Best Republican (2006)

Harris County Judge
Robert Eckels

For someone who has 3.6 million constituents, County Judge Robert Eckels has kept somewhat of a low profile -- which, considering the colorful, if not entirely legal, activities of some county court predecessors (like, ummm, his father), is a good thing. All that changed in 2005, when Eckels teamed with Mayor Bill White to handle the wave of evacuees from Hurricane Katrina. While FEMA flopped helplessly around, Eckels opened up the county's Astrodome and other facilities and slashed through calcified layers of bureaucracy to get relief efforts in gear. Esquire magazine named him "Citizen of the Year" and said Harris County was "an island of competence in the face of catastrophe." (That sound you hear could be White gnashing his teeth and asking "What about me?!") Eckels, a UH graduate who was first elected to the state legislature at 24, is only 49, and we're guessing that the Harris County judgeship won't be his ultimate political destination.


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