The Harris County Commissioners Court appointed Diana Ramirez as the new county administrator on October 31, 2023. Ramirez, who has served as the interim county administrator since April 2023, is the first woman to hold the position and the second county administrator since the Harris County Commissioners Court created the position and Office of County Administration (OCA) in June 2021. As County Administrator, Ramirez leads the OCA and oversees the day-to-day operations of the County.
As she takes the reins of the position of County Administrator, Ramirez has focused on defining the County’s priorities along with restructuring the OCA. In the newly proposed structure, the OCA includes an operations division, which houses an Office of Boards and Commissions, dedicated to managing Harris County’s more than 70 public boards and commissions.
Read on to learn more about the Harris County Office of Boards and Commissions and how you can apply to serve on a board or commission!
What is the Office of Boards and Commissions?
Established in April 2021, the Office of Boards and Commissions’ (OBC) primary task is managing Harris County appointments to over 70 public boards and commissions. Boards and commissions function in an advisory capacity to their respective local governments through examining various issues, helping settle potential disputes, and planning for their jurisdiction’s future. Residents can volunteer their time as members of public boards and commissions. In Texas, public boards and commissions are established through passage of a:
- Bill by the Texas Legislature,
- City Ordinance, or
- County action
Public boards and commissions in Texas must observe the Open Meetings Act; meaning they must be open to the public, issue public notices before each meeting, and have a quorum present to conduct business. Outside of this requirement, there is no single overarching set of requirements to which all public boards and commissions in Texas must follow. Instead, it is the individual establishing statute and bylaws for each board and commission that defines the structure and authority of the body and its operating procedures.
Who leads the Office of Boards and Commissions?
The Office of Boards and Commissions (OBC) is led by Director Daniel Santamaria who was selected as the OBC’s second Director in June 2023. Director Santamaria joins Harris County with over 16 years of local government experience, nine of which he served as Chief of Staff for Houston City Council member Robert Gallegos. According to Director Santamaria, “serving on a County board or commission is a significant and meaningful way to directly participate in civic life and in your community.”
In addition to managing appointments, the OBC works directly with the Harris County Commissioners Court and community stakeholders to encourage civic engagement and identify potential candidates for their boards and commissions who reflect the diversity of Harris County.
What are bylaws?
All public boards and commissions are governed by a set of rules or procedures, state statute, or some other form of governing document, often referred to as bylaws. While the content included in bylaws can differ, they often include the following:
- Purpose or mission statement of the board or commission
- Member appointment process and term limits
- Member composition
- Quorum requirements
For an example, click here to read the bylaws of the Harris County Women’s Commission.
How does Harris County manage its Boards and Commissions?
The Harris County Office of Boards and Commissions (OBC) currently manages over 400 appointments on more than 70 public boards and commissions, which cover a broad array of topic areas. Some examples include:
- The African American Cultural Heritage Commission, created to identify, research, and protect and promote the preservation of African American cultural and historical resources in the County.
- The Greater Harris County 911 Board of Managers, tasked with collecting 911 Network funds through various means and ensuring the funds are then forwarded to the 911 Network depository for the sole purpose of financing the 911 Network.
- The Gulf Coast Rail District, established to encourage, develop, and maintain transportation and economic development concerning rail facilities for Harris and Fort Bend County and the City of Houston.
The Harris County Animal Shelter Advisory Committee, created to ensure that the governing body of a county or municipality in which an animal shelter is located is complying with state statute regarding animal shelters.
Where can I learn about a Harris County board or commission?
Individuals interested in serving on a Harris County board or commission are encouraged to check out the full list of boards and commissions here, where they can learn more about each board or commission and submit an application. Vacancies on County boards and commissions come up several times throughout the year, depending on the rules and membership terms of each body.
To learn more about boards and commissions in Harris County, check out the Research and Analysis Division’s report here.