After 23 years as the Kerr County Court-at-law judge, Spencer Brown is hanging up his robe and will retire next year.
“I’m 74-years-old and I’ll be 75 next year. I figure that’s a good time to bow out,” Brown said.
Of course, it may not be the last time Brown serves behind the bench. Like many retired judges, Brown said he would like to continue helping out as a visiting judge.
Visiting judges fill in when other judges have a conflict in a case, or a visiting judge may be assigned to help when district judges are hearing cases outside the county.
Brown said he does not plan to work in a law practice and will focus on being retired.
“I’ve heard it’s a pretty good deal,” Brown said of retirement.
Brown’s decision to step down opens the door for hopefuls who already are lining up ahead of next year’s party primary election.
Susan Harris, an associate judge for the Title IV-D Child Support program in Kerr County and nine other counties for the past 21 years, was the first to announce she will seek the Republican Party nomination for the county court-at-law seat. Harris, 54, has never run for public office — the associate judge post is an appointed position — and said she is running so she can serve the people of Kerr County in another capacity.
“I’ve always wanted to be the county court-at-law judge,” Harris said. “But I respect Judge Brown and the work that he has done and would never run against him.”
Before serving as an associate judge, Harris, 54, worked as an attorney-mediator for the Hill Country Dispute Resolution Center.
Brown said he has spoken with Harris about her running for the bench and is aware of two other candidates.
“I think she’s a fine lady, but I’m a judge, I’m not supposed to pick sides,” Brown said.
Local attorney Rob Kelly, 65, confirmed Thursday that he also will seek the Republican Party nomination for the seat.
“This is something I’ve always wanted to do, but for some reason or the other, I’ve never been able to do it,” Kelly said.
Kelly served on the Kerrville Independent School District board of trustees for three years and ran for chief justice of the 4th Court of appeals in 1994, garnering 49 percent of the vote. He has spent 38 years in private practice.
“I’m at a point in my career where I have a chance to serve,” Kelly said.
Brown said local attorney Harold Danford also has expressed to him an interest in running. Danford was not immediately available for comment.
Although filing for the March party primary elections is still three months away, several local races are beginning to take shape.
Kerr County Precinct 2 Commissioner Tom Moser announced this week he will seek a full-term to the seat. Last year, he won an election to fill an unexpired term. Moser will be challenged in the Republican Party primary election by Stan Kubenka, a director with the Upper Guadalupe River Authority and the board’s current president.
Precinct 4 incumbent Bruce Oehler also has announced he will seek a fifth term. So far, Oehler is unopposed.
Kerr County Attorney Rob Henneke and Bandera County resident Karen Harris each announced they will seek the Republican Party nomination for the Texas House seat vacated by Harvey Hilderbran, who has announced he will run for state comptroller.
Since Henneke will not be seeking re-election, candidates also have started lining up to run for the county attorney’s office. Assistant City Attorney Heather Stebbins and local attorney Ralph Behrens have announced campaigns for the county attorney seat.
Evlyn Manry, an administrative assistant in the 216th District Attorney’s office, also has announced she will seek the Republican Party nomination for the district clerk’s office. That office currently is held by
Robbin Burlew, who was appointed in January after Linda Uecker retired.
Voter registration currently is underway for the Nov. 5 constitutional amendment election. The last day to register or change voter registration information is Oct. 7.
The November election will be the first test of the state’s new voter ID law, which will require voters to show a state or federal issued picture ID along with a voter registration card before casting their ballot. Accepted forms of ID include a state issued driver’s license, state issued election identification certificate, state issued identification card, a concealed handgun license, U.S. military identification card, U.S. citizenship certificate with photo and a U.S. passport.
The identification must be current or have expired no more than 60 days before being used at the polls.
Voters who are at least 50 percent disabled and can provide written documentation from the Social Security Administration or U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs may apply for a permanent exemption. Persons who have a consistent religious objection to being photographed may vote by provisional ballot and provide a sworn affidavit to the religious objection. Exceptions also can be made in the event of a natural disaster.
The law also exempts voters 65 years old and older who vote by mail.
Several lawsuits have been filed across the state seeking to stop the voter ID law from going into effect this November but, so far, the Secretary of State’s Office is directing counties to go forward with implementing the new law in November.