Top Stories of 2013 #5: County Judge dies in Commissioners meeting

By Messenger Staff | Published Saturday, December 28, 2013
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Wise County Judge Bill McElhaney, 67, died Oct. 14 after collapsing during a commissioners meeting at the Wise County Courthouse in Decatur.

Leader Lost

LEADER LOST – County Judge Bill McElhaney collapsed and died at a commissioners meeting in October. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

The judge was addressing commissioners when he paused, saying he was dizzy, then lost consciousness and slumped into his chair at about 10:15 a.m. Some of those in the room rendered immediate first aid, and Wise County medics arrived quickly, treating him at the scene before transporting him to Wise Regional Health System in Decatur.

He was pronounced dead just before noon by Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Jan Morrow.

McElhaney, a Bridgeport native, was serving his second term in office, but had spent his life in service to Wise County. He had just been named vice president of the North Central Texas Council of Governments, and had served on the Bridgeport school board and city council for many years. As county judge, he had worked to unify commissioners court and the county, expand educational opportunities for citizens and provide the public with the highest level of services.

Many county department heads and employees considered him not only their leader and co-worker, but also a friend. His sudden death left many Wise County residents stunned and heartsick. More than 600 attended McElhaney’s memorial service at the Decatur Civic Center.

“He passed away doing what he loved to do – working for others and trying to keep the county moving,” said Sheriff David Walker. “… The county will continue, but everyone will definitely have a hole in their heart.”

Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns, the most senior member of commissioners court, is filling the judge’s role until an interim is named, which is expected sometime after the first of the year.

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