FROM THE PUBLISHER: It seems we will need a county judge

Published 5:51 pm Sunday, March 17, 2019

By Bobby Tingle


As it stands, current Orange County Judge Dean T. Crooks is resigning effective March 19.

Crooks defeated former County Judge Brint Carlton in the Republican Primary just a little over a year ago on March 6, 2018.

Carlton resigned soon thereafter.

With Carlton’s resignation effective April 22, 2018, the commissioner’s were faced with a need to appoint an interim county judge.

At the time Crooks was the Republican candidate on the November ballot facing the Democrat candidate Donald G. Brown.

According to an article in The Orange Leader, April 25, the remaining commissioners named Crooks interim County Judge to serve as County Judge pending the general election.  He was elected to office in November 2019 and was sworn in January 1, 2019, as County Judge.

He was unopposed in the election, as Brown had withdrawn after legal issues.

His tenure has been short-lived.

Crooks has been active on the political front for some time.

He seemed to have the pulse of the community as he attended town hall meetings regarding the establishment of a hospital district.

Crooks generally spoke out against it, expressing concern about establishing a taxing entity.  He opposed the inevitable increase in taxes a hospital district would bring. Others agreed, especially since there was no guarantee of any particular outcome.

Voters resoundingly opposed the district.  It seemed Crooks was in lockstep with voters.

But he overplayed his hand when it came to the issue of economic development.

Orange Leader Editor Dawn Burleigh raised serious questions about the direction the judge was taking on several matters in a column published in the Wednesday, November 7, 2018 issue.

Among other questions, she probed, ‘When did Crooks turn against economic development?’

Crooks submitted a column published in The Orange Leader Wednesday, March 6, 2019.  He opened his thoughts by questioning the validity of the level of support given by the county to the Orange County Economic Development Corporation.

He alluded to the possibility the money would be best spent elsewhere.

The next edition of The Orange Leader, March 9, 2019, detailed comments made during the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce Breakfast Connection held at the new First Financial Bank on 16th Street.

County Commissioner for Precinct 3 John Gothia spoke out in support of the EDC, their work and the projects currently in the pipeline.

He urged citizens to attend the next commissioner’s court meeting to voice their opinion.  Many did. Most spoke out in support of the work of the EDC.

Crooks was not present to witness their comments.  After the formal opening of the meeting he announced his intention to resign, called for a ten-minute recess and left the building.

Now we must choose a new judge.

Eventually, voters will have their say in a yet to be determined election.  On an interim basis, the remaining commissioners have the option of naming one of their own or asking someone from the community to step up.

Orange County Commissioners meet Tuesday, March 19 and will be led by Judge Pro Tem John Gothia.  They are expected to consider the formal resignation of Judge Crooks.

Gratefully, it seems, a majority of commissioners are on board with moving forward with economic development.

They should be applauded.

There are several good choices for the commissioners to choose from to fulfill the judge’s unexpired term until voters make their choice.

I expect commissioners are engaged in their due diligence to choose the right person.

Stay tuned to see who they choose.


Bobby Tingle is the publisher of The Orange Leader.  You can reach him at