Harris County, Texas

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Harris County
Harris County
Buildings-city-houston-skyline-1870617.jpg
Harris County 1910 Courthouse Restored Houston Texas.jpg
Downtown Houston, Harris County Courthouse
Official seal of Harris County
Map of Texas highlighting Harris County
Location within the U.S. state of Texas
Map of the United States highlighting Texas
Texas's location within the U.S.
Coordinates: 29°52′N 95°23′W / 29.86°N 95.39°W / 29.86; -95.39
Country United States
State Texas
Founded1837
Named forJohn Richardson Harris
SeatHouston
Largest cityHouston
Area
 • Total1,778 sq mi (4,600 km2)
 • Land1,703 sq mi (4,410 km2)
 • Water74 sq mi (190 km2)  4.2%
Population
 (2020)
 • Total4,731,145
 • Estimate 
(2021)
4,728,030 Decrease
 • Density2,700/sq mi (1,000/km2)
Time zoneUTC−6 (Central)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−5 (CDT)
Congressional districts2nd, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 18th, 22nd, 29th, 36th
Websitewww.co.harris.tx.us

Harris County is located in the U.S. state of Texas; as of the 2020 census, the population was 4,731,145,[1] making it the most populous county in Texas and the third most populous county in the United States. Its county seat is Houston, the largest city in Texas and fourth largest city in the United States. The county was founded in 1836 and organized in 1837.[2][3] It is named for John Richardson Harris, who founded the town of Harrisburg on Buffalo Bayou in 1826.[2] According to the July 2021 census estimate, Harris County's population has shifted to 4,728,030 comprising over 16% of Texas's population.[4][5] Harris County is included in the nine-county Houston–The Woodlands–Sugar Land metropolitan statistical area, which is the fifth-most populous metropolitan area in the United States.

History[edit]

Firefighters on San Jacinto Street, circa 1914
The Harris County Courthouse in Houston, in 1913.

Human remains date habitation to about 4,000 BC. Other evidence of humans in the area dates from about 1,400 BC, 1 AD, and later in the first millennium. The region became uninhabited from 1 AD until European contact. Little European activity predates 1821. Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca may have visited the area in 1529. French traders recorded passing through in the 18th century. Spaniards attempted to establish a fort in the area around the same time, but did not persist for long.[2]

The first recorded European settlers in Harris County arrived in 1822. Their schooner sailed into Galveston Bay and ran aground on the Red Fish Bar. Some of those passengers traveled further up the bay system, but it is not known whether they settled up Buffalo Bayou or the San Jacinto River. One of these passengers, a Mr. Ryder, settled at what is now known as Morgan's Point, Texas. Also in 1822, John Iiams settled his family at Cedar Point after sailing from Berwick's Bay, Louisiana. Dr. Johnson Hunter arrived just after Iiams. He also wrecked his boat near Galveston. He settled at Morgan's Point and was a grantee of land there. Nathaniel Lynch settled in the area and operated a ferry.[6]

In 1824, the land empresario, Stephen F. Austin convened at the house of William Scott for the purpose of conveying titles for Mexican headrights. He was joined by the land commissioner, Baron von Bastrop, and Austin's secretary, Samuel May Williams. About thirty families gained legal titles to land in what would later be known as Harris County. A few immigrants settled on Buffalo Bayou in these early years, including Moses Callahan, Ezekial Thomas, and the Vince brothers.[6]

Nicolas Clopper arrived in the Galveston Bay area from Ohio in the 1820s. He attempted to develop Buffalo Bayou as a trading conduit for the Brazos River valley. He acquired land at Morgan's Point in 1826.[7] John Richardson Harris (1790–1829), for whom the county was later named, arrived in 1824. Harris had moved his family to Sainte Genevieve, Missouri Territory, where they had been residing until the early 1820s.[8]

Harris was granted a league of land (about 4,428 acres) at Buffalo Bayou. He platted the town of Harrisburg in 1826, while he established a trading post and a grist mill there. He ran boats transporting goods between New Orleans and Harrisburg until his death in the fall of 1829.[9]

The First Congress of the Republic of Texas established Harrisburg County on December 22, 1836. The original county boundaries included Galveston Island, but were redrawn to its current configuration in May 1838.[2]

The area has had a number of severe weather events, such as the following hurricanes and tropical storms:

* 1900 Galveston

Geography[edit]

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,777 square miles (4,600 km2), of which 1,703 square miles (4,410 km2) is land and 74 square miles (190 km2) (4.2%) is covered by water.[10] Both its total area and land area are larger than the U.S. state of Rhode Island.

