After two years in office as the Madison County judge, retired project manager C.E. “Butch” McDaniel says he absolutely loves coming to work every day.
“I was reluctant to run for office,” McDaniel said.
It’s a hard statement to believe from a man who seems like he’s been in office for decades. He can be spotted almost daily drinking his morning coffee at Walker’s Café and chatting up the locals.
“I was perfectly content to sit around with the other old guys drinking coffee,” McDaniel said. “But a bunch of folks started pestering me to run for judge.”
He’d spent four decades as a project manager for a Houston-based engineering firm now known as KBR. He’d been retired for about 10 years when he was approached to run for county judge.
“I ran into [former] Judge Henson at Walker’s and he started pestering me,” McDaniel said. “I told him I didn’t know anything about being a judge. He said that when he ran he didn’t know anything about being a judge either. I began to think about it a little. I figured I’d go ahead and give it a shot.”
When he filed his intent to run, there wasn’t much buzz around the office, but soon after, four others threw their hats in the ring.
“I thought maybe I had something to contribute,” McDaniel said.
And it turns out he did.
The judge presides over county court, serves as the juvenile judge and is the lead administrator of the Madison County Commissioners Court.
“I’ve learned an awful lot about how to conduct business,” he said. “I’ve discovered that after all of my trepidation, I’ve loved it. I look forward to coming to work every day. I’m glad I did it.”
Even though he wasn’t accustomed to politicking, McDaniel said he was pleasantly surprised by the experience of knocking on doors and talking to Madison County residents during his campaign for the judgeship.
“It was my first time to run for public office, so I went out and knocked on doors,” he said. “I figured people would be eating supper or watching “Gunsmoke.” I was nervous about it. The biggest surprise was that after all that time I campaigned, not one person was rude to me. Some said, ‘I can’t vote for you, but I’m glad you’re running and I’m glad you came by.’ It renews your faith in humanity. We’re here to serve the people and we can’t ever lose sight of that. We can’t always tell people what they want to hear, but the main thing is to listen.”
Last year the Commissioners Court passed a resolution opposing the high-speed rail. They dealt with the arrest and subsequent guilty plea of former Commissioner Phillip Grisham and the appointment and swearing-in ceremony of new Commissioner Thomas Collard. They saw the county open a driver license office, a project McDaniel had been working on since he was elected.
On the agenda for 2017 are a couple of projects, McDaniel said. He’s looking for input on what to do with an old school building on School Street – now occupied by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service – and thinks there may be an opportunity to relocate the ag services to the Madison County Fairgrounds.
There’s also the matter of the local library, which recently got a new roof, thanks to the County Commission, but could use some additional upgrades.
The judge is also keeping his eye on the Texas Legislature, which is now in session, and wants to ensure that the public knows all the local services that are available to them – such as dump stickers, which are now available at the county tax office, and veterans services, managed by Danny Singletary in the county courthouse.
“We have a good community,” McDaniel said. “Amazingly, everybody tries to help out. The commissioners do not work for me. They work for you.”
The Madison County Commissioners Court meets at 9:30 a.m. the second and fourth Monday of each month.