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EXPLAINER: What goes into being a county judge?

Each of Texas’ 254 counties has a county judge.
Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 9:47 PM CST
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - News Channel 6 is taking a closer look at a highly coveted position in local government, and it’s a spot that’s up for grabs in several counties across Texoma for the March primary election.

This election season, voters in many counties across Texoma will be electing or re-electing a county judge. It’s a position that oversees just about everything in county government.

“The primary role is the chief administrator at the county level,” Dr. Steve Garrison, MSU Texas political science professor, said.

Each of Texas’ 254 counties has a county judge. It’s the highest elected position a county can have.

“They deal with all the administrative things, as well as oversee important things like road maintenance,” Garrison said.

“The county judge constitutionally can do civil, criminal, juvenile, probate, mental health, guardianships,” Wichita County Judge Woody Gossom said.

County judges are elected to four-year terms, and candidates don’t need a background in law to run.

“If you are elected, the state requires you to do legal training to make sure you’re up to speed on that,” Garrison said.

Gossom has served in the position for over 20 years, and he will not be seeking reelection.

“You don’t have to be a genius, you just have to have reasonable intelligence, but the biggest thing is you have to care about people,” Gossom said.

Gossom explained that to be the right fit for this position, you have to be willing to take the time to hear the concerns of those you represent.

“In this county, you’ve got to be a servant,” Gossom said. “Public servant is an interesting word. If you live up to it you’ll do a good job.”

He adds that if you can take the time to hear both sides of a story and get all the facts, you’ll make better decisions.

Garrison gave advice on what to keep an eye on when it comes to candidates running for this top spot.

“There shouldn’t really be the big high button issues, crazy topics that we would see at the national level and I would kind of be suspicious of any candidate that’s going onto issues along those lines,” Garrison said. “As a voter I want to know about your ability to maintain the roads and balance the budget and things of that nature.”

Click here for coverage of March 2022 Texas Primaries.

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