Adjacent counties[edit]

Communities[edit]

Cities[edit]

Multiple counties[edit]

Harris County only[edit]

Unincorporated areas[edit]

Census-designated places[edit]

Unincorporated communities[edit]

Demographics[edit]

Historical population
Census Pop.
18504,668
18609,07094.3%
187017,37591.6%
188027,98561.1%
189037,24933.1%
190063,78671.2%
1910115,69381.4%
1920186,66761.3%
1930359,32892.5%
1940528,96147.2%
1950806,70152.5%
19601,243,15854.1%
19701,741,91240.1%
19802,409,54738.3%
19902,818,19917.0%
20003,400,57820.7%
20104,092,45920.3%
20204,731,14515.6%
2021 (est.)4,728,030−0.1%
U.S. Decennial Census[11]
1850–2010[12] 2010–2020[1]
Demographic Profile of Harris County, Texas
(NH = Non-Hispanic)
Race / Ethnicity Pop 2010[13] Pop 2020[14] % 2010 % 2020
White alone (NH) 1,349,646 1,309,593 32.98% 27.68%
Black or African American alone (NH) 754,258 885,517 18.43% 18.72%
Native American or Alaska Native alone (NH) 8,150 8,432 0.20% 0.18%
Asian alone (NH) 249,853 344,762 6.11% 7.29%
Pacific Islander alone (NH) 2,260 3,199 0.06% 0.07%
Some Other Race alone (NH) 7,914 23,262 0.19% 0.49%
Mixed Race/Multi-Racial (NH) 48,838 121,671 1.19% 2.57%
Hispanic or Latino (any race) 1,671,540 2,034,709 40.84% 43.01%
Total 4,092,459 4,731,145 100.00% 100.00%

Note: the U.S. Census Bureau treats Hispanic/Latino as an ethnic category. This table excludes Latinos from the racial categories and assigns them to a separate category. Hispanics/Latinos can be of any race.

According to the 2000 U.S. census,[15] 3,400,578 people, 1,205,516 households, and 834,217 families resided in the county; in 2010, the population increased to 4,092,459; by the 2020 U.S. census, Harris County had a population of 4,731,145.[14] Overall, Harris County's population has recorded positive growth since the 1850 U.S. census tabulated-population of 4,668.

Among the county population, once predominantly non-Hispanic white, the largest racial or ethnic group has become Hispanic or Latino Americans (43.01%) as of 2020.[14] Following, non-Hispanic whites declined to 27.68% of the population; Black or African Americans were 18.72% of the area population, and Asian Americans made up 7.29% of the county; multiracial Americans increased to 2.57%, American Indians and Alaska Natives declined to 0.18%, and Pacific Islanders grew to 0.07% of the population. Having a large and growing Asian American community alongside Hispanics and Latinos, the Houston Area Asian Survey of the Kinder Institute of Urban Research Houston Area Survey stated that between 1990 and 2000, the Asian population in Harris County increased by 76%; between 2000 and 2010, it increased by 45%.[16]

Economically, Harris County along with other Texas counties has one of the nation's highest property tax rates. In 2007, the county was ranked in the top 25 at 22nd in the nation for property taxes as percentage of the homes value on owner-occupied housing; the list only includes counties with a population over 65,000 for comparability.[17] Additionally, Harris County residents had a median household income of $63,022 with a mean income of $93,184. Families had a median income of $73,274 and mean of $105,534; married-couple families $93,961 with a mean of $128,211; and non-family households a median of $43,488 and mean of $62,435.[18]

With a poverty rate of 15.6% as of 2020,[19] Children At Risk—a local nonprofit research organization—estimated 21% of the Harris County children lived in poverty, 6.5 per 1,000 die before age one, and 38% drop out of high school as of 2007.[20]

Language[edit]

In 2000, 1,961,993 residents of Harris County spoke English only. The five largest foreign languages in the county were Spanish or Spanish Creole (1,106,883 speakers), Vietnamese (53,311 speakers), Chinese (33,003 speakers), French including Louisiana French and Patois (33,003 speakers), and Urdu (14,595 speakers). Among those who spoke other languages, 46% of Spanish speakers, 37% of Vietnamese speakers, 50% of Chinese speakers, 85% of French speakers, and 72% of Urdu speakers said that they spoke English at least "very well".[21] By 2020, 55.6% of the county aged 5 and older spoke English only, and 44.4% spoke another language instead of English; Spanish remained the second-most spoken language (35%).[22]

Religion[edit]

Saint Mary Cathedral Basilica, seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston–Houston

