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January 4, 2013

Former Cherokee County DA Beckworth hired as Angelina County prosecutor

Beckworth stays mum about his political future

JACKSONVILLE — Very much in the spirit of "pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again," but mum about his political future, ousted Cherokee County District Attorney Elmer Beckworth  began work this week as Angelina County's newest criminal prosecutor.

Many of Beckworth's Cherokee County colleagues were happy to hear he had landed a new job, which began Wednesday.

"I have known Elmer for several years and it doesn't surprise me at all to see him back at work so soon," Jacksonville Police Chief Daniel Reece said. "Elmer is a good man and I consider him a friend. I'm happy to see him back in the criminal justice system this soon."

In an interview with a Jacksonville Daily Progress reporter this week,  Beckworth didn't hide his disappointment at the results of the Nov. 6 election upset that ended his tenure as Cherokee County's district attorney. Beckworth had held that post since 2001.

“No, it was devastating,” he said.

Challenger Rachel Patton took that election by nearly 60 percent. Some have speculated it was incumbent fatigue, others that it was a successful grass roots campaign. Beckworth favors the "GOP sweep" explanation.

"Unfortunately, it was not totally unexpected," he said. "I had seen what happened with Angelina and Anderson County. The Republican vote is so strong now, it's difficult for anyone running as a Democrat to get elected."

Newly-elected Cherokee County District Attorney Rachel Patton wished him the best of luck in his new job and Beckworth said he met with her on case transition and felt it went pretty smoothly.

Beckworth declined to speculate if he would run for office again, change parties to do so, or run for any other future political office.

"What I am going to do is focus on my job and my family," he said. "I want to get my kids through high school and college. I don't want to make any further plans or close out any options. I still live in Rusk, and I'm going to stay active in my community and in school activities."

Beckworth's new boss, Angelina County DA Art Bauereiss, also is new to his job. This month the newly-elected Bauereiss replaced the retiring Clyde Herrington, who held the Angelina DA's seat for over 25 years.

Bauereiss said he feels lucky to have a law veteran such as Beckworth on his team.

"He is very well-respected statewide," Bauereiss said. "I've known him awhile and I was horribly bothered when he lost the election in Cherokee, but as they say, every dark cloud had a silver lining. He's a tremendous asset for this office, and I'm tickled pink to have him."

Bauereiss said he picked up the phone and made Beckworth a job offer right after it was determined he had lost the election.

"I called him up right away and asked if he would be interested in coming here," Bauereiss said. "His learning curve is just not there because he already understands what's going on. He's not going to miss a beat at all. He's going to be like a duck taking to water."

In addition to the job offer from his new boss, Beckworth received a few others almost immediately after losing the election. But Angelina County seemed the most feasible, he said.

So now Beckworth settles in to the job, he said.

"I probably won't have any trials until February and I'm still learning the workload," he said. "But I can't tell you how good it feels to be able to stay in prosecution."

He'll be commuting 40 or so miles to work because he wants to stay a Cherokee County resident.  He'll also be in a new county meeting new people, but expects some Cherokee County cases to intersect with his area at some point.

"I'm enjoying learning about a different system in a bigger county with two district judges," Beckworth said. "Some things are done differently and there are differing DA policies. But whatever flows through here, odds are I'll understand it pretty quickly. That was one reason Art called me so quickly."

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