Reserve Citizen Airman helms Texas county

This article courtesy:
air_res_round.pngAir Reserve Personnel Center
By Master Sgt. Timm Huffman


Brint_Carlton.jpgOrange County, in Southeast Texas on the border with Louisiana and just 20 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, is home to more than 80,000 Texans and led by Air Force Reserve Major S. Brint Carlton.

Carlton was elected to the county’s top position in 2014 and has used the experience and leadership he gained in the Air Force to steer policy and guide his decisions.

With over 10 years of Air Force service, including time on active duty and in the traditional and individual reserve programs, Carlton has had ample time and opportunity to gain the leadership skills he uses every day in Orange County.

“I credit my leadership skills, understanding of budgets and my focus on the big picture to what I learned in the Air Force,” he said, speaking with a barely detectable southern drawl.

The Orange County native began his Air Force career in 2005 after finishing a master’s degree in health administration at the University of Florida. He spent just shy of four years on active duty as a Medical Service Corps officer. Following a deployment to the Middle East, he transferred into the traditional reserve at the 433rd Airlift Wing at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, to pursue more education. He knew that his MHA would pair well with a law degree and had seen his father’s success practicing family law, so Carlton used the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits he earned on active duty to earn both a juris doctor program and master’s degree in business administration at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. It took him 2 1/2 years.

After graduating in December 2011, he returned to Orange County to practice family law with his father. He also left the 433rd for a joint assignment at the 953rd Reserve Support Squadron at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, in 2013. He soon realized, however, that practicing family law was not for him. He applied for, and was hired, into the district attorney’s office as a juvenile prosecutor. This new position was much more to his liking. He felt the work was having a positive impact, giving children who found themselves in trouble with the law a chance at a new start while also getting justice for victims. He said it wasn’t long before some fellow county employees suggested he might do more for Orange County, asking him if he had ever thought of running for county judge.

While the word judge often invokes images of a robed figure presiding over a courtroom, Carlton said a county judge in Texas is more akin to a governor or the CEO of a company, albeit one with a judicial aspect. In Texas, some of the roles a county judge fills are as budget officer, the head of emergency management, and presiding official of the commissioner’s court. They also preside over local judicial matters such as misdemeanor, probate and civil cases.

After talking with his family and researching the role in depth, Carlton began his bid for county judge in 2014. The four-way election named no victor; Carlton earned 26 percent of the vote. The election came down to a run-off between the Airman and former county commissioner John Dubose. Carlton won 53 percent of the vote in the run-off and entered office Jan. 1, 2015.

At 32, he was one of the youngest county judges in Texas. He was also the county’s first new judge in 20 years. The people of Orange County were ready for something different, he said.

County commissioner Barry Burton, another Orange County native who was elected at the same, said the Air Force reservist brought a new style of leadership to the county. Brint is a forward thinker, he said. He’s looking five, 10, 15 years into the future and he’s finding ways to make county programs sustainable.

“In the past, the budget cycle was a year-to-year kind of thing. We don’t do it that way anymore,” said Burton.

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