WilCo Sends Another One Packing
There's just no pleasing the Williamson Co. brass
In 2006, the county recruited Oldham, a former police officer, dispatcher, and fireman, who rose up the international ranks of emergency communications over a 30-plus-year career to supervise the design and construction of an emergency operations complex, subsequently assigning him "several other full-time jobs," according to Oldham's March 24 resignation letter. Oldham gave 30 days' notice, but the Commissioners Court rejected the notice, "making my resignation effective immediately." Now, Oldham is taking stock of his achievements, which included the creation of a model dispatch academy. He says he's still struggling to understand why WilCo froze "pesky ol' me out of the picture."
Oldham left Round Hill, Va., to take his dream job in WilCo, whooping and hollering as he and his wife crossed the Texas/Arkansas border. He remembers looking forward to living in a state known for its "straight talk." He set about modernizing the county's aging communications system, deciding early on to delay construction of a new emergency operations complex, which could have been his first mistake. "I made the case that a number of things needed fixing before we built a shiny new building into which we'd move existing problems," Oldham told the Chronicle.
Oldham acknowledges bucking what he terms "seemingly deliberate delays" to his myriad solutions. For one, Sheriff James Wilson indefinitely impounded his new operations manual, based on unsubstantiated theories that it would lead to "dead cops all over the place," Oldham recalls. In another instance, the county effectively killed a plan to replace its circa-1970s "computer-aided dispatch" system with state-of-the-art gear because, as County Judge Dan Gattis told Oldham, people had complained of a lack of input, which Oldham denies.
However, Oldham believes the nail in his coffin may have been his expressed concerns about some questionable business-as-usual practices. For example, he said, he had told the WilCo brass that millions of dollars in grant funding could be in jeopardy if the Department of Homeland Security were to find out the county had not correctly instituted certain mandates.
In a county press release, Gattis stated Oldham's resignation had presented the county with an "opportunity" to improve delivery of emergency services. Meanwhile, Oldham no longer buys the Texas "straight shooter" mystique. More than that, he said he laments that though he made the county safer, he was forced to leave it "not as safe as it could be."