starts in your head, but when it moves to your heart it becomes a passion and a purpose. I believed this was my purpose,” he said. “All of a sudden people feel like they have someone they can talk to. I didn’t know all that (when I ran), but I knew there was a purpose. My story has inspired a lot of people, and I want it to do that.”
Driven by compassion
That sentiment has been another common thread linking all of George’s pursuits. He simply wants to improve the lives of others with the opportunity he’s been given by both his father and the people of Fort Bend County.
“There’s a lot of stress, but I honestly believe God put me here for a purpose. I’m going to stand my ground and stay the course … my job is to take care of people,” he said. “When you’re surrounded by 10 feet of water, it doesn’t matter whether your county judge is a Republican or Democrat – you want someone coming to pick you up before the water rises. That’s my goal.
“It’s been quite a journey, and I know it’s just beginning. Our purpose is to simply make a difference in people’s lives.”
Since his tenure began, the county has experienced flooding events such as Tropical Storm Imelda’s impacts. Residents thought they would be voting on a nearly $100 million facilities bond in November, but that shifted course in August to what would turn out to be an $83 million flood bond, which passed with nearly 70 percent of the vote on Nov. 5.
Mobility is also a major challenge as the county continues to grow, reaching nearly 800,000 people according to the most recent census. As such, George’s office has undertaken discussions with METRO for park-and-ride arrangements from Richmond and Rosenberg to the Medical Center, Galleria and downtown Houston. There will also be such a service running from Westpark Toll Road and Highway 99 coming into the county that will be running by the second quarter of next year.
George has also conducted listening tours and service workshops in all four county precincts in efforts to make the office more accessible to residents.
“We understand these issues exist, so we are working to make our citizens’ lives better. We want more people coming,” he said. “The county plays a major role in people’s lives, so we wanted to make sure our citizens understand us.”
George also convened the first high-level Fort Bend meeting of the Consular Corps of Houston at the Ismaili Jamatkhana & Center in Sugar Land this past June and launched Fort Bend County’s first technology task force in August. There has been a human trafficking task force created in collaboration with U.S. Rep. Pete Olson and other agencies as well as two active-shooter classes held for the area’s faith institutions.
George has also helped usher in an agreement with veterans organizations to serve the county’s veterans as well as a jail diversion program for those with mental health challenges.
“There are so many areas in which we’re trying to make a difference,” he said. “We are making a sincere effort to reach out to (people).”
In those rare times he is not on the clock, George likes to lift weights, play racquetball and walk the family’s two dogs on the trail behind their Sugar Land home. He even works with a close friend to provide assistance to his old village.
It’s all part of his plan for giving back in the best way he knows how, and he said the first year at the top of Fort Bend County has been a life-changing experience.
“We all are put onto this earth for a purpose. You’ve got to enjoy that life and have fun with it. A lot of times, I think we don’t identify our purpose,” he said. “I never thought this was going to be mine, but now I know that it is. Every day I will try to do something to make a difference, because it’s such an honor to be here.”