KP George, the newly elected judge of Fort Bend County has a message for everyone: “Everything is going to be just fine.”
When George takes office in January as the county judge, replacing long-time Judge Robert Hebert, he understands there will be some adjustments.
“There are some people, unfortunately, who are still in shock and don’t know what happened. I have friends from both side, Republican and Democrats, so go tell them everything is going to be OK, everything is going to be just fine. That is the message I want to send today,” said George, who currently holds a board seat with the Fort Bend Independent School District.
“We want to make sure Fort Bend County is available, accessible and fair, irrespective of your look, your religion, your faith, your whatever,” George told an appreciative standing room only crowd last month at his victory reception and fundraiser at the Nirmanz Banquet Hall in Sugar Land.
Since his Nov. 6 win, where his supporters say he garnered the most votes in Fort Bend County history, George and members of his transition team have been meeting with department heads across the county on a listening tour.
“There was a lot of talk about straight ticket voting. But KP got more votes as county judge than anyone ever in history with 48,000 who did not vote straight ticket, to choose his name,” said Mustafa Tameez, chairperson of his transition team.
“He makes history as the highest vote-getter for county judge in Fort Bend County. History as well, as the first South Asian ever elected as the top executive of a county in Texas,” added Tameez.
George told the crowd he came to the United States 25 years ago, “with a few bucks in my pocket and I came a long way. This country is an amazing place. You don’t see many people coming from an Indian background and running in office. We’re gonna change that.”
When he started running for office in 2010, “nobody believed in me. In elections, there is no second place, I lost.”
Eventually, he ran again and won a seat on the FBISD board of trustees and was re-elected with his seat expiring in 2020. George starts as county judge January 2019. The FBISD board has not said how they will address his upcoming vacancy.
He said he was discouraged by some who advised him not to pursue the top seat in the county.
“If there is anything anyone can learn from me is persistence. Never give up on your dreams. You know how many said, ‘why do you have to run for county judge? Why not try something smaller,” recalled George. “But dreaming is one thing that doesn’t cost you. You need to teach your children to dream big.”
George came from humble beginnings growing up in a tiny village in India.
“My father was a truck driver and made a few bucks. My mother could not write our own language. I grew up there and now I am standing in front of you as the top elected official of the tenth largest county in the state of Texas. That is what is possible in this country,” he said to roaring applause before a diverse crowd of Democrats, Republicans, Asians, Indians, Latinos, blacks and whites.
In 1990 there were almost 254,000 people in Fort Bend and now there are 780,000 and 104 languages are spoken here, he said.
“Everything we have in this world, we have it here. I tell people, I cannot imagine living anywhere else,” he said.
George said when he moved here from New York 20 years ago, “they said, are you gonna be riding a horse to work? Who would have thought this would be the most diverse place. More people will learn about Fort Bend and they will want to move here.”
“God gave me an opportunity to come here, raise my family. I give back to this community. Every day I sit down with elected officials and oh, I am so excited. We are going to have a million people by 2022. We are a microcosm and this is the place people will model,” he said.
He was introduced by Fort Bend County Commissioner Grady Prestage, who told the crowd there is much work to do.
“Fort Bend County brags about being the most ethnically diverse county, but if you go to most events, you don’t see this kind of crowd. This is an inclusive crowd and it is incumbent on all of us to make it work,” said Prestage.
He described George as “a good man.”
“Right now he is a sponge and he’s gonna soak up everything. The good, bad, smart, dumb, crazy, corrupt. So I ask you to give him good stuff. Don’t bring the bull. Fort Bend has been well-run forever. It will be well-run come January and then some,” said Prestage.
“To make this the best county ever, everyone is going to have to chip in. Commissioners court is mostly non-partisan. You have to trust the will of the people. You will make decisions good for the future of everybody,” Prestage said, adding that George can expect naysayers.
“When I came here (commissioner’s seat) 28 years ago, they said the world was gonna come to an end,” said Prestage, the first black to serve on the commission since Reconstruction. He has consistently won re-election since 1990.
“KP you’ve been on the school board, the hardest job there is next to the President of the United States. You will do fine. He’s got a work ethic and will soak up everything,” said Prestage.
George, who is a Democrat, said he deliberately did not put the identifier Republican or Democrat on his campaign material.
“I have numerous Republican friends. I have friends from both sides. I reach out to elected officials. The one thing I ask, what is the average person looking for; they want a safe place to live, good school and job. These are all common needs of our citizens. That is what I intend to provide a better way. When you are surrounded by 10 feet of water, it doesn’t matter if you’re Democrat or Republican,” he said making reference to the Hurricane Harvey aftermath.
He ran his campaign on “better emergency preparedness, real fiscal responsibility, and constant community engagement.” While George helped neighbors and strangers alike during the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, it became clear that Fort Bend County has much work to do.
“Additionally, throughout the campaign, it became clear that many voters and residents are not plugged into county government let alone know about the currently offered services and programs,” he said.
He said when they have the annual state of the county next year “I hope you all come and ask, what have you done to make Fort Bend a better place. I hope you come talk to me because community engagement is a priority and I want every one of you to be a part of that conversation.”
George said he prays daily to God.
“I’m standing here in front of you. You see something in me, some excitement, some hope for you and your children. So I pray. I say, God, you give me an enormous responsibility so help me so I can rise up to the expectation of Fort Bend County citizens. So I tell you with no doubt, I will rise.”