Glenn Hughes resigned from one county job Thursday and was named to another one Monday.
Wise County commissioners appointed Hughes interim county judge at their regular meeting this week.
Hughes, the county’s special project manager, had been serving as temporary Precinct 4 commissioner since Terry Ross was suspended in August 2012. He was appointed to that post by District Judge Roger Towery but resigned last week after Towery filed an order removing Ross from office.
The county judge’s seat has been vacant since the death of Judge Bill McElhaney in October. Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns had fulfilled those duties the last five months.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Danny White was the first to speak up in favor of Hughes, recommending him for the post.
“I feel like we have people that are willing to help the county, and I appreciate that, but my thought is I would like to see someone who is knowledgable about what we’re doing in the county.
“We have several things that we have to get resolved as soon as possible, so I feel like knowledge is more important than qualifications,” he said. “I don’t want to say anyone is overqualified or under-qualified. I feel like we could put Glenn Hughes in there, if he’s willing to accept it, and he’s knowledgeable about what we as commissioners are doing right now.”
White asked other commissioners to speak up if they knew of anyone “knowledgable or more knowledgable.” Burns noted that two other men seeking to secure the appointment were also present – Don Alexander of Decatur and Bridgeport Index reporter Charles Duke.
Although Precinct 3 Commissioner Harry Lamance didn’t endorse Alexander or Duke, he was not convinced Hughes was the best choice.
“While Glenn has done a swell job, I think it’s our duty to be above reproach on any aspect and in the perspective of appointing someone to this … I don’t know. I have mixed feelings …,” he said. “I hate to be in this position. I wish Judge Bill was still here. It’d be a lot easier on us.
“How the public perceives what we do is important,” he said. “Whatever it is … it’s how they perceive it.”
Although Lamance never mentioned a specific concern, he and Hughes did run against each other in the 2012 Republican primary seeking the Precinct 3 commissioner job. Lamance easily won, 571-335.
Public Works Director Tom Goode spoke up in favor of Hughes and said since he had worked closely with McElhaney, Hughes would be able to move forward with some of McElhaney’s plans.
“I think Glenn is going to continue as Bill would have done,” he said. “That set us all back, him passing. I think this will enable us to continue with the plans that we had made. I feel like it will be OK … Him being in there will be a continuation of what we got started and what we’ve got going.”
Sheriff David Walker echoed Goode’s sentiments.
“I agree with Tom. When Glenn was helping the judge do stuff, he had an office down there with ours, and he knew what we were working on,” he said. “I think Glenn would keep continuity with the court.”
Burns then gave the floor to Alexander and Duke, who was also covering the meeting for the Index.
Alexander said he’d been a resident of Wise County for 26 years. He worked for Denton County 19 of those years, most recently as elections administrator, a job he held from 1999 to 2009, when he retired. Prior to that he held a position working closely with the county judge. He worked on county budgets throughout his tenure.
“I’ve always kept up with things in Wise County,” he said. “I couldn’t be involved in politics here, but I kind of stayed in the background. I have expertise in doing the job, and I’m currently retired. The only thing I would have to adjust is my RV schedule.”
Duke said he’d been an absentee landowner in Wise County since age 9 when his family bought property on Lake Bridgeport. He’s now living on that property. He also cited experience with budgets during his corporate career.
“I think that’s where I was coming from with the court … as far as being able to work with budgets,” he said. “But in light of Glenn Hughes and the situation here, I really don’t know if you can do better than that.”
White said all three were qualified but stuck with his original recommendation of Hughes. He also noted the two are not brothers-in-law, as some people think. (In fact, White’s brother-in-law is Lowell Hughes, Glenn’s brother. Lowell is married to White’s sister, Brenda.)
Burns said he didn’t know of anyone more qualified than Hughes to handle the current issues facing county commissioners.
“Charles brings the most business expertise to the court,” Burns said. “Don has the best record as far as being a former county employee and responsible for budgets, but I will also say that Judge Bill picked Glenn to fill a position and then hired him.”
McElhaney appointed Hughes to temporarily fill the Precinct 3 commissioner job in 2009 when Mikel Richardson died, and later hired him to be the county’s special projects manager.
Burns noted a decision didn’t have to be made at Monday’s meeting, but it did need to be done before work started on the budget for fiscal year 2015.
“A commissioner can’t do the budget. Somone else has to, an appointed officer,” he said. “I’ve been honored to get to do (the judge’s job), but I’m not doing a good job at either place, (my precinct barn) or the courthouse. I’d really like to do one or the other and would like to go back to what I was elected to do, the sooner, the better.”
Hughes spoke, addressing Lamance’s concern, before the vote.
“I know these other gentlemen are probably smarter than me, but no one is more open and honest than me,” he said. “If the public ever questions anything, they’ll never find that I’ve done anything dishonest or illegal. I feel like my honesty will carry us through anything we need to face if there’s an issue in that department.”
Commissioners approved appointing Hughes 2-1, with Lamance being the lone vote in opposition.
Hughes said Judge McElhaney’s loss left a big void in Wise County government, and he hoped to continue some of his plans.
“I appreciate the confidence,” he said, “and Kevin, we all appreciate what you’ve done.”
Hughes will be county judge until either Republican J.D. Clark or Democrat Jim Stegall is elected in November. Since the office was vacated at the death of Judge McElhaney, the winner will take office as soon as the votes are canvassed instead of waiting until January 2015.