‘I flipped a coin’: Travis County Judge on decision to resign, run for state Senate seat

Travis County

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt announced her resignation and her intent to run for the Texas Senate at Tuesday’s Commissioners Court meeting.

The court unanimously approved the motion for her resignation, but not without a few kind words and even a few tears shed by the judge herself.

“This is the most fun and challenging job I’ve ever had,” she told the court.

In February, State Senator Kirk Watson (D-Austin) announced he would resign from his role representing the Austin area in the state senate for District 14.

On social media shortly after, several local and state leaders expressed interest in running, including Eckhardt.

Unlike some other possible candidates, Eckhardt would have to resign from her position at the county in order to announce her candidacy, according to the Texas Constitution.

“I’ve cried a lot in the past few weeks,” she said, describing the tough decision.

Ultimately, it came down to the flip of coin.

She told herself, “I would stay put if it was heads. I flipped it, and it was heads. And I felt regret. So, I flipped the coin again, it was tails, and I felt fear. I thought to myself, ‘What would I be more proud of to face?’ I felt that I would be prouder to face fear.”

Eckhardt said she’s proud of the work the county has done the past few years, mentioning land preservation for green space, criminal justice reform as well as plans for land use and transportation.

“Travis County truly is a beacon of local government progress,” she told KXAN.”The only doubts I do have is in our inability to continue to do that because of things that are happening at the state.”

She said that’s why she wants to serve at the state level — and in her words, “these seats don’t come around often.”

She would also be the first woman to hold the office for District 14.

“It is sometimes difficult for a woman to step off the edge of the universe and do something like this, but I feel that this is the right thing to do as a public servant. To go where I think we most need public service, relationship-building, common ground and progress.”

At the same meeting, the Commissioners and Eckhardt voted to extend the “state of disaster” in the county for another 7 days due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19.

KXAN asked Eckhardt if she felt like she was leaving the county in a state of disarray during this contentious time.

“We have built, over the last several years, a very strong emergency operations apparatus that is in full collaboration with the City of Austin, as well as the state,” she said.

“So, although I am certainly deeply concerned about COVID-19, as I am about the bombings, about the evacuations from the coast which we also absorbed, our wildfires, our floods, even an assassination attempt against one of our elected officials. We, unfortunately, have a lot of experience in this area.”

Former Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt on coronavirus concerns

She assured she would stay on, as a “holdover,” through the next week of Spring Break to maintain the “continuity of operations.”

The Commissioners voted to have former county judge Sam Biscoe serve as interim county judge until November. Biscoe served the county as judge for 16 years, retiring at the end of 2014.

“I learned how to do this role from Sam,” Eckhardt said. “I have absolutely no doubts whatsoever.”

Watch the full interview here:

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