Voices of County Government - Hon. Dan Looten

County government officials are as diverse as the Texans who elect them, coming from every background imaginable. In this issue we talk with Carson County Judge Dan Looten

By County magazine

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How long have you been the Carson County Judge?

I just started my second term, so close to four and a half years. 

Prior to your election, what kind of work did you do? How did you get interested in running for office?
After graduating from West Texas State University, I returned to the family farm. Ten years later, I purchased the local NAPA auto parts store and moved off the farm with my family into town. That year I was asked to run and won a place on the city commission. I served three years as a city commissioner before I was appointed mayor. I served in that role for 11 years and then ran for the county judge position and won. So I guess you would say that service is in my blood. 

What was the biggest surprise or adjustment after taking office? 
I was very surprised that the state of Texas and Carson County has had the confidence in me on many judicial matters, including probates, juvenile matters, magistration and many other day-to-day responsibilities. I soon realized that being the county judge is often a team effort. The great people in my courthouse, at TAC and all my fellow county judges guide and support my efforts to succeed. Every day I am amazed by how current and past county judges from across the state will always give their time and experience to help me. The brotherhood of judges, along with the people at TAC, have helped me tremendously.

What are some of the most difficult challenges you’ve faced, and what advice would you give your peers across the state who may face the same or similar challenges?
The day I will never forget is June 28, 2016. That is when two freight trains collided head-on inside the city limits of Panhandle. We endured that day because of the teamwork and effort between our emergency management coordinator and local officials, community volunteers and regional response from firefighters, private businesses and emergency management teams from across the area. I am still overwhelmed when I remember the willingness to help from everyone on that tragic day.

I would first tell all new judges that nothing beats experience. It is the “magic wand” in your desk that helps answer those many phone calls and visits to your office. There are 254 counties in this great state with people loaded with experience and wisdom, who are willing to share with you. No matter what the problem I am dealing with, someone else has already had that problem or is dealing with it now. I may be up here in the Panhandle, but I have talked to and learned from judges in East, South, Central and Far West Texas.

Since taking office, what accomplishment are you most proud of?
I must admit that my biggest concern was being able to maintain the direction and positive atmosphere of our county government. All of our elected personnel have years of experience, and their staffs are great.  I have strived to make county government a team effort. Everyone has a responsibility to fulfill, and we cannot be successful unless everyone succeeds at their job.

What do you find are the most successful methods for reaching out to the residents of Carson County to communicate what your office is doing and why?
There are so many ways to communicate and reach out to the residents.  We have started maintaining our own webpage, and I would like us to make it more informative and useful. Our county clerk has an excellent Facebook page, which she uses to make our citizens more aware of the things going on in her office, especially during voting. The emergency management coordinator uses Code Red and the Integrated Public Alert & Warning System for an emergency notification of severe weather and wildfires. Plus, we have two weekly newspapers in the county that we use for advertisements and postings. I am a firm believer that we can and should always do more to help inform and educate our constituents.

When you’re not at work, what are you doing? Do you have any hobbies or something unique that you’re interested in that may surprise your colleagues?
I love being outside when I can, even if it is mowing the grass. Basketball season is a favorite time for me. I am also a history nut and love museums.

What is your favorite thing about Carson  County?
 I know it is cliché but it is the people and because it is where I have lived all my life. I get to connect with so many people that I have grown up with or have watched and learned from. The rural lifestyle of helping each other can’t be beat.