Dave Rogers / For The Record

Orange County Judge Stephen Brint Carlton, absent from County Commissioners’ Court since losing his bid for reelection in the March 6 Republican primary, announced Friday he is quitting more than eight months early.

“This letter is to inform you of my intention to resign as Orange County Judge at 12:00 PM on Sunday, April 22, 2018,” Carlton said in an announcement emailed to media outlets Friday afternoon, along with next week’s Commissioners’ Court agenda.

The last two items on the Tuesday, April 17 agenda are ones to accept Carlton’s resignation and to name a replacement to finish out his term, which runs through the end of 2018.

Carlton’s announcement says he is leaving to become executive director of the Texas Medical Board in Austin. He plans to start his new job April 23, according to the announcement.

Earlier today, April 13, 2018, I accepted the position of Executive Director of the Texas Medical Board in Austin, Texas. My official start date in this new position will be on Monday, April 23, 2018.

“Serving as the chief executive of my home county has been one of the greatest honors of my life,” said Carlton, who had spent about 18 months working as an assistant county attorney for Orange before being elected county judge in 2014.

“I will always have great memories of working with some outstanding public servants and getting to meet many fellow citizens of Orange County.”

Political newcomer Dean Crooks defeated Carlton in the Republican Primary, beating the incumbent by a 57 percent to 37 percent margin.

Carlton has been absent for the five consecutive Commissioners’ Court meetings held since the March 6 primary.

Holly Wheeler, Carlton’s administrative assistant, said Carlton was out on vacation the week of the March 13 meeting and on Air Force Reserve duty for the March 20, March 27, April 3 and April 10 meetings.

With Democratic opponent Donald Brown officially dropping out of the race Wednesday, it appears Crooks will be unopposed in the Nov. 6 general election.

County officials who win Nov. 6 take office Jan. 1, 2019.

Carlton’s resignation letter offered a salute to those he worked with and a review of his three-plus years as the chief operating officer for the Southeast Texas county of 83,000.

He declared, “Orange County is in a far better place today than when I took office.”

The complete announcement:

People of Orange County,

 This letter is to inform you of my intention to resign as Orange County Judge at 12:00 PM on Sunday, April 22, 2018. Earlier today, April 13, 2018, I accepted the position of Executive Director of the Texas Medical Board in Austin, Texas. My official start date in this new position will be on Monday, April 23, 2018. 

Serving as the chief executive of my home county has been one of the greatest honors of my life. I will always have great memories of working with some outstanding public servants and getting to meet many fellow citizens of Orange County. 

“I am extremely proud of the unprecedented financial improvements we made during my time as county judge. We turned around a broken county, bought millions of dollars in new equipment to improve services, gave employees their largest raise in over 12 years, put the county on the path to greater economic prosperity, and led Orange County through the worst natural disaster to ever strike the United States. We did all of that while lowering the property tax rate and keeping the interests of the taxpayers as the top priority.

There was much false information spread during the most recent campaign. The truth is I did not run for the position of county judge as an attempt to be a career politician and certainly not for the pay. I offered myself up to serve as county judge as a way to help my home county which desperately needed it. The majority of voters decided to go in a different direction in 2018 and my family and I are very much okay with that. Being a county judge in Orange County is very difficult on a family. However, for the situations I could control, I do know, without any doubt, that Orange County is in a far better place today than when I took office. I am proud of that accomplishment and the work of so many who helped make it possible.

 Great achievements and hard work open doors to even greater opportunities. My new position will be as the chief executive of the state agency over licensing for many medical professionals. I am humbled to be entrusted with the responsibility to now look after the interests of everybody in Texas, including Orange County. My family and I are very excited to have this opportunity. This new position will require us to move to Austin. I will miss being near my family, but we are looking forward to all Austin has to offer and being closer to my wife’s family. 

There are far too many people and supporters to thank for me to list them all here. However, I do want to specifically thank the following employees of Orange County: Commissioners Johnny Trahan, Barry Burton, John Gothia, and Jody Crump, Human Resources Director Lori Ardoin, County Auditor Pennee Schmitt, Orange County Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Jessica Hill, and my Administrative Assistant and Court Coordinator Holly Wheeler. These individuals have done far more work than anybody will ever know. And of course, the greatest thanks from me goes to my family. Thank you to my wife, my children, my Mom and Dad, my mother-in-law and father-in-law, my sister and her husband, my brother-in-law and his wife, and my nieces and nephews. My family has been an incredible support network and has allowed me to devote so much time to making Orange County a better place. 

I have always done what was best for the people during my time as county judge, and I will continue to do so in my new position. I wish Orange County nothing but the best and thank you for the opportunity to serve you. 

Sincerely, Stephen Brint Carlton