Leading the Charge
written by haley ragsdale | photos by studio 1401 & provided by midland county court
Over the last 20 years, Midland County has undergone a dramatic shift. Midland’s skyline has changed with an 11-story county courthouse now gracing downtown and a 100-plus-acre Horseshoe Pavilion holding court off of I-20. Leading the charge is Judge Mike Bradford. “I got to work with some of the best commissioners in the United States. I will miss them and all the great people in Midland,” he said. Bradford leaves behind quite a legacy. He’s an integral team member that changed the reputation of the county. “We went from a county with no money, to the most financially sound county in the State of Texas with a triple A rating,” he said.
“ If you don’t know how your government works, you are going to have a tough time in business.” -Judge Bradford
Bradford was born in Fort Worth and attended TCU for both his undergrad and graduate degrees. He made the move to Midland in 1976 with the urging of his friend, Jon P. Butler, who was with First National Bank. “Mr. Butler really had this foresight how to grow Midland, and I reported directly to him. He told me, ‘Wherever you go bring your wife with you. If your wife is not happy then you will not be successful. ’So, she traveled with me when I was recruiting people and businesses to Midland. She even went with me after we had kids,” Bradford explained.
Midland County Courthouse
He went on to explain he was able to talk with the Justice and later do an internship of sorts in Washington DC. “In one of my dad’s great nuggets of wisdom, ‘If you don’t know how your government works, you are going to have a tough time in business,’” Bradford said. Bradford spent time lobbying in Austin and Washington DC. After leaving First National and while working in the oil business, he went to his first county commissioners meeting that changed his career trajectory. “At this meeting, two of the commissioners got into a very heated argument and a fight broke out,” he said. “I was put off and embarrassed that this was my government.” Bradford said that after witnessing such a display, he and his friend both decided to run for office.
When Bradford took office, the county was in poor financial straits. “I remember our first bid for county vehicles and I was looking forward to it. No one gave us any bids, because I learned that the county didn’t pay its bills. Vendors didn’t want to deal with us,” he said. Bradford went on to explain the commissioners were able to work out a deal with Salt Lake county for new patrol vehicles and that was the beginning of changing the culture and reputation of Midland County. “The employees didn’t really buy in for a couple of years because they had gone years without a raise. We started to build trust and became more financially sound. In the twenty years I have been here, there were only two years the employees didn’t get a raise,” Bradford said. “We cut the tax rate from 28.5 cents to 14 cents.”
The new Midland County Courthouse, The Centennial Library, renovations to the downtown library, the county annex building, and the Horseshoe were all created during his time in office. “All of these assets are paid for buildings. We built them using sales tax, not property tax,” Bradford said. The Centennial Library, Bradford explained has brought in visitors from all over and attracts first rate exhibits that are always free to the public. The downtown library is set to reopen in early 2019, which Bradford hinted will feature an aquarium. Bradford’s crowning achievement is the Midland County Horseshoe Pavilion. “It is the guardian against a bad economy. People will still come to Midland to host a variety of events, even if the economy was to take a turn. It will always bring people and money to Midland,” Bradford explained.
“ I got to work with someof the best commissioners in the United States. I will miss them and all the great people in Midland.” -Judge Bradford
Bradford looks forward to the next chapter in his life with spending more time with his wife and children, and not answering calls after midnight. †