By Sarah Chacko

Killeen Daily Herald

BELTON Officials and staff members throughout Bell County packed into the Commissioners Courtroom Monday, some having to stand in the corners, to witness the swearing in of Bell Countys newly elected, re-elected and appointed officials.

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson, the first black member of the court, swore in 15 county officials, including two district judges, two county commissioners, three justices of the peace and four constables.

Before they all promised to preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States and Texas, Jefferson said a portrait of a former district judge, Nicholas W. Battle, hanging in the district court building represented what the oath of office meant to him.

Jefferson said he knew Battle, who presided from 1858 to 1863, as the slaveowner of his great-great-grandfather.

But even after fighting for the Confederacy in the Civil War, Battle came back as a judge to defend and uphold the principles of the Constitution and not support a revolution of dissenters.

Jefferson said that act of courage exemplifies what it means to be a public official.

I think that tells us that this country can come behind a great document like the Constitution, Jefferson said.

Most of the officials sworn in Monday were re-elected to their positions.

Precinct 3 County Commissioner Eddy Lange was a new addition, as well as Justice of the Peace, Precinct 2, Donald G. Engleking and Constable Roger D. Laird.

Lange, who said he was pleased and honored to have spent 12 years as a justice of the peace, said he saw the county commissioner position as a chance not only for advancement, but to better serve his precinct.

I saw an opportunity to step up and do something different for the county, Lange said.

Engleking, who spent 12 years with the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission, said he felt fortunate to have been selected to replace former Justice of the Peace Donald Allen Svadlenak.

I just applied when the opportunity presented itself, and I was lucky to get appointed, Engleking said.

Jefferson also swore in:

n 27th District Court Judge Joe Carroll

n 146th District Court Judge Rick Morris

n District Attorney Henry Garza

n Court Attorney Richard J. Rick Miller

n Sheriff Dan Smith

n County Tax Assessor -Collector Sharon Long

n Precinct 1 County Commissioner Richard Cortese

n Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3, Place 1, David Barfield

n Justice of the Peace, Precinct 4, Place 1 Garland K. Potvin

n Precinct 1 Constable Luis R. Cortez

n Precinct 3 Constable Bill Hartwell

n Precinct 4 Constable Edd Melton, III.

Contact Sarah Chacko at

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