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 Lamb County Judge James M. “Mike” DeLoach for taking the time to visit with us.
I am a lifelong resident of Lamb County. I was born in a hospital that is about 100 yards from my office. I was raised in Sudan, Texas, which is on the west side of our county. My family came to the Sudan area in 1923. I graduated from Sudan High School in 1980. I graduated from South Plains College with an Associate Degree in Ag Business in 1982 and farmed in Lamb County for 14 years. I graduated from Wayland Baptist University in 2000 with a degree in occupational education with an emphasis in ag business. I am also a licensed paramedic and advanced coordinator.
After I quit farming, I worked as a full-time paramedic and EMS educator. I have been the director of EMS training at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, South Plains College, and Clovis Community College. I still own my own EMS training and consulting business, West Texas EMS Resources. In the past 30 years, I have trained several hundred EMS professionals on the South Plains and around Texas and Eastern New Mexico.
I was appointed in January 2011 by then-Gov. Rick Perry to the Governor’s EMS and Trauma Advisory Council. I was reappointed in 2015 and 2019 by Gov. Greg Abbott, a position I continue to hold.
In 2010 after being approached by several county residents, I decided to run for County Judge. I was elected in November 2010 and sworn in Jan. 1, 2011, and I started my fourth term in January.
My wife, Kelly, is an elementary reading interventionist with Littlefield ISD. We have two grown children: Kristin is a communications specialist with UMC/Lubbock EMS, and Justin is the chief development officer for the Children’s Advocacy Center of Greater West Texas in San Angelo.
IS IT WHAT YOU EXPECTED?
The job is what I expected and so much more. I started “hanging around” the courthouse in 1968 when I was 6 or 7 years old. My mom worked in the county clerk’s office. I played on the floor of the County Judge’s office (my office) when he wasn’t busy. He had Hot Wheels, and I loved playing with Hot Wheels. I have been around the courthouse most of my life.
I don’t think anyone is totally prepared for the magnitude of what some people expect of their County Judge. One thing is for sure: You never know what problem you are going to be dealing with next. Among my greatest assets are the people I work with. I am fortunate to have one of my best friends as our district/county attorney (now district judge). He is my most trusted advisor. I am also fortunate to work with some of the most dedicated public servants I have ever known. I have a great Commissioners Court and county employees who truly have servant hearts.
A typical day doesn’t exist in my world. Each day is unique in its own way. Yes, I have things that are scheduled on the same day of the week every week or every two weeks, but even those days are not typical. Around the office we joke about a day that the calendar is full or a “busy” day. That day is smooth as silk. Now, the day that doesn’t have much on the calendar is a different story. That’s the day we better look out because problems are going to show up from all directions.
I have spent days when I might not talk to anyone except my office staff, and then there are days I might not see my chair until 4:30 in the afternoon.
There are several challenges that all County Judges face on a regular basis. But the challenge that tested me the most was COVID.
First, I lost a good friend and employee to COVID on July 21, 2020. My emergency management coordinator, Gina Streety, died as a result of COVID. We are almost certain she was infected while at work. She was not only a great friend, but she had been a county employee for more than 30 years. I never dreamed I would lose an employee for all practical purposes “in the line of duty.” I am forever changed because of that experience.
Second, the responsibility of making decisions that not only affected the health and safety of our citizens but also their freedoms was an enormous challenge and massive responsibility, made harder by the polarized opinions of the public in regard to the pandemic.
With most county business, I can put people in the room and solve most any problem, but with COVID, most decisions were mine. Yes, I had a fantastic team advising me, but I had to make the call. At the end of the day, I felt as if EVERYONE was looking at me.
FAVORITE PART OF BEING A COUNTY JUDGE:
Former Tom Green County Judge Steve Floyd once said, “Find a way to deliver services. We are servants, not a protected class.” When I come in contact with someone either in my courtroom, in my office, or on the street who I can actually help, that makes my day. That’s why we are here, and that is by far my favorite thing.
I owe everything I am to my family and the people of Lamb County. They raised me and have given me every opportunity I have had in my professional career.
I do this job because I want to serve others. As I learned in I Peter 4:10: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”