Harris County Commissioners Court on Tuesday appointed Diana Ramirez county administrator, stripping the interim title she has held since the spring, and further cementing a role critics call unnecessary.

The court members, who have been discussing candidates since former county administrator David Berry’s departure in April, announced their decision after an hour-long closed door meeting. The court voted 4-1, with Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey opposed.

“We’re very happy to have you,” Judge Lina Hidalgo told her.

“Being able to come out as the top candidate after a nationwide search, it feels very rewarding,” Ramirez said afterward. “For a policy wonk, this is a dream come true to work at this level of government.”

The county administrator position was created by Commissioners Court in June 2021 to oversee county departments.

The Democratic majority supported the creation of the position, saying it would improve efficiency in day-to-day operations and eliminate duplication amid departments. Republicans criticized the move, saying it would add a layer of bureaucracy and further strengthen the Democratic majority on the court.

Berry, Harris County’s first county administrator, left the position in April to take on a new role with a renewable energy company.

Ramirez is the first woman and Latina county administrator and before her temporary role, most recently was executive director of the Harris County Department of Economic Equity and Opportunity. Prior to that, Ramirez, who is from Laredo, worked in Travis County in various roles for more than 20 years.

Hidalgo said Ramirez has “really earned” people’s respect and said she is excited to see another woman in a leadership role.

“I have a lot of faith,” Hidalgo said. “She does this job because she wants to.”

Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis, who attended Tuesday’s court meeting virtually, issued a statement saying he looks forward to what Ramirez will continue to do in her role.

“Ramirez did an excellent job as interim county administrator and I know she will continue using her 30-plus years of government experience to help Harris County improve the quality of life for all residents,” he said. 

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McKenna Oxenden is a reporter covering Harris County for the Houston Landing. She most recently had a yearlong fellowship at the New York Times on its breaking news team. A Baltimore native, she previously...