Burnet County Court at Law judge candidates Angela Dowdle and Cody Henson participated in a forum for March primary candidates Thursday, Jan. 27, in the Burnet Community Center. The two were joined by other Republican hopefuls who shared their stances with about 200 people attending. Staff photo by Brigid Cooley
About 200 people attended a debate-like forum in Burnet for candidates running in the Republican primary in March. The forum on Thursday, Jan. 27, in the Burnet Community Center was one of several sponsored by county GOP clubs. Others are planned before the March 1 primaries.
Before the forum began, candidates mingled with constituents at booths lining the perimeter of the room and handed out campaign merchandise and literature. Representatives from each race on the ballot — from governor to justice of the peace — were invited to attend. While some gave in-person campaign statements, others addressed the crowd through prerecorded videos played on a projector screen. In this story, DailyTrib.com is focusing on local races.
During each Q&A, candidates were given two minutes to respond to a handful of anonymous questions submitted by audience members.
Burnet County Commissioner, Precinct 4
A comment made by incumbent Joe Don Dockery when answering a question about community service caused some tension between him and challenger Harold A. Hudson Jr.
Dockery of Marble Falls has occupied the seat since 2007.
“I would appreciate your continued support,” he said during his opening statement. “I’m a lifelong resident of Burnet County, and I have nothing to accomplish other than to serve my constituents.” Hudson of Spicewood has a background in construction and served as a firefighter for 20 years in the Austin area.
“I’m not a politician,” he said. “I am happy being retired, but something needs to change in Burnet County Precinct 4.”
In one question, the candidates were asked to give examples of their past involvement in the community.
Dockery pointed to his work on the Commissioners Court over the past 15 years, including helping to establish a new EMS station in Spicewood. He also noted that he contributed during a number of crises, including a major hail storm in 2009, the 2018 flood, and the recent ice storm of February 2021.
“And, we were called out to be utilized in September of 2013 when my opponent shot the fiber-optic line in two that took (Spicewood Elementary School) completely out of service,” Dockery added.
In September 2013, Hudson was charged with two third-degree felonies, one for the fiber-optic incident on his property and the other for threatening crew members with a shotgun when they attempted to repair the line.
He pleaded guilty to the charges in 2015 and was sentenced to 10 years of community service, which was later shortened to a five-year sentence. He completed that sentence last year. He then received a deferred adjudication for the convictions, meaning both felonies were removed from his criminal record upon fulfilling his court-ordered obligations.
“If he wants to bring that kind of stuff up, that’s fine,” Hudson said. “I’ve paid that debt.”
While answering other questions, Hudson commented several times on fairness, noting he would work to fairly disperse funding and roadwork to areas throughout the precinct. He suggested fixing county roads to a standard that would require fewer repairs and save the county money in the long run.
Dockery noted a list of projects and work completed during his time on the Commissioners Court, emphasizing his experience.
Burnet County Court at Law
Attendees also heard from Angela Dowdle and Cody Henson, the two candidates running for Burnet County Court at Law judge to replace Judge Linda Bayless, who is retiring. County courts at law in Texas preside over misdemeanor, felony, and family court trials.
Dowdle has practiced law for 30 years and is currently an attorney in her private family law practice. During her opening statement, she expressed a passion for working family court cases.
“The Burnet County Court at Law is the family court in Burnet County,” she explained. “It is the court that hears all the divorces, all the custody cases, and that’s important because those cases affect all of us. Whether you’ve been through a divorce or custody case yourself or your family member or friend has, you know how intense it can be, you know how emotional it can be, and you know how important it is to the participants in those cases.”
Henson is a licensed attorney and partner at Henson & Rockafellow PLLC. He has spent much of his career prosecuting misdemeanors and felonies. He noted that he also has experience in family court.
“I have a broad practice, and we practice in all of the areas that the Burnet County Court at Law hears,” he said.
Henson also pointed to his community service, including previously serving on the board of the Hill Country Children’s Advocacy Center. He currently holds a position on the Hill Country Community Foundation, which gives scholarships to seniors graduating from Burnet High School.
During the Q&A, the two candidates were asked how they would handle personal conflicts of interests in potential cases brought before the court.
“There will be people that appear in this courtroom that I cannot ethically hear their case, and that may be because I know too much about them, about the facts of the case and, where, inside my heart, I don’t feel that I can be a fair and impartial jurist,” Henson said. “If I make that determination, I’m going to recuse myself and I’m not going to hear that case because they deserve justice.”
Other questions were on judicial philosophies, experience with family law, and other aspects of the job. More on both Dowdle and Henson can be found on their campaign websites.
Dowdle and Henson will be joined by state representative candidates in a similar Q&A forum and luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Feb. 10 in the Reed Building, 402 E. Jackson St. in Burnet. Attendees must pay a small admission for the event, which will cover the price of lunch.