By Dave Rogers
For The Record

When Orange County issued a disaster declaration for flooding last March, the person doing the declaring was in South Korea.
County Judge Stephen Brint Carlton was two weeks into a three-week deployment with the Air Force Reserve at the time.
“It was not an option to leave (Korea),” said Carlton, a major who is 11 years into what he hopes is a 20-year career as a reservist.
Ironically, Carlton was involved with a training exercise to prepare for the possibility of evacuating American personnel from South Korea at the same time people were actually evacuating parts of Orange County because of rising waters.
“We were in constant contact,” County Commissioner Jody Crump recalled. “Any time I needed the judge he would answer the phone or call back.
“I know we had a bunch of conference calls. We’d gather everybody at the EOC [Emergency Operations Center] and patch him into a conference call.”
“It worked out pretty well but it obviously was a challenge trying to do it from a hemisphere away,” said Carlton, who returned straight from the airport to the EOC.
“I spent many hours on the phone with the emergency management people. With the time difference, I was on the phone in the middle of the night.”
But assignments have changed for Carlton, who was awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal for his work in South Korea.
The change is for the betterment of his sleeping arrangements and the likes of his family, which includes wife Claire, 2-year-old daughter Mayve and a son who is expected in March.
Carlton’s new posting has him working in the Air Force Medical Operations Center at the Pentagon.
“It is interesting to be in the heart of the Department of Defense,” he said. “Everywhere you go, there are the chiefs, the head men and women of our fighting forces.
“There are 23,000 people who work in that building. That’s bigger than Orange, West Orange and Pinehurst together,” he said. “And for somebody new like me, there’s no close parking space.”
Carlton’s first Pentagon duty was in early December. With only an hour’s difference in time zone, it was easier to take care of county business.
“Being in DC makes it easier, but just like when I was in Korea, I called in and stayed in touch. I was in a conference call for a two-hour executive session with attorneys.
“The only difference is when I’m not here, I’m not allowed to vote. The problem there comes if we had a 2-2 vote. I think we’ve only had one of those in my two years.”
The judge says his commitment is for two weeks or less away from Orange two to three times a year.
“When he was up there last time, I had made a bunch of phone calls to him,” Crump said. “It is a unique situation, but he can be accessed by phone. It’s simple to do.”