David Anderson

Written by Teresa Dennard.

The Lord may lead me to do something in particular

Growing up in Tenaha, Texas, David Anderson was a typical young boy interested in sports and being outdoors. He and his two younger brothers were raised by parents who were very devoted Christians and believed in raising their family in the Baptist church. Anderson’s father also believed that the boys ought to be working somewhere, either in the family-owned sawmill or with the cattle on the farm. He taught his sons it was important to be involved in the church and in the community.

After graduating from high school in Tenaha, David earned a degree in accounting at Baylor University in 1972. Wanting to experience life in the city, he went to work as an accountant for a company in Houston. It didn’t take David long to realize working in an office was not for him. “The accounting business is good to know,” he said, “but it’s not something I like to do all the time.” In 1974, he went back to Tenaha to work in the family business as General Manager and was responsible for operations, safety and health, environmental issues, personnel and sales. During his time in Houston, David met Elizabeth and continued a long-distance romance until they married in 1975 and she joined him in Tenaha. Following the principles his dad instilled in him, David became involved in the community by working with the Tenaha Volunteer Ambulance Service as an EMT and with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office as a Reserve Deputy Sheriff. “It got to be too much with a full time job and three little kids, so I gave up a few things.” With Elizabeth teaching in Carthage, they decided to move the family.

At the end of 1994, the sawmill business was sold. “My dad was in ill health in the 90s, so I began a few different things, private business and investing. I’d always done a little politics and been involved in the community, so I got in a position to look at it again. There was something about the County Judge that appealed to me.” Anderson talked to Judge Cordray and found out he was going to retire and not run again. He also attended about 90 percent of the commissioner court meetings. “After talking with several people and praying about it a good bit, I decided to run for the office.” Anderson ran against LeeAnn Jones and won the close race. “LeeAnn and I talked after the election and decided to work together. She knew the office really well and with the talents we both brought to the office, I think it worked well.”

So what exactly is the job of a County Judge? “In Panola County there are a lot less judicial functions because we have a County Court-of-Law Judge who handles the misdemeanors and probates which a judge would normally handle. I cover for the Court-of-Law Judge if he’s on a docket call or if he has an illness. I do juvenile hearings and if the Justice of the Peace is out of pocket, I can do arraignments for them. I’ve also done a lot of inquests for them because it’s more convenient since I’m a volunteer fireman and already at the scene. Probably 80 percent of the job is administrative. As County Judge, I’m the chief budget officer and try to watch the budget along with the auditor. As Judge, you try to take care of all the needs in the County—not necessarily their wants, but their needs.”

During his 12-year tenure as Judge, Anderson is proud of the building projects that have been completed. The Courthouse Annex was just being finished when he took office, the Detention Center was added, the old jail was remodeled along with the expansion of the sheriff’s offices and the Armory building was revamped to house the new Sammy Brown Library. Another big project was the sheltering and emergency management situation after the Katrina and Rita hurricanes came back-to-back. “We learned a lot when we sheltered so many people. We geared up for 350-400 people and ended up sheltering close to 1500. By the time the Gustav and Ike hurricanes came up to Galveston, the county was much better prepared and equipped to handle the situation. We have a really good working relationship with the City and the School Districts. We all work very well together.”

One facet of David Anderson not readily known is his dedication to physical fitness. His morning routine always includes a 5 am cross-training session. “In college I had a good physical education instructor who taught personal, lifelong physical fitness and that got me interested.” While at Baylor, Anderson was involved with judo and after moving to Houston trained in karate and other forms of martial arts. He has a second degree Black Belt. “I’ve done some sort of training all my life. You have to make that part of your daily schedule.” Now that he’s retired, Anderson says he’ll probably sleep in a little and move his workout to 6 am. He and Elizabeth plan to do some traveling, visit their three children and their families—two live in Texas and one lives just south of London, England. “The Lord may lead me to do something in particular. We’ll see what happens after a while.”