In 2010 statistics, the largest religious group in Harris County was the Archdiocese of Galveston–Houston, with 1,947,223 Catholics worshiping at 109 parishes, followed by 579,759 Southern Baptists with 811 congregations, 348,461 non-denominational Christian adherents with 577 congregations, 182,624 United Methodists with 124 congregations, an estimated 117,148 Muslims with 47 congregations, 44,472 LDS Mormons with 77 congregations, 39,041 Episcopalians with 43 congregations, 34,957 PC-USA Presbyterians with 49 congregations, 33,525 Churches of Christ Christians with 124 congregations, and 30,521 LCMS Lutherans with 46 congregations. Altogether, 58.4% of the population was claimed as members by religious congregations, although members of historically African-American denominations were underrepresented due to incomplete information.[23] In 2014, the county had 1,607 religious organizations, the third most out of all U.S. counties.[24]

Government and politics[edit]

County governments serve as agents of the state, with responsibilities defined in the Texas Constitution. Counties are governed by the commissioners' court. Each Texas county has four precinct commissioners and a county judge. Although this body is called a court, it conducts the general business of the county and oversees financial matters.[25] The commissioners court may hire personnel to run major departments, such as health and human services.

Besides the county judge and commissioners, the other elective offices found in most counties include the county attorney, county and district clerks, county treasurer, sheriff, tax assessor-collector, justices of the peace, and constables. As a part of the checks and balances system, counties have an auditor appointed by the district courts.[25]

Harris County was one of the earliest areas of Texas to turn Republican. It voted Republican in all but one presidential election from 1952 to 2004, the lone break coming when native Texan Lyndon Johnson carried it in his 44-state landslide in 1964. In 2008, Barack Obama was the first Democrat to win the county since Texas native Lyndon Johnson in 1964. The urban core of Houston is safely Democratic, while Suburban areas such as Cypress, Spring, and Katy in the county's western and northern areas, tend to be strongly Republican. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the county by the largest margin for a Democrat since 1964.[26] The Democratic Party performed very strongly in the county during the 2018 elections, as it did nationwide.[27] In 2020, Joe Biden improved Clinton's performance by two points while Donald Trump only increased his vote share by one point. Regardless of the shift towards Democrats and being the most populated county in Texas, for the past 4 elections that it voted for a Democrat, it has always voted to the right of Dallas, Travis, Bexar, and El Paso, each of which have a smaller population.[28]

In 2013, Allen Turner of the Houston Chronicle said that residents of Harris County were "consistently conservative in elections" and that they were, according to a Rice University Kinder Institute for Urban Research opinion poll, "surprisingly liberal on topics such as immigration, gun control and equal matrimonial rights for same-sex couples".[29] Harris is regarded as a moderate or swing county in Texas, and has been a bellwether in presidential elections, voting for winners of every presidential election from 2000 through 2012 (both Barack Obama and Texas resident George W. Bush won the county twice).[29]

As a result of the Obama sweep in 2008, many Democratic candidates in contests for lower-level offices also benefited, and many Republican incumbents were replaced by Democrats in the Harris County courthouse. Some of the defeated Republican district court judges were later re-appointed to vacant District Court benches by Governor Rick Perry. In 2018, Democrats swept the court capturing all 59 seats on the civil, criminal, family, juvenile and probate courts.[30]

The Kinder Institute's Houston Survey in 2018 found that from 2014 through 2018 the number of Houston residents who supported adoption of children by same-sex couples climbed above 50% and remained there, while in 2017 over 56% of residents reported gay or lesbian persons among their circle of close personal friends. A 2013 opinion poll had found that 46% of Harris County residents supported same-sex marriage, up from 37% in 2001. Just above 82% favored offering illegal immigrants a path to citizenship provided they speak English and have no criminal record, holding from 83% in 2013, which was up from 19% in 2009. In 2013, 87% supported background checks for all firearms, the latest year that question was included in the Kinder Houston Survey. This measure has moved up steadily from 60% in 1985 to 69% in 2000.[31][29]

