Three newly-elected county officials from Kilgore took the oath of office in a swearing-in ceremony Jan. 1 in the courtoom of the 188th District Court in the Gregg County Courthouse.
Michelle Gilley, Trey Hattaway and Tom Watson joined others who were taking office for the first time, taking a familiar post after re-election or moving from one courthouse position to another.
In the packed courtroom, every seat was taken and many guests had to stand along the walls while dozens of others were directed to an overflow room to watch the ceremony on a projector screen.
Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt opened the ceremony with remarks.
“Every two years on January 1, we gather here to administer the oath of office,” Stoudt said, noting some officials would be taking the office for the first time.
Alfonso Charles, judge of the 124th Judicial District Court, administered the oath of office to Stoudt, Tim Womack, judge of the 307th Judicial District Court, Kent Phillips, judge of County Court at Law #1 and Vincent Dulweber, judge of County Court at Law #2.
Also sworn in were B.H. Jameson, Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace and Talyna Carlson, Pct. 3 Justice of the Peace. Darryl Primo, commissioner of Pct. 2, took the oath as well.
Stoudt then administered the oath of office several officials, including Hattaway. Hattaway, former Director of Marketing for Kilgore College, announced his candidacy for the District Clerk seat in August 2017, citing his long career in education as good preparation for the challenges of the office. In March 2018, he successfully avoided a Republican primary runoff by collecting sixty percent of the vote.
Retired County Court at Law #1 Judge Becky Simpson administered the oath of office to Michelle Gilley. She announced her candidacy for the County Clerk post in May 2017 after working in the Gregg County courthouse for 13 years. For three years, she served as a civil/probate clerk in the County Clerk’s office and for 10 years as a court administrator for County Court at Law #1 under Judge Simpson. Following the oath, Simpson congratulated and Gilley on her new position and the two embraced.
Tom Watson was sworn in as Criminal District Attorney by Tim Bryan, Pct. 2 Justice of the Peace. The former Kilgore police officer and attorney announced his candidacy for the district attorney post in a July 2017 press release, aiming to take over the post from his former boss and 10-year incumbent Carl Dorrough. With the support of KPD Chief Todd Hunter and Gregg County Sheriff Maxey Cerliano, Watson won the election and there was no Democratic challenger.
All three officials were joined by family members as they took the oath in the somber yet emotional ceremony.
District Clerk Hattaway remarked on the experience of having his family beside him during the momentous occasion.
“Having my most important supporters there to share that experience with me was pretty special,” Hattaway said. “It’s a powerful thing that you’ve been elected but when you take that oath, swearing that you’re going to uphold the laws and do the very best you can for our citizens, whatever the word beyond ‘powerful’ is, that would describe it.”
Hattaway added the courthouse has already been busy in the first week of the year but he is excited about the opportunities the new post will bring.
“It has been fast-paced,” he said. “And, at the same time, exciting. I am more than thrilled to be here. I have inherited a really good staff and I am on a huge learning curve but they are educating me at every move. I’m looking forward to the next four years, for sure. I feel like I’ve made a good decision and I can thank the voters of Gregg County for allowing me the experience.”
Hattaway took his oath on a Bible which belonged to his grandfather on his father’s side. Dr. W.L. Hattaway was a Methodist minister who served at St. Luke’s Methodist Church in Kilgore from 1955-1962.
“He’s probably the best man I’ve ever known,” Hattaway said.