NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - The Deep East Texas Council of Governments has named a former Houston County County judge as its new director, replacing the federally indicted Walter Diggles.
Lonnie Hunt served as county judge for Houston County for five years, before stepping down in 2011 to join the Texas Association of Counties in Austin. He will now be in charged of a 12-county region that handles around $22 million in federal grants. Hunt said while he is ready for the job, he will be relying on those close to the citizens.
"It will be up to all the representatives of the local governments," Hunt said. "It is my job to lead, offer direction and get the staff to carry out the wishes of the DETCOG board. I think it is a great system. Decisions are made close to home that affect local folks in our region."
Hunt replaces Diggles, who retired from the position after being indicted in the federal system on allegations he led a conspiracy to funnel money to the church he pastored.
"I am confident that we will be just fine if we don't worry about our image and just get busy going back to work and moving forward," Hunt said. "The image will take care of itself. A fresh set of eyes is a positive thing. We are not looking to change things just to be changing them."
Even though Hunt has worked in Austin for the past five years, he has kept his home in Crockett. Hunt will still consider Houston County home but will be in Jasper during the week to make sure the office works.
"I never left East Texas," Hunt said. "I am a part of East Texas and it is a part of me. I had a great job. I am walking away from an outstanding group of people that I am really going to miss, and we've shed some tears over the last few days. I am walking back in among a lot of old friends."
Hunt believes the transition will be smooth since he understands how the organization works from his time in Austin.
"What we did with the counties often overlaps with [DETCOG]," Hunt said. "A lot of our initiatives are the same. We are very similar and we support each other so we were often working on the same issues that were important to DETCOG."
New board officers also were sworn in at today's meeting. The officers are:
Lynn Torres - President
Daphne Session - First Vice-President
Bill Holder - Second Vice-President
Samye Johnson - Third Vice-President
Joyce Johnson - Board Secretary
Alton Scott - Treasurer
Wes Suiter - Immediate Past President