United States presidential election results for Harris County, Texas[32]
Year Republican Democratic Third party
No.  % No.  % No.  %
2020 700,630 42.70% 918,193 55.96% 21,995 1.34%
2016 545,955 41.61% 707,914 53.95% 58,243 4.44%
2012 586,073 49.31% 587,044 49.39% 15,468 1.30%
2008 571,883 48.82% 590,982 50.45% 8,607 0.73%
2004 584,723 54.75% 475,865 44.56% 7,380 0.69%
2000 529,159 54.28% 418,267 42.91% 27,396 2.81%
1996 421,462 49.24% 386,726 45.18% 47,705 5.57%
1992 406,778 43.14% 360,171 38.20% 175,998 18.66%
1988 464,217 57.02% 342,919 42.12% 7,024 0.86%
1984 536,029 61.46% 334,135 38.31% 2,003 0.23%
1980 416,655 57.87% 274,061 38.06% 29,298 4.07%
1976 357,536 52.17% 321,897 46.97% 5,831 0.85%
1972 365,672 62.56% 215,916 36.94% 2,943 0.50%
1968 202,079 42.90% 182,546 38.75% 86,412 18.35%
1964 154,401 40.32% 227,819 59.49% 765 0.20%
1960 168,170 51.68% 148,275 45.57% 8,954 2.75%
1956 155,555 61.11% 93,961 36.91% 5,033 1.98%
1952 146,665 57.63% 107,604 42.28% 228 0.09%
1948 43,117 35.16% 58,488 47.70% 21,012 17.14%
1944 11,843 11.37% 71,077 68.27% 21,199 20.36%
1940 20,797 22.02% 73,520 77.84% 136 0.14%
1936 8,083 11.97% 59,205 87.67% 245 0.36%
1932 8,604 15.37% 46,886 83.77% 480 0.86%
1928 27,188 55.70% 21,536 44.12% 86 0.18%
1924 8,953 27.57% 20,648 63.57% 2,878 8.86%
1920 7,735 26.82% 14,808 51.35% 6,294 21.83%
1916 3,009 22.05% 10,131 74.24% 507 3.72%
1912 726 8.01% 6,409 70.69% 1,931 21.30%


County facilities[edit]

The 1910 county courthouse was renovated in the 1950s to update its systems. Some residents, such as Martin Dreyer, a Houston Chronicle reporter, were disturbed by modernization of the building, saying its character had been ruined. In the 21st century, the facility received another major renovation. Completed in 2011, the $50 million, eight-year project was designed to restore notable historic aspects of the courthouse while providing for contemporary communication and building needs.[33]

The Texas First Court of Appeals and the Texas Fourteenth Court of Appeals, since September 3, 2010, are located in the 1910 Harris County courthouse.[34][35] Previously they were located on the campus of the South Texas College of Law.[36]

The Harris County Jail Complex of the Harris County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) is the largest in Texas, and one of the largest in the nation. In July, 2012, the facility held 9,113 prisoners. To handle overcrowding in the facility, the county had to ship inmates to other counties and some are housed out of the state.[37]

United States Congress[edit]

Representatives Name Party First Elected Area(s) of Harris County Represented
  District 2 Dan Crenshaw Republican 2018 Atascosita, Huffman, Humble, Kingwood, Spring
  District 7 Lizzie Pannill Fletcher Democratic 2018 West Houston, Memorial Villages, Bellaire, West University Place, west and northwest areas of county
  District 9 Al Green Democratic 2004 Alief, Southwest Houston, Houston's Southside
  District 10 Michael McCaul Republican 2004 Northwest
  District 18 Sheila Jackson Lee Democratic 1994 Downtown Houston, Bush IAH, northwest and northeast Houston, inner portions of Houston's Southside
  District 22 Troy Nehls Republican 2020 Ellington Field
  District 29 Sylvia Garcia Democratic 2018 Aldine, Channelview, East Houston, Fall Creek portion of Humble, Galena Park, Jacinto City, northern Pasadena, North Shore, western Sheldon, South Houston
  District 36 Brian Babin Republican 2014 Clear Lake City, NASA Johnson Space Center, southern and central Pasadena, Deer Park, Baytown, Crosby, La Porte, eastern Sheldon, Dayton, Seabrook, Morgan's Point, Shore Acres, El Lago, Nassau Bay, Taylor Lake Village

Texas Legislature[edit]

Texas Senate[edit]

District Name Party First Elected Area(s) of Harris County Represented
  4 Brandon Creighton Republican 2014 Kingwood, far eastern portions of Baytown
  6 Carol Alvarado Democratic 2013 Houston Ship Channel, eastern portions of Houston, Jacinto City, Galena Park, northern Pasadena, western portion of Baytown
  7 Paul Bettencourt Republican 2014 Memorial Villages, Memorial/Spring Branch area, Addicks Reservoir, northwest portions of county
  11 Larry Taylor Republican 2013 Southeast
  13 Borris Miles Democratic 2016 Downtown Houston, Texas Medical Center, southwest and northeast Houston, Houston's Southside
  15 John Whitmire Democratic 1983 Northwest Houston, Bush IAH, southern portion of Humble, eastern Harris County
  17 Joan Huffman Republican 2008 Meyerland, Bellaire, West University Place, much of Greater Katy area, far west Houston, Barker Reservoir

Texas House of Representatives[edit]

