Jones retires after 20 years at Gregg County Courthouse
Feb. 28, 2012 at 11 p.m.
Darlynn Jones got a couple of surprises Tuesday, which is not easy to do to someone who usually has all the answers.
"She's the keeper of the keys to the gate," County Judge Bill Stoudt said, minutes after surprising his administrative assistant with roses at the weekly county commissioners meeting.
Jones retires today after 20 years with the county. Starting briefly in then-County Clerk Mollie Barber's office, Jones was swiftly snatched by County Judge Mickey Smith.
Stoudt found an ally when he succeeded Smith in 2002.
"She taught me things about the county judgeship and what's proper and not proper about what you can do," Stoudt said. "She was one of my mentors when I came to this office."
One elected official keeping another's right hand woman close at hand is rare. With Jones, it worked.
"Both judges have been great to work for," Jones said. "And they've been great to me. What is there not to like about it?"
"Well, for one thing, the phone calls can be less than a blessing. A county judge's office is a default catch-all corner for every question aimed at a county - how do I get help for my family? Is the fire ban still on? Can I keep a horse in my yard? Why can't you people fix my road?
"You're the first one people complain to," Smith said as the two judges took Jones to lunch. "And you've got to handle situations and be smart. Darlynn's a natural with that. She's a natural with people and very well thought of."
A second surprise in one day followed lunch when Stoudt's staff, including new administrative assistant Diane Pearson, threw Jones a reception.
"There were people I haven't seen in a long time," she said. "It was with mixed emotions that I made the decision to retire. It's home, it's home. And I loved it. It's just a great job. It's such a people job."