|Trinity Standard - Local News
Stories Added - December 2010
Copyright 2010 - Polk County Publishing Company
Evans receives farewell during reception
Trinity Standard -
GROVETON – Tributes, a gift and a chance to reminisce about the past 16 years was on the agenda Friday, Dec. 10, during a special reception honoring Trinity County Judge Mar,k Evans. The come-and-go reception ended with a special program in which Pct. 1 Commissioner Grover “Tiger” Worsham presented Evans with a gift from the county employees, a clock. Words of praise for the judge also were offered during the progam. Evans, who was first elected in 1994, did not seek re-election this year and will formally end his tenure as county judge on Dec. 31. Retired Texas Highway Patrol Trooper Doug Page was elected in November and will be sworn in as the new county judge on Jan. 1, 2011. With his 16 years in the office, Evans has held that post as long as any other judge in the county’s history. During the tribute program, Evan’s cousin, attorney Scott Evans of Groveton, praised the judge for his service and noted some of the highlights of his career. “I only know about county government as someone who is looking in from the outside. I don’t know all of the ins and outs of his job, but I feel has had done a very good job,” Scott Evans said. He noted that during the judge’s four terms in office, there has been very little turmoil within the county government. Had there been major problems, Scott Evans said that would have been a sure sign the judge wasn’t on top of things. During his talk, Scott Evans noted that among the high points of the judge’s administration was the way he handled the recovery from both hurricanes Rita and Ike, the way he obtained a $5 million grant to restore the Trinity County Courthouse and how he located an accounting error that would have shortchanged Trinity County and local schools more than $1 million in federal funds. He noted that catching the error and correcting it was a direct result of Judge Evan’s heavy involvement in working to obtain U.S. Forest Service funds. Because the Davy Crockett National Forest lands in Trinity and Houston counties are tax exempt, the federal government has been paying annual fees to counties and school districts to help offset the loss of that tax income. For years, those fees were based on the amount of timber and mineral sales made from the forest. However, early in Judge Evan’s tenure, the timber sales plummeted and he and other leaders around the nation help convince Congress to enact legislation that established a standard level of annual payments not tied to timber sales. Judge Evans was so involved in this process, he was chosen to chair a commission of local officials from across the nation to work with Congress on this issue. While the timber payments changed, the payment of mineral money, which had been almost non-existent for years, remained on the old formula with portions of actual sales being divided among the county and schools. Scott Evans said that in 2006 and 2007, Evans noticed that the money from mineral sales – oil and natural gas – from the Davy Crockett National Forest was increasing but the amount of money being divided between the two counties was very unbalanced. He said that first year the judge discovered that while Trinity County was paid about $25,000 to divide been the county’s road and bridge system and the school districts, Houston County’s allocation was well over $1 million. Because the judge was familiar with the law setting up these payments, he realized there was a mistake and used his contacts in Washington to bring it to the attention of the U.S. Forest Service. As a result, about $500,000 that had already been paid to Houston County was shifted to Trinity County that first year and the county received another $500,000 the following year. “Had Mark not been on top of things, this error would have easily been overlooked,” Scott Evans said, adding that his cousin never sought credit for finding the county the $1 million. Scott Evans said in preparing for the tribute, he asked the judge what he was most proud of or what he most remembered from his time as the county judge. The answer he was given surprised him. The judge told him that he was most proud of helping one man with a simple act of kindness. Scott Evans told the story of a man living on the streets of Groveton who came to the judge’s office one day. The man was going to leave town for a while and was concerned that he could not find a place to keep “his papers” while he was gone. The man told the judge that he could find no one to keep the documents and was afraid they would be lost. “Mark got a large envelope, put the papers inside and marked it with the man’s name. He showed him where he it was going in a file drawer and said they would be waiting for him,” Scott Evans said. When the man did finally return to Groveton, the papers were there and Mark used them to help him obtain Social Security benefits that allowed him to get off the streets. “I asked him why he was most proud of this incident and not the courthouse project or the many other big programs he has been involved with over the years. He told me simply that he helped that one man solve his problem and helping the people of Trinity County solve their problems was his job,” Scott Evans said.