District Name Party First Elected Area(s) of Harris County Represented
  126 Kevin Roberts Republican 2016 Champions/FM 1960 area
  127 Dan Huberty Republican 2010 Humble, Kingwood, Lake Houston, Atascocita, Crosby, Wallisville
  128 Briscoe Cain Republican 2016 Baytown, Deer Park, La Porte
  129 Dennis Paul Republican 2014 Clear Lake City, NASA Johnson Space Center, Southeast Harris County (including Seabrook and Webster)
  130 Tom Oliverson Republican 2016 Northwest Harris County (including Cypress, Tomball, Waller)
  131 Alma Allen Democratic 2004 far Southwest Houston and far South Side
  132 Gina Calanni Democratic 2018 West Harris County (including Greater Katy area)
  133 Jim Murphy Republican 2010 (Also served 2006–2008) West Houston along West Sam Houston Tollway, including western portion of Memorial/Spring Branch and part of the Energy Corridor
  134 Ann Johnson Democratic 2020 Inner western portions of Houston (including Meyerland, River Oaks and Memorial Park), Texas Medical Center, West University Place, Bellaire, Southside Place, Western Montrose
  135 Jon Rosenthal Democratic 2018 Jersey Village and southeastern segments of the Champions/FM 1960 area
  137 Gene Wu Democratic 2013 Southwest Houston (including Sharpstown and Gulfton)
  138 Dwayne Bohac Republican 2002 Northwest Houston and parts of the Memorial/Spring Branch area north of I-10, Addicks Reservoir
  139 Jarvis Johnson Democratic 2016 North Houston and Aldine west of I-45
  140 Armando Walle Democratic 2008 North Houston and Aldine east of I-45
  141 Senfronia Thompson Democratic 1972 Northeast Houston, Bush IAH, Greenspoint, southern portion of Humble
  142 Harold Dutton, Jr. Democratic 1984 East Houston and Northshore area
  143 Ana Hernandez Luna Democratic 2006 East Houston within Loop 610, Houston Ship Channel, Galena Park, Jacinto City, northern Pasadena
  144 Mary Ann Perez Democratic 2016 Southern Pasadena, far southeast Houston
  145 Christina Morales Democratic 2019 Inner southeastern portions of Houston (mainly east of I-45), South Houston (not part of the city of Houston)
  146 Shawn Thierry Democratic 2016 Inner portions of Houston's South Side
  147 Garnet Coleman Democratic 1990 Downtown Houston, inner southeastern portions of Houston (mainly west of I-45), Eastern Montrose, Midtown, Third Ward
  148 Jessica Farrar Democratic 1994 North and Northwest Houston mainly within Loop 610 (including Houston Heights)
  149 Hubert Vo Democratic 2004 Far west Houston, Alief, unincorporated portions of Katy area east of Fry Rd, Barker Reservoir
  150 Valoree Swanson Republican 2016 North Harris County (including Spring and Klein)

County government[edit]

Harris County elected officials[edit]

Position Name Party
  County Judge Lina Hidalgo Democratic
  Commissioner, Precinct 1 Rodney Ellis Democratic
  Commissioner, Precinct 2 Adrian Garcia Democratic
  Commissioner, Precinct 3 Tom Ramsey Republican
  Commissioner, Precinct 4 R. Jack Cagle[38] Republican
  County Attorney Christian D. Menefee Democratic
  District Attorney Kim Ogg Democratic
  District Clerk Marilyn Burgess Democratic
  County Clerk Teneshia Hudspeth Democratic
  Sheriff Ed Gonzalez Democratic
  Tax Assessor-Collector Ann Harris Bennett Democratic
  Treasurer Dylan Osborne Democratic
  School Trustee, At-Large, Pos. 3 Richard Cantu Democratic
  School Trustee, At-Large, Pos. 5 Erica Davis Democratic
  School Trustee, At-Large, Pos. 7 David W. Brown Democratic
  School Trustee, Pct. 1, Pos. 6 Danyahel (Danny) Norris Democratic
  School Trustee, Pct. 2, Pos. 1 Amy Hinojosa Democratic
  School Trustee, Pct. 3, Pos. 4 Andrea Duhon Democratic
  School Trustee, Pct. 4, Pos. 2 Eric Dick Republican
  Constable, Precinct 1 Alan Rosen Democratic
  Constable, Precinct 2 Jerry Garcia Democratic
  Constable, Precinct 3 Sherman Eagleton Democratic
  Constable, Precinct 4 Mark Herman Republican
  Constable, Precinct 5 Ted Heap Republican
  Constable, Precinct 6 Silvia Trevino Democratic
  Constable, Precinct 7 May Walker Democratic
  Constable, Precinct 8 Phil Sandlin Republican

County services[edit]

Harris County Criminal Courts Building

The Harris County Flood Control District manages the effects of flooding in the county.

