Every so often, County Progress asks our distinguished Judges and Commissioners to allow us a glimpse into their public lives, giving us a fresh appreciation for the myriad of roles and responsibilities they shoulder every day. Our thanks to Anderson County Judge Robert Johnston.
Anderson County Judge Robert Johnston
As a native of Anderson County, it is my honor and pleasure to serve the citizens of my home county as County Judge. Born and raised in Palestine, my will to serve was instilled in me at a very young age. This I attribute to immediate family members whom I respect and admire, the first being my grandfather, V.M. Johnston, who started his law practice in Palestine in 1925 after returning from naval service in World War 1. He held various offices in the county during his career. District Judge of the 3rd Court was his last position, which he held from 1945 until his death in 1961. Luther Johnston, my great uncle and grandfather’s brother, also served the county in various positions including County Judge. My father, Hoyt Johnston, served in the Marines as a fighter pilot in both World War II and the Korean War. Upon returning home from Korea, he finished law school and practiced law here with my Uncle Luther until his death. My dad served on various boards and commissions for both the city and county. He also served on the Palestine ISD board for 12 years.
Carrying on the family tradition, I began by serving on the Palestine City Council in the mid-1990s. As a member of the Palestine Chamber of Commerce and a Rotarian, I participate in many community activities. I am currently serving as chairman of the Executive Committee and the CEO/RPO board of the East Texas Council of Governments. I am the president of the North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association, and I serve on the local YMCA board and the Anderson County Veterans Service Office board. I am a member of First Baptist Church of Palestine.
Is It What You Expected?
I am often asked if this position is what I expected it to be, and the answer is profoundly “No.” I started two years in advance of my first primary getting ready for the job. I went to every Commissioners Court meeting that I could and spent time in the Judge’s office talking to her about the position. I also attended probate hearings. I thought that I was as ready as one can be, only to be proved wrong very quickly. There is nothing that I have found that can prepare someone in advance to be a County Judge. There are so many different responsibilities included with this job that are unknown to the candidate before taking office. It’s because of these reasons that I look forward to coming to work every morning.
There are very few days that one could call typical in Anderson County. Whenever the phone rings, I wonder what problem will present itself next. Some problems are an easier fix than others. The problems that I face I’m sure are the same type that many County Judges are presented with in their counties: mental health issues, jail problems, budgets, employees, emergencies, etc. This is why I love my job. I spend a lot of time working on solutions to make our county run more smoothly.
The biggest challenge I had when I first took office was repairing the relationship between my office and the rest of the courthouse. There seemed to be a lack of communication between this office and quite a few of the other elected officials. I’m proud to say that we have been able to work out most all of the problems that existed in the past. I believe that you have to have an open line of communication with offices to be able to run a smooth program.
My greatest strength, in my opinion, is being able to work with various people and groups to achieve a common goal. As County Judge you never know what hat you are going to put on first. With that being said, each and every day I look forward to the challenges I face in the community that I serve. My greatest weakness is not being able to say no and getting myself over extended. My father taught me that if you are going to do a job, then always strive to achieve the best result possible. In making decisions for the citizens of Anderson County, I always base them on what is best for the county.