A native of Elysian Fields, Harrison County has always been the beloved home of newly-elected County Judge Chad Sims.
“I grew up in Elysian Fields community, which is southern Harrison County and my family is from there; several generations going back are from there,” said Sims. “So that’s kind of my roots, but I left for a few years, went to college at SFA and right back here to work. I’ve been here ever since.”
From childhood to adulthood, he never imagined serving as the highest authority in the county, but looking back, he realizes it was all a part of God’s divine plan.
“We,” Sims said of him and his wife, Jana, “were involved and just working and serving. I really felt like that was my fit — behind the scenes — helping serve and promote good people that wanted to be a part of county government and even state government, so, I enjoyed doing that.
“I thought that was the end of it, that I’d keep doing that,” he chuckled. “I never had an aspiration to actually do it myself.
“Looking back, it’s pretty obvious to see now that the Lord was just ordering my steps,” the county judge said. “Even though I didn’t think it at the time, that’s what was going on. So, it’s kind of easy to see now.”
Sims considers it an honor to be able to serve his home county as a public servant, looking out for the best interest of all citizens.
“That’s probably what I enjoy most here,” Sims said of being a public servant. “I suppose anybody could come be the county judge and just take care of the county’s business, but it’s really about serving people.
“That’s what I want to do. That’s the most fun,” the county judge said.
Sims’ passion in public service ignited after meeting his wife.
“She was interested in politics. She went to ETBU here. She was here going to school when I met her,” he shared. “I was out of college, and, of course, we fell in love pretty quick. We kind of knew that we were right for each other; and a year and a half later, we were married.
“She was always an encouragement to me,” he continued. When it came to politics, “we shared similar views and thoughts, and we decided to get involved.”
Their pastor at the time, Ray Wilson, was also active in the political scene, and served as a great influence on the couple. They worked alongside him in the Christian Coalition, which was their first involvement in politics.
“It was a conservative group that was really trying to get Christians involved and motivated in politics,” said Sims.
“Their opinion and my opinion was that Christians had not been involved,” Sims said, explaining how politics had generally been perceived as a dirty area that was best to stay out of. His belief was the opposite.
“If good people stayed out of it, you’re left with not so good people in there,” said Sims. “That was kind of my motivation to get involved.”
In the latter years, Sims and his wife joined the local Republican Party where both were actively involved, serving in various capacities.
“We served as a precinct chairman and she was an election judge and we were just very involved from that level,” said Sims.
Ultimately, Sims was selected as local party chair and served in that capacity for about seven years.
“During that time, I got to meet and we got to know people,” he said.
He also had the pleasure of learning more about the role of county government.
“(Initially), I didn’t know and understand county government. It’s not something you really begin to understand until you get to know the people and know what they’re doing,” Sims shared. “I’d never been in trouble with the law, so I never knew what the County Court-at-Law or the DA did, so that was all a good learning experience for me.”
He became more acquainted with the various roles while helping candidates campaign.
“We have some great people that serve our county here. I got to know most of them and help some of them with their campaigns and help them run for office,” said Sims. “That was all kind of my early years in the party and kind of getting an education. That’s what I was doing.”
As fate would have it, his grassroots role was preparing him for the position he is in today as county judge.
“Judge Taylor,” Sims said of his predecessor, “is a dear friend and he was an excellent county judge. When I heard that he was not going to run again, being a former county chairman, I thought the first thing we have to do is we’ve got to go find somebody to replace him ... we need to go find another person who can pick up where he left off and continue this on.”
As he began soliciting recommendations, Sims’ name would ironically come up for consideration.
“As I began calling and talking on several occasions people would just say: ‘Well, why don’t you do it? What about you?’ And then people were calling me,” Sims said. “I had a few phone calls pretty quickly. And I thought: ‘Well, maybe it is me.’ I just really hadn’t considered that.”
Nevertheless, “that opportunity just kept opening up and was just kind of glaring me in the face,” Sims recalled. “And I said: ‘Well, I guess maybe I should consider it.’”
Sims knew it was confirmation from God as the strong inkling to consider it lingered.
“A good friend of mine said people ask him: ‘How do you know that the Lord is talking to you?’ He said: ‘Well, it’s when that thought just doesn’t go away.’ And so, that’s kind of what happened to me,” he grinned.
It’s been a humbling experience for the county judge since. With nearly two months in, the journey has been a rewarding one.
“It’s been real busy — lots of learning,” said Sims.
The judge spent the first two weeks engaging in comprehensive administrative and judicial training.
“It’s been really good. I’ve enjoyed it,” Sims said of his new journey thus far.
The county judge has enjoyed meeting constituents and being a visible part of the community, something he’s always believed it.
“To be a good county judge or public official, you have to be out with the people, you have to know what’s going on and be involved to know what the issues are and to hear the problems and the solutions,” said Sims.
He also believes in getting to know the citizens.
“That’s who you’re going to be serving, and they need to know that you’re interested, you care and that you’re willing to show up maybe when others aren’t,” the county judge said. “So, I enjoy being out there. I enjoy meeting and talking, so it’s all been pretty easy for me. That part has.”
The county judge said he’s grateful for the blessings and remains focused on the positives.
“It’s easy to focus on little problems, but our county is really blessed, and I much rather sit here and count my blessings and count the blessings of our county, because we’ve got some great people here and great resources,” he said. “We really have it nice.”
Regarding his personal goals, he wants to continue to make economic development for the county a priority.
“Every county or municipality always need more money, and nobody wants to raise taxes. I’m not in favor of that either. So how do you have more money to grow your tax base? Economic development has to be a part of what you’re doing,” the county judge said. “That’s not just drawing business here; it’s helping the businesses that are here; and it’s working hard on educating our young folks, to make them higher quality workers, great employees. I think if you have excellent employees, the business will come because they’re looking for those kinds of people to work for them.”
He said with great higher education assets such as East Texas Baptist University, Wiley, Texas State Technical College and Panola College here, there’s no reason not to be able to produce great employees and entrepreneurs.
“You name it; we ought to have them here,” the county judge said of skilled workers and employees. “We’ve got terrific infrastructure here, we’ve got plenty of land.
“This is the right place to be,” said Sims.
He’s pleased to be here contributing to the betterment of the place he’s always called home, in his capacity as county judge.
“It’s a real honor to get to serve in your home county,” said Sims. “Not only do you know a lot of people, it makes it easier, I think, for them to come talk to you.
“It’s not some stuffy position that they feel like they can’t come and talk,” he said, “so my phone rings frequently. I have visitors in here, and I enjoy all of that. I think it would be different if you were serving in a place where you didn’t know the folks — but how much better it is to get to serve people you know.”
Serving his home not only increases his desire to make a difference, but it also brings on a level of accountability.
“If I’m not doing right, I fully expect to be getting some phone calls from some of my family and friends, saying: ‘Hey what are you doing?’” Sims chuckled. “So that’s a good position to be in.”