In a three-to-one vote, the Ellis County Commissioners Court appointed attorney Dan Cox as the new justice of the peace for precinct three.
Cox will replace Curtis Polk, who will be retiring on Friday. Polk was appointed to the office in February 1981 by the commissioners’ court.
“I think that judge Polk has done a tremendous job of serving his constituency and the community. I think he deserves a hand of gratitude, not only from myself but from the community as a whole for serving so long,” Cox said. “I hope that we can continue to increase the office’s openness and willingness to work with the community.”
Cox has practiced law since graduating from Saint Mary’s School of Law and becoming licensed in 1987. He maintained his own practice for more than 28 years in Waxahachie before working for Roof Restorations of America in 2015 as a production manager. He then joined the Ellis County District Attorney’s Office as a prosecutor for the justice of the peace courts in April.
The appointment to the position will run through the remainder of Polk’s term, which ends in December 2018. Cox has already filed to run for the post in the upcoming election, as well.
“The reason why I decided to run for the justice of the peace job is, first of all, it is a people’s court. A court where the common man can come in and doesn’t necessarily have to lawyer up to have his case heard,” Cox stated. “Secondly, it is a place that I think my skill set and disposition is such where I will be able to serve the people of Ellis County. I think that it will be a place that I can find a home.”
Cox added that he is excited about the opportunity to start right away and serve the public in this new role.
Polk stated that he enjoys the job of justice of the peace, and added he feels it is time to provide someone else with the opportunity to serve. He advises Cox to reach out to others as he learns the position if he needs to do so.
“He knows the justice system and had been in my court several times. I think that he knows what to do. The advice that I would give to him is that I am always available if he runs into an obstacle,” Polk said. “The other JPs are also well qualified. All of us do our best to keep (things) running smoothly.”
Polk’s career in public service began when he served in the United States Army from 1964-67. He was stationed in Germany and worked as a supply clerk specialist before being honorably discharged in 1967.
Polk received his firefighter certification in 1975 from Texas A&M University. He worked as a firefighter for the City of Waxahachie.
In law enforcement, he attended the Hutchins Police Department Reserve School. In 1981, he began work for the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office as a dispatcher and finished as a deputy sheriff.
When the vacancy opened up in the court, Polk was asked if he wanted to fill the office and he agreed. He then ran for the position and was subsequently elected.
“It grew on me to where I liked it,” Polk said. “It was a job that I enjoyed doing.”
Ellis County Judge Carol Bush stated that she is grateful for the service that Polk has provided to the community over the years
“I have been here now almost 30 years in Ellis County and have not known any other name in JP 3 other than Judge Polk,” Bush said. “He has been such a leader in the community and so dedicated to the job that he has done. I don’t think that anyone can question his commitment to that position.”
Bush stated that timetable to appoint a replacement was sped up to accommodate Polk’s request to retire so that he could draw on his retirement. If a replacement was not found, Polk would have to continue fulfilling his duties as a judge. Polk made his request to the county three weeks ago and four applicants applied for the position.
Bush shared that she is excited to bring someone on board with Cox’s experience and skillset.
“The court felt that he could hit the ground running. We had some very good candidates, but ultimately the commissioners felt that Mr. Cox could come in and there was not too much of a learning curve since he had been actively working in those courts,” Bush explained. “I am very confident in Dan’s ability. He was obviously a very strong candidate, and that was the reason why he was selected. I think he has the heart for the job that he does. He is a skilled attorney; a good people person and I feel that the court will run smoothly in this transitional phase.”
Bush added that she appreciates all of the candidates who applied for the position and will willing to set up and serve the community in this capacity.
Ellis County Pct. 3 Commissioner Paul Perry shared Bush’s thoughts the appointment of Cox to the position.
“Even though we had several people apply that I regard highly I just thought it was important to have someone that had operated at the JP court level because some of the rules are different than normal civil courts,” Perry said.
Perry stated that Polk service to the county has been invaluable and is a person that you could always count on to go to work and get the job done. He added that Polk was always there to help anyone to make the community a better place.
Ellis County Pct. 2 Commissioner Lane Grayson voted against Cox’s appointment to the court.
“There were several good applicants. I can’t say that anyone stuck out the most to me. I was the only commissioner that voted against Mr. Cox. The main reason for me is he is a current candidate for the position. My feeling is that we, as a court, could have been better served by an individual in an interim type of position and not selected an individual that is in the race for this position,” Grayson said. “My objection was not against his ability to perform the job whatsoever. Mr. Cox will do a phenomenal job in the position. My preference was to fill the position with an interim and not someone who is running.”
Cox will be sworn in at 10 a.m. on Friday on the second-floor courtroom in the Ellis County historic courthouse. The courthouse is located at 101 W. Main Street in downtown Waxahachie.