Ellis County Judge Todd Little nominated Precinct 3 county commissioner Paul Perry for judge pro-tem during the commissioners’ court meeting Tuesday at the Ellis County Courthouse.
Instead, the commissioners’ court motioned to re-elect Precinct 2 commissioner Lane Grayson as judge pro-tem in his place.
Grayson was previously appointed as judge pro-tem by former county judge Carol Bush in December 2016. His term as judge pro-tem expired in December last year. With Little elected as county judge in November, he was given the option to either re-appoint Grayson as judge pro-tem or give someone else the opportunity to fill the seat.
He elected to nominate Perry for the position.
“If I’m absent from the scene and I can’t do what we’re doing today, Paul would sit in this chair,” Little stated.
Four public speakers attended the commissioners’ court meeting to speak on behalf of the appointment, with three speaking in favor and one speaking against. Resident Alex Smith expressed confidence in the county judge's decision, and he encouraged the commissioners to do the same.
“We have a new county judge who has been elected countywide by a substantial margin,” Smith expressed. “He’s early in his term. I think we ought to support his decisions right now in this administration.”
However, resident James Parks dissented the nomination, saying that Perry’s previous votes on the tax rate and budget were not in the best interest of the county.
“For him to take any credit for the superb bond rating from Moody’s is, in my opinion, shameful,” Parks remarked. “He’s played politics with the budget and tax rate. If it hadn’t been for the majority of this court, it could have been to the financial detriment of Ellis County.”
Little reinforced that this decision was not one made out of political preference of expediency. Instead, he found that pro-tems were typically assigned to commissioners who have served on the court for the longest after asking judges from surrounding counties.
Since Perry has been the longest-serving member of the commissioners’ court, serving since 2013, Little made a motion to nominate him as judge pro-tem.
“I support more than one person on this court as pro-tem,” Little stated. “You’re all outstanding guys. All four of you guys are qualified.”
Grayson, although not in favor of the appointment, stated that he respected the judge’s decision and he would support whatever the commissioners decided.
However, Precinct 1 county commissioner Randy Stinson raised an objection to the nomination, stating that Grayson has represented the court and the pro-tem position well throughout his term.
“It’s not like Grayson didn’t do a good job,” Stinson remarked.
Precinct 4 county commissioner Kyle Butler echoed a similar thought, asking why they would change the leadership so suddenly when Grayson has served the role dutifully so far.
After a few minutes of back-and-forth discussion, no commissioner made a motion for either approval or denial for Little’s nomination for Perry. Then, after a prolonged silence, Perry formally withdrew his nomination.
“Experience has taught me many things over the last 59 years,” Perry remarked. “I have learned so much in these last few minutes.”
Stinson made a motion to re-appoint Lane Grayson as judge pro-tem, with Butler seconding. The commissioners’ court voted 3-1 in favor of the measure.
Perry issued a stern “no” in response to the motion. And, he had another remark to give Grayson himself.
“You walked on tradition in this court and used your relationship with the previous county judge to get the position that you have,” Perry stated. “I have set that aside today. But commissioner Grayson, you and I both know this was based on your relationship with the previous county judge.”