By JESSIE HORTON
ERATH COUNTY (December 7, 2018) – At the end of the month, Erath County Judge Tab Thompson will officially step down and into retirement after 24 years of service to the residents of the county.
A lot about Erath County and the office itself have changed over the years, but a lot has remained the same and through it all, Thompson and his staff have worked to better a growing county and those who live in it.
“I’d like to think I’m leaving this office and these people a little better than when I started,” Thompson said of his career in public service. “I think if we’ve helped some folks, given the county direction to grow and kept everyone working together for the betterment of the county, we’ve done a good job.”
Thompson said he’s changed and grown a lot himself since those first few weeks in office. Even the layout of the physical office itself has changed somewhat. When Thompson took office, the judge sat at a desk in front of the door and the tax assessor/collector had the suite of offices behind him. And there was no secretary at all.
Now, the tax office has moved to where the jail was then, on College Street, and Thompson’s secretary, Micki Bell, sits in front, while Thompson has the office where the tax offices were.
“We’ve all moved around since then, but my first day I can remember sitting out there with eyes as big as sauces and I didn’t have a clue what I was doing,” Thompson recalled with a chuckle. “Donna (Kelly – County Treasurer) and Jennifer (Carey – Tax Assessor/Collector) walked by the door and asked me what on Earth I was doing. I just looked at them and said real low, ‘I don’t know.’”
But, he definitely figured it out, and throughout the years, through ups and downs, the judge and his staff have worked together to make Erath County what it is today.
When asked about his accomplishments and regrets during his time in office, Thompson said he didn’t like to focus on any one bad or good thing.
“You know, I like to think the best thing I did as county judge was be the kind of leader who understood that the position wasn’t about being the boss over these other elected officials, that’s not what this job is at all, but I tried to be the kind of guy that when those folks needed a leader, they looked to me and I got us all pulling in the same direction when it mattered and despite any differences or disagreements we may have had,” the judge said.
“Are there times when I look back and wish I could have figured out a better way to accomplish what I did? Yes. But, even in those circumstances, I like to think we were able to achieve the best for the county in the end.”
Thompson said while there were bad times, like the fire in the courthouse, or busy times, like when the county hosted the Eddie Routh trial, he felt like Erath County officials have always been able to come together so things run smoothly and to achieve the best outcomes for the residents. And he likes to believe those are what can be considered his best accomplishments.
“Every day I served as county judge I tried to do the very best job for the citizens of this county that I could,” Thompson said. “They trusted me enough to elect me time and again and I felt like I owed it to them to do what was best for them in every situation and circumstance. I hope they feel that way, too.”
After retiring from the county, Thompson has plans to spend more time at his local small business, Oasis on Washington Street, where his wife, Debbie, has been keeping the books and helping him since they have owned it. But, it’s not going to be all about work, either.
“We have four grandchildren and we cannot wait to spend lots more time with them,” he said with a wide grin. “I bet we get to a lot more A&M football games, too.”
Before he is officially out the door, Erath County staff invite the community to the Second Floor Courtroom in the Erath County Courthouse from 2 until 4 p.m. on Friday, December 14, to honor and celebrate the 24 years Erath County Judge Tab Thompson has served.