Yoakum County Judge Jim Barron
The benefit of a good County Commissioner was very clear to me at an early age. While I was still a student at Plains High School, my desire to be in a position to help others led me to begin considering a life in politics. It was then that I knew I would one day run for the office of County Commissioner.
After three years of college, my wife, JoAnn, our two sons and I moved back to my hometown of Plains. I farmed and managed a grain elevator for several years before I made the decision to run for the office of County Commissioner. I was elected Commissioner of Precinct 3 in 1977. It was a privilege to serve in this capacity for 24 years before retiring in 2001. The first day Commissioners Court met without me, I felt like a man without a country. The people of Yoakum County had become my extended family, and I missed them very much.
For the next six years, I owned and operated the first Internet business in our area and helped JoAnn care for our aging mothers. While my work was satisfying, something was missing. I had a great desire to be involved in county government again. Many people don’t realize what an important role county government plays in the lives of our citizens at the county, state and national levels.
When our County Judge retired, I saw an opportunity to come back to the family I missed so much. I made the decision to run for the office of County Judge after much prayer and encouragement from friends and family. In 2007, I began my adventure in the office of County Judge. My love for Yoakum County has only grown, and I am looking forward to seeking another term in office.
IS IT WHAT YOU EXPECTED?
Having served as judge pro tem many times, I was familiar with the County Judge’s role. I thought I knew what to expect. However, what I didn’t realize was the magnitude of all I would need to learn on the judicial side of the position. After my first day of judges’ school, I thought it would be best to go home and resign. I am so grateful for the training that was made available to me. Conference after conference, class after class, as well as information available on the Internet led me step-by-step as I gained the knowledge needed to be an effective County Judge. I learn something new every day. The abundance of resources including the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas and the Texas Association of Counties have been such a help in my “County Judge journey.” One unexpected resource has been our listserv, an interactive email service for judges. Through the listserv, a bond with judges from all over the state has been forged as we discuss issues that we all encounter. It has given us insight and knowledge into situations we would otherwise have to face on our own. There are times when humor through the listserv lightens some of the more serious issues of the office.
One really surprising aspect of the County Judge’s office is the construction contractor role. Since I was elected County Judge, we have had six major building and renovation projects. Our new jail, nursing home, health clinic and fitness center are great assets to our county, but I hadn’t thought of this facet of the County Judge’s job description. I think the County Judge’s role is one that is continually evolving. A typical day in my career when I started is not the same today.
My day begins early as my wife and I share a devotional time together and pray for wisdom and for all the people I will encounter that day. When time allows, I visit the fitness center and have coffee with friends before arriving at the office at 8 a.m. Between appointments and frequent drop-in visitors, I prepare for judicial issues and administrative plans. Yoakum County Commissioners Court meets every Monday morning, and I have judicial court twice a month on Monday afternoons.
Every day brings a wide variety of challenges when dealing with all our county facilities, employees, and the needs of the people of Yoakum County. There are many issues to navigate as County Judge. It is exciting to see what the day holds, with everything from roofs falling after a nice rain to complaints about pet control. From mental health issues and road complaints to hurting people, I use a variety of skills in my capacity as County Judge. There are emergencies that must be dealt with, and when this occurs, I drop everything in the office to head out to where I am needed. This is the great thing about being in a smaller county: I get to take a more hands-on approach. I also have the privilege of serving on several regional boards that assist in meeting the needs of our citizens. Needless to say, there is never a dull moment in the office of the County Judge; there is always something going on, just the way I like it.
At the end of the day, farming is still a vital part of my life. It is a source of relaxation for me, and my evenings and weekends are spent in farm work, which is such a part of my history.
The challenge of keeping up with the Texas Legislature is a task I thoroughly enjoy. The new laws and regulations passed affect our counties, and at times I have opportunities to work with lawmakers in Austin, testifying before committees as well as taking part in one-on-one visits. The more I learn about county government, the more I appreciate its role in our society.
The biggest challenge is dealing with young people as they face the consequences of their poor choices, knowing that my decisions will affect the rest of their lives. My constant prayer is that those decisions would lead them to a successful and honorable life.
I can truthfully say that I love my job and feel that I am doing what God has called me to do. All the outstanding people I work with, beginning with my Commissioners, make my job much easier. I have the unusual privilege of helping people through difficult circumstances as they come for probates, abuse and addictions. I am grateful that there is help through county government. It is a blessing to perform wedding ceremonies. I have even done several in Spanish, all the while hoping my limited vocabulary covered everything.
My greatest joy is seeing a young person take advantage of the opportunity he has been given to start over and lead a productive life. That encourages me to keep doing what I do in this office. H