The Harris County Sheriff's Office operates jail facilities and is the primary provider of law enforcement services to the unincorporated areas of the county. The sheriff is the conservator of the peace in the county. The Harris County jail facilities are in northern downtown on the north side of the Buffalo Bayou. The 1200 Jail,[39] the 1307 Jail, (originally a TDCJ facility, leased by the county),[40] and the 701 Jail (formed from existing warehouse storage space) are on the same site.[41]

The Community Services Department provides community services. The department maintains the 20 acres (8.1 ha) Oates Road Cemetery (also known as the Harris County Cemetery) for indigents in eastern Houston, near the former Southern Bible College. In March 2010, the county adopted a cremation first policy, meaning that the default preference for most indigents is to have them cremated instead of buried. As of 2010, the county authorized the Community Services Department to purchase about 50 acres (20 ha) of land in the Huffman area so the county will have additional spaces for indigent burials.[42]

The Harris County Housing Authority (HCHA) is a governmental nonprofit corporation which addresses the need for quality affordable housing.[43] The HCHA has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as the highest performing housing authority in the region and was named one of America's 10 best Public Housing Authorities.[44] Guy R. Rankin, IV is chief executive officer of Harris County Housing Authority (HCHA).

State government[edit]

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice operates some correctional facilities in Harris County, including:

As of 2001, Kegans and Lychner serves male state jail offenders from Harris County, with Kegans getting lower-risk offenders and Lychner getting higher-risk and special-needs offenders. If both of the male state jails in Harris County are full, excess offenders go to the Gist Unit in Jefferson County. Female state jail offenders from Harris County go to the Plane Unit in Liberty County.[48]

The South Texas Intermediate Sanction Facility Unit, a parole confinement facility for males operated by Global Expertise in Outsourcing, is in downtown Houston, west of Minute Maid Park.[49]

Law enforcement[edit]

Harris County Sheriff Ford Police Interceptor

As of 2018 there are over 60 law enforcement agencies operating in the county.[50] They include: the Harris County Sheriff's Office, the Harris County Constable Office, the Houston Police Department, METRO Police Department, other municipal police departments, and school district police departments.[51]

The combined yearly sum spent by these agencies circa 2018 was $1.6 billion. That year the Rice University Kinder Institute for Urban Research released a report advocating for consolidating several of these agencies as a way of saving taxpayer money.[50]

Administration by judiciary[edit]

The chief administrative officer of a Texas County, as set up in the Texas Constitution, is the County Judge, who sits as the chair of the county's Commissioners' Court (the equivalent of a Board of Supervisors in some other states). In 2019, Judge Lina Hidalgo was sworn in as the County Judge. The county is split into 4 geographical divisions called precincts. Each precinct elects a Commissioner to represent them on the commissioners court and oversee county government functions in the precinct.

Other elected positions in Harris County include a County Attorney, a County Clerk, a District Attorney, a District Clerk, a Sheriff, 8 Constables, a Tax Assessor-Collector, a County Treasurer, and every judge in the county except municipal judges, who are appointed by the mayors and confirmed by city councils of their respective cities.

Many of the organs of the Harris County government reside in the Harris County Campus in Downtown Houston.

Economy[edit]

Hewlett-Packard United States offices, formerly headquarters of Compaq

In 2000, the largest employers in Harris County were Administaff, Compaq, Continental Airlines, Memorial Hermann Healthcare System, and Southwestern Bell.[52]

The University of Houston System's annual impact on the Houston-area's economy as of 2011 equates to that of a major corporation: $1.1 billion in new funds attracted annually to the Houston area, $3.13 billion in total economic benefit, and 24,000 local jobs generated.[53][54] This is in addition to the over 12,500 new graduates the UH System produces every year who enter the workforce in Houston and throughout Texas. These degree-holders tend to stay in Houston; after five years, 80.5% of graduates are still living and working in the region.[54]

In 2009, 20% of the office space in northwest Harris County was vacant. As of that year, more office space was being built; in 2010, northwest Harris will have twice the amount of office space that it had in 2009. The vacancy rate in the area near Farm to Market Road 1960 and Texas State Highway 249 in north Harris County was 53% in 2009.[55]

Various companies are headquartered in incorporated and unincorporated areas throughout Harris County.

