The Port Arthur News
Longtime DA will not seek eighth term
By Erinn Callahan
The News staff writer
BEAUMONT — After more than four decades in Jefferson County government, Criminal District Attorney Tom Maness announced Tuesday that he will officially resign on Dec. 31 — a year before his seventh term ends on Dec. 31, 2014.
“It’s time for a new generation,” said Maness, 69, a Democrat.
One of the longest-serving elected officials in Texas, Maness never intended to stay more than a few years when he arrived at the district attorney’s office in 1971. He served seven years as chief felony prosecutor and eight years as judge of the county court at law before being elected DA in 1986.
“I just literally fell in love with the courthouse,” Maness said. “It’s a wonderful place to work — I’ve got great depth in this office.”
But, Maness said, he is leaving the DA’s office in fine shape. When his resignation is official, Tom Rugg, Maness’ first senior assistant, will assume the role of acting district attorney, unless Gov. Rick Perry decides to appoint a replacement.
Rugg began working at the DA’s office shortly after Maness, his longtime friend, was named chief felony prosecutor.
“I think I promised Tommy two years,” Rugg said, laughing. “We started this on a short-term venture, and we have just so enjoyed it.”
Rugg said Maness’ retirement is well deserved.
“The integrity under which this office has been managed over the past 27 years is evident if you look around and see the tenured, seasoned prosecutors,” he said. “It’s unprecedented, in my experience.”
Although Rugg professes that his retirement is still in the distant future, he will not toss his hat into the ring when Maness’ term expires. Instead, Rugg hopes to serve the citizens of Jefferson County in the capacity of district judge. He plans to announce his candidacy for Judge of the 58th District Court — a position vacated by current judge Bob Wortham, who will announce his intent to file for candidacy in next year’s DA race at 12:30 p.m. today on the steps of the Jefferson County Courthouse, 1149 Pearl Street, Beaumont.
A Beaumont native who worked as a painter’s apprentice in Port Arthur during his youth, Wortham was elected Judge of the 58th District Court in 2007. Previously, he served as the United States Attorney for the East District of Texas for 12 years. He was appointed by then-President Ronald Reagan.
“As a judge, you have to sit and wait for problems to come to you,” Wortham said. “As a district attorney, you can go out and resolve them.
“When I was U.S. Attorney, I was very efficient. We had a lot of success, and I would like to do the same as DA.”