Williamson County Earns National Achievement Award for Financial Literacy Program

Judge McClean holding awardThe Williamson County JP3 Financial Literacy Program has been recognized with an Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties (NACo). The awards honor innovative, effective county government programs that strengthen services for residents.

NACo recognized the Financial Literacy Program for a 2021 Achievement Award in the category of Criminal Justice and Public Safety. The Financial Literacy Program is a program designed to allow driving offenders – those who received citations for No Driver’s License, Driving While License Invalid and No Insurance – the option to enroll in a financial education class in lieu of paying fines.

“I am honored that our team is being recognized for this national award,” said Judge McLean. “We believe that providing education for a mistake is a better service to the community than just penalizing people. We see this as a unique opportunity to serve others.”

NACo President Gary Moore said, “Over the past year, county officials and frontline employees have demonstrated bold, inspirational leadership. This year’s Achievement Award winning programs illustrate the innovative ways counties build healthy, safe and vibrant communities across America.”

Nationally, awards are given in 18 different categories that reflect the vast, comprehensive services counties provide. The categories include children and youth, criminal justice and public safety, county administration, information technology, health, civic engagement and many more.

Started in 1970, NACo’s annual Achievement Awards program is designed to recognize county government innovations. Each nominee is judged on its own merits and not against other applications received

Williamson County Earns Best Practices Award

Judge McClean holding an award on the benchThe Texas Association of Counties (TAC) has named Williamson County a 2020 County Best Practices Award recipient for its Financial Literacy Program.

Developed by Williamson County Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Evelyn McLean, the program aims to break a cycle that contributes to repeat citations for driving without a license, driving with an invalid license or driving with no car insurance by allowing defendants to take a class that offers general spending and budgeting tips rather than pay a fine.  Working with the Financial Literacy Coalition of Central Texas, and supported by a $32,000 grant from Experian, McLean implemented the free one-hour class after frequently seeing defendants plead guilty to a violation whose fine they were unable to pay. Because of financial hardship, they would continue to drive without a license or insurance, only to owe the court more when they received another citation.

By giving first-time offenders the opportunity to learn how they can improve their financial stability, McLean hopes to reduce their chances of becoming a repeat offender while improving public safety.

"It is truly an honor to receive this award," McLean said. "And while I am proud that our court was chosen for this prestigious award, I am most proud of the Financial Literacy Program and the positive impact it has made on the over 1,000 participants who have come through our court.

"We are educating individuals to do the right things with their money, which leads to better financial well-being and ultimately has a positive impact on our community," she said.

Since the program began in April 2019, 1,237 people have requested the financial literacy class as of Nov. 10 and 714 cases have been dismissed. Video conferencing has allowed the program to continue during the coronavirus pandemic.

The program's success has prompted other Williamson County officials and departments to adopt it, including Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Edna Staudt and Juvenile Services. The Williamson County Emerging Adult Program, which provides an alternative to incarceration for 17- to 24-year-olds who have committed low-level offenses, has also begun using the program.

McLean considers the Financial Literacy Program easily replicable and says her office will provide the Power Point presentation used in the class to any county interested in the program.  "Dedication to improving lives and serving the public runs through Williamson County's Financial Literacy Program," TAC Executive Director Susan M. Redford said. "We hope this award inspires other counties to explore new solutions to similar problems."

Williamson County was one of six Texas counties selected to receive a TAC 2020 County Best Practices Award. Every other year, TAC's County Best Practices Awards Program recognizes noteworthy innovations and solutions that increase efficiency, improve operations or overcome obstacles facing county governments. These innovations and solutions help Texas counties better serve their residents. The best of them also serve as models that other counties can shape to fit their particular needs.

JP3 Earns Two Prestigious State Awards

Judge McClean and Employee holding up an award.The Williamson County Justice of the Peace Precinct 3 (JP3) office is known for having some of the best civil servants in the county. Now, they have been recognized as having some of the best in the entire State of Texas.

JP3 recently was recognized during the Texas Justices of the Peace and Constables Association’s (JPCA) annual awards, which recognizes offices and individuals across the state for exceptional performance and outstanding representation of the court. The JPCA winners were selected from nominations submitted from 254 counties across Texas.

JP3 Judge Evelyn McLean and her staff were honored with the Best Practices of the Year Award for their development of a Financial Literacy Program, which provides Williamson County individuals who receive driving citations for no driver’s license or no insurance with the option to enroll in a free financial education class in lieu of paying fines.

According to Judge McLean, the program has been so successful because it serves to educate and help offenders, instead of simply punishing them.

“I am grateful this team is being recognized for their outstanding efforts,” said Judge McLean. “When we developed this program, we did not move forward with the goal of winning awards, we did it with the goal of improving the lives of Williamson County residents. And I’m proud to say that so far, it’s working.”

In addition, Crystal Kaderka, JP3 court administrator, was recognized as the Texas Clerk of the Year.

Kaderka was recognized for her efforts in establishing a curbside payment service for defendants during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to creating and managing an online scheduling system for appointments which enabled her team to maintain the highest case rate in Williamson County.