Academy Sports and Outdoors, a sporting goods retailer, has its corporate offices and product distribution center in unincorporated western Harris County.[56] Hewlett-Packard formerly operated its United States region office in a complex northwest unincorporated Harris County; the complex formerly belonged to Compaq prior to Compaq's merger with HP.[57][58] The HP offices, which are now occupied by Hewlett Packard Enterprise, are now in a limited purpose annexation in Houston.[59] Smith International has its headquarters in the Greenspoint district and in an unincorporated area in Harris County.[60][61] BJ Services Company has its headquarters in the Spring Branch district and in unincorporated Harris County.[62][63] Cybersoft Technologies has its headquarters in an unincorporated area.[64] In 2012, Noble Energy announced that it was consolidating its headquarters and two other Greater Houston offices into a 10-story building on the former Compaq headquarters property in unincorporated Harris County.[65] In 2022, ExxonMobil announced it was moving its headquarters to Harris County from Irving, Texas.[66] Goya Foods previously had its Texas offices in an unincorporated area in the county.[67]

General Electric operates an aeroderivative division facility on Jacintoport in unincorporated Harris County.[68][69] Randall's Food Markets, a subsidiary of Safeway Inc., has its distribution center in unincorporated Harris County.[70]

In 2008, KBR announced that it will open a new office facility in an unincorporated area in western Harris County.[71] In December KBR said that it would not continue with the plans due to a weakened economy.[72] In January 2009 KBR announced that it will not open the new office facility.[73]

Education[edit]

Primary and secondary schools[edit]

Harris County Department of Education – Ronald W. Reagan Building

The Harris County Department of Education, a county division overseeing education by local school districts, with a 2011 budget around $100 million, is headquartered in the Ronald W. Reagan Building in the Northside district in Houston. It has an Adult Education Center in the Northside and an office in the North Post Oak Building in Spring Branch.[63][74][75]

Several school districts serve Harris County communities. Among the 26 districts are:[76]

On July 1, 2013, the North Forest Independent School District closed and its territory became a part of Houston ISD.[77]

In addition, state-operated charter schools are in the county. Charter schools in unincorporated areas include:

The department of education of the county operates the Highpoint Schools.[79]

Colleges and universities[edit]

Rice University - Sally Port

Four separate and distinct state universities are located in Harris County. The University of Houston is a nationally recognized Tier One research university, and is the flagship institution of the University of Houston System.[80][81][82] The third-largest university in Texas,[83] the University of Houston counted 43,774 (fall 2016)[84] students on its 667-acre campus in southeast Houston. The University of Houston–Clear Lake and the University of Houston–Downtown are stand-alone universities; they are not branch campuses of the University of Houston. Located in the historic community of Third Ward is Texas Southern University, one of the largest historically black colleges and universities in the United States.

Several private institutions of higher learning—ranging from liberal arts colleges to a nationally recognized research university—are located within Harris County. Rice University is one of the leading teaching and research universities of the United States and ranked the nation's 17th best overall university by U.S. News & World Report.[85]

Four community college districts exist with campuses in and around Harris County:[86]

  • The Houston Community College System serves Houston ISD (including the former North Forest ISD), Katy ISD, Spring Branch ISD, Alief ISD, and Stafford MSD. This includes most of the City of Houston.
  • The Lone Star College System (formerly North-Harris Montgomery Community College District) serves Aldine ISD, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, Tomball ISD, Humble ISD, and Klein ISD. This constitutes the northwestern through northeastern parts of the county.
  • San Jacinto College serves Pasadena ISD, Galena Park ISD, Sheldon ISD, Channelview ISD, Deer Park ISD, La Porte ISD, and the Harris County part of Clear Creek ISD. This constitutes southeastern and eastern portions of the county
  • Lee College serves Goose Creek ISD, Crosby ISD, and Huffman ISD, far east to northeast sections

The legislation does not specify which community college is for the Harris County portion of Waller ISD.

The Houston Community College and Lone Star College systems are within the 10 largest institutions of higher learning in the United States.

Public libraries[edit]

Harris County operates its own public library system, the Harris County Public Library.

In addition, Houston has the Houston Public Library, a city-controlled public library system.

The cities of Baytown, Bellaire, Deer Park, and Pasadena have their own city-controlled libraries.

Emergency services[edit]

Police services[edit]

The 1200 Jail, the headquarters of the Harris County Sheriff's Office
Little York Volunteer Fire Department Station 81

Incorporated cities operate their own police departments, though Harris County operates the Harris County Sheriff's Office, which serves unincorporated areas and supplements police forces of incorporated areas.

Harris County also has a constable for each of its eight precincts and hundreds of deputies assigned to each. They mainly serve in a patrol function, established to maintain peace in the county as well as providing security to county buildings such as court houses and district attorney's offices.

Municipal fire/EMS services[edit]

The Harris County Fire Marshal's Office operates an Investigative Branch, an Emergency Response Branch (Hazardous Materials Response) and Prevention Branch (Inspections). The office is headquartered at 2318 Atascocita Road in an unincorporated area.[87] Incorporated cities operate their own fire departments. The city of Houston operates the Houston Fire Department which provides fire and emergency medical coverage to the city of Houston.

