In a press release sent out to local media outlets dated Monday, Dec. 4, Cherokee County Commissioner Byron Underwood announced his intentions to seek election as County Judge of Cherokee County in 2018.
Underwood, who has served on the Commissioners Court for the past 11 years, will be on the ballot in the Republican Primary in March. Since 2007, he has represented the residents of Precinct Four as County Commissioner.
According to the press release, Underwood has encouraged the modernization and improvement of county services and facilities while making common sense business decisions to keep taxes as low as possible during his time on the Cherokee County Commissioners Court.
The release also cited Underwood as a “leader in the initiation of a step and grade pay system, in an effort to help keep quality county employees, and has worked to develop a plan for meeting the future road and services needs of a growing county.”
“Maintaining roads and providing services to a growing county are serious business,” said Underwood. “Doing so without raising taxes calls for serious leadership,” said Mr. Underwood. “An effective County Judge needs the skills to bring unity to the court and help forge a vision for the future. These are the reasons I want to serve as Cherokee County Judge. ”
Underwood is a fifth generation resident of Cherokee County, with his lineage dating back over a century ago, when Underwood’s great-great-grandfather settled in northeast Cherokee County, where Underwood and his wife, Terri, of 37 years, reside today.
Long active as a leader in the community, Underwood has served as president of the Cherokee County Go Texan Committee, Jacksonville Rodeo Association and New Summerfield Cemetery Committee, as well as chairman of the Cherokee County Hay Show Committee, vice-chairman of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Go Texan Committee, chairman of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Texas Association of Counties board of directors, and County Judges and Commissioners Association board of directors, and past president of the North and East Texas Judges and Commissioners Association.
Underwood currently serves as chairman of the Education Committee for the County Judges, as well as Commissioners Association of Texas, on the board of directors of East Texas Council of Governments, and a member of the Jacksonville Lions Club. The Underwoods are also members of the Cornerstone Baptist Church in Jacksonville, where he serves as a deacon.
Recently, Underwood faced scrutiny when a personal item was noticed on his expense report submitted during a Commissioners Court meeting in July.
The personal item in question on the report was a boom ax valued at $806.10 for a John Deere hay baler from Ag Power Equipment in Tyler, a piece of equipment Cherokee County doesn’t own, according to county officials.
After the matter was brought to light at a Cherokee County Commissioners Court meeting the item caused confusion for members of the court, and was ultimately disallowed.
According to a press release sent by the Jacksonville-based Ament & Peacock Law Firm dated Monday, Nov. 20, a grand jury in Cherokee County met in the case against Underwood on Monday, Oct. 30. During the grand jury’s deliberations, the body returned a no-bill judgment.
“Because the testimony and deliberations of a grand jury are secret and not subject to public disclosure, Mr. Underwood voluntarily submitted himself to a polygraph examination by a licensed polygraph examiner in Dallas, Texas…” the press release stated. “As a result of the polygraph exam, the investigator found that Mr. Underwood was being truthful in response to the relevant issue test questions.”
The firm said, in the press release, that the findings of the polygraph examination proclaimed Underwood’s innocence in the case.
“In essence, the results of the polygraph exam prove that Mr. Underwood is being truthful in his account of events involving his purchase of the particular piece of equipment and his intention of who should pay for it,” the press release stated. “The polygraph proves Bryon Underwood was innocent of any wrongdoing.”
Due to the incident, Underwood, a Republican, had taken heat from the Cherokee County Republican Party, who announced in a press release that the party voted to censure Underwood after a 9-1 vote in favor of the measure, citing that Underwood’s “abysmal failure to support and defend the core Principles and Platform of the Republican Party of Texas was reached based on his vote to raise property taxes for Cherokee County in 2016, as well as his testimony in Austin in opposition to pro-taxpayer reforms in May 2017 and for attempting to having the county’s taxpayers pay for items of personal use.”