By Joyce May
Killeen Daily Herald
GATESVILLE — John E. Firth will begin the fulfillment of a lifelong goal to contribute his energies to public service when he is sworn in as Coryell County Judge Friday.
Commissioners Jack Wall, Daren Moore, Don Jones and Elizabeth Taylor voted unanimously Friday afternoon to appoint Firth, a retired U.S. Army officer and current Army contractor, to the position left vacant by the death of Judge Riley Simpson on June 4.
“With great humility I accept the position as Coryell County Judge,” Firth said. “I understand that there is no way anyone can replace Judge Riley Simpson, but we all need to work together to uphold the high standards that he demonstrated in his many years of public service.”
Firth is expected to be sworn in at 9 a.m. Friday at the Coryell County Courthouse by 52nd District Judge Phillip Zeigler. The appointment will continue until a judge is elected in a November 2008 special election to serve the remainder of Simpson’s term through 2010.
He requested the two-week period before the swearing in to allow him the opportunity to give proper notice to Army officials as he currently serves as project lead for an information technology project training soldiers to use computers in the global war on terrorism.
Wall said commissioners took the job of selecting an appointment very seriously and appreciated those applicants who expressed interest in the position.
“We feel like we made the right decision. We are ready to move forward with county business,” Wall said.
Born in 1947 in New York, Firth graduated college in 1968 at the University of Redlands in California as a pre-law student with a religion/government major.
His early intentions were to attend law school and then involve himself in public service. A draft notice changed those plans and Firth instead served 31 years in the Army, including time in Vietnam.
Firth attended Infantry Officer Candidate School in 1970 and considers his greatest honor during his military career as “being able to soldier with the greatest soldiers in the world and being selected into the Officer Candidate Hall of Fame in 2003.”
The new county judge first moved to Coryell County in 1989 and said he has considered it home ever since, even when serving military assignments overseas.
He and his wife, Jean, permanently returned to their Copperas Cove house in 2000 after his retirement from the Army.
He has previously lived in Mineral Wells and Arlington during military assignments.
Firth has managed numerous military organizations and activities in his years of service and effectively applied operations research and resource analysis skills obtained through his training and experience.
He also holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA) with management major from Texas Christian University, conferred in 1979, and a Master’s Degree in Counseling from Georgia State University, conferred in 1976.
Firth has commanded Army units at the company and battalion levels, including serving as battalion command at Fort Hood with the 1st Cavalry Division during which time the battalion deployed for combat during the first Gulf War.
Firth also brings to the position a wealth of experience in budget preparation, judicial experience as a military commander (1974-76 and 1989–91) administering US Uniform Code of Military Justice including punishment adjudication, and in civil defense, disaster relief, general planning and information management.
On a county level, Firth has served on the Appraisal Review Board and as an elections official.
Firth said he looks forward to working energetically for Coryell County and recognizes that he has a learning curve to climb.
“With the support of Coryell County elected and appointed leaders as well as our dedicated county employees, I look forward to a smooth transition into the position as Coryell County Judge,” he said. “All citizens in the county deserve the best county government we can collectively provide. Ultimately, however, the real strength of the county comes from the citizens we support including the owners and employees in small businesses, our educators, our local public safety and other public servants, our ranchers and farmers that help ensure our collective economic freedom and our military personnel and their families who do so much to protect our national freedom.”
Wall made the motion and Jones made the second to appoint Firth. His county judge bond was set at $10,000.
Contact Joyce May at email@example.com or call (254) 547-0428