Emergency services districts[edit]

Areas outside of municipal city limits (and some smaller municipalities) have fire and emergency medical services provided by Emergency Service Districts, distinct governmental units with the ability to levy property and sales taxes. ESD's may provide fire service, EMS service or both (dual services) and the services they provide determine the limits on their adoptable tax rate.

ESD's may provide services directly or may contract with an agency or agencies for services. Additionally, ESD's may overlap one another to ensure both fire and EMS services are provided.

ESD Type Provider Sales Tax Rate (2015)[88] Property Tax Rate per $100 Valuation (2015)[89]
Harris County ESD #1 EMS Harris County Emergency Corps[90] .10
Harris County ESD #2 EMS South Lake Houston EMS 1% .0280120
Harris County ESD #4 (4A) Dual Huffman FD 1% (2%) .10 (.10)
Harris County ESD #5 EMS HCESD5 EMS 1% .02
Harris County ESD #6 EMS North Channel EMS .5% .0089
Harris County ESD #7 Fire Spring VFD 1% .06545
Harris County ESD #8 EMS Northwest EMS[91] .10
Harris County ESD #9 Dual Cy-Fair FD 1% .055
Harris County ESD #10 Fire Eastex Fire Department[92] 1% .10
Harris County ESD #11[93] EMS https://esd11.com/ .04185
Harris County ESD #12 Fire Cloverleaf Fire Department .5% .03
Harris County ESD #13 Fire Cypress Creek FD .08826
Harris County ESD #14 Dual Highlands VFD 2% .05
Harris County ESD #15 Fire Tomball FD 1% .05
Harris County ESD #16 Fire Klein VFD 1% .05
Harris County ESD #17 Fire Little York VFD 1% .10
Harris County ESD #19 Fire Sheldon VFD .03
Harris County ESD #20 Fire Northwest FD 1% .10
Harris County ESD #21 Dual Rosehill FD 1% .10
Harris County ESD #24 Fire Aldine Fire & Rescue .10
Harris County ESD #25 Fire Westfield FD .10
Harris County ESD #28 Fire Ponderosa VFD 1% .10
Harris County ESD #29 Fire Champions VFD 1% .09032
Harris County ESD #46 Dual Atascocita VFD[94] 1% .08
Harris County ESD #47 Dual Westlake FD 1% .095186
Harris County ESD #48[95] Dual HCESD48 FD 1% .089
Harris County ESD #50 Dual Channelview FD 1% .05
Harris County ESD #60 Fire Sheldon VFD 1% .05
Harris County ESD #75 Dual Baytown FD 1% .0875
Harris County ESD #80 Fire Crosby FD 1% .04178
Harris-Fort Bend ESD #100 Dual Community FD 1% .07951
Waller-Harris ESD #200[96] Other Multiple Fire/EMS Agencies .0995

Hospital services[edit]

Within Harris County, hospital services for the indigent and needy are provided by the Harris Health System (Harris County Hospital District), a separate governmental entity. Harris Health System operates two hospitals: LBJ General Hospital and Ben Taub General Hospital, as well as many clinics and the former Quentin Mease Community Hospital.

Additionally, numerous private and public hospitals operate in Harris County, including institutions in Texas Medical Center and throughout the county, for example the Harris County Psychiatric Center

Transportation[edit]

Harris County Annex M has the headquarters of the Harris County Transit agency.[97]

Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas (METRO) serves several areas within Harris County. An agency of the Harris County government, Harris County Transit, serves communities in Harris County that are not served by METRO.[98]

In Harris County, the average one way commute for a person using an automobile was 25 minutes, while the average commute for a person not using an automobile was 44 minutes, a 76% longer duration than the figure for commuters with cars.[99]

Major highways[edit]

See List of Highways in Harris County for more roadways in Harris County.

Mass transit[edit]

Many areas in Harris County are served by Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas (METRO), a public transportation agency headquartered in Downtown Houston.

Some communities outside of METRO's service area, such as Baytown, Texas and Channelview, Texas, are served by Harris County Transit.

Intercity buses[edit]

Greyhound Bus Lines operates various stations throughout Harris County.

Airports[edit]

Two commercial airports, George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport, are located in Houston and in Harris County. The Houston Airport System defines Harris County as a part of Bush Intercontinental's service region.[100] The city of Houston operates Ellington Field, a general aviation and military airport in Harris County.

General aviation airports for fixed-wing aircraft outside of Houston include:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Coordinates: 29°52′N 95°23′W / 29.86°N 95.39°W / 29.86; -95.39