Lance Celander, Gaines County Judge
Lance Celander, Gaines County Judge

As Monday's filing period began to wind down for candidate filings for the rapidly approaching March 2014 party elections process, Gaines County Judge Lance Celander made a major announcement.

Celander, who was elected to the Gaines County Judge's post in 2010, told the Seminole Sentinel on Monday he was withdrawing his name from the Gaines GOP race, which features former Gaines County Judge Tom Keyes and former Seminole Police Dept. Chief M.D. "Mickey" Browne.

"I just called and announced to (the) Republican Party Chair that I am withdrawing from the election," said Celander, in a text message sent to the Sentinel, received at 12:17 p.m. Monday. 

"I am going to pursue other interests," said Celander in his explanation.

Celander stated to the Sentinel that he intends to serve out the remainder of his term at Gaines County Judge, which will end on Dec. 31, 2014.

In late November, Celander announced intentions to seek re-election to the position. A position he took over in January 2011 after Keyes in an April 2010 GOP runoff election by a 924-to-821 (52.95-percent to 47.05-percent) voting margin, according to Seminole Sentinel election accounts reported in the newspaper archives.

Prior to taking office as County Judge, Celander had 10 1/2 years experience as the City of Seminole Municipal Judge, as well as several years experience in owning and operating a private business within the Seminole community.

Celander has been a resident of Gaines County since 1982, and graduated from Seminole High School in 1987. In addition, Celander graduated from Texas Tech University in 1991, with a Bachelors degree in Business Administration.

In making his late November announcement,, Celander stated: "I have gained a new prospective for local county government that I did not know when I entered office in January 2011. I say thank you for giving me that chance to be your County Judge," while asking for support in his then re-election bid.

Keyes, who will be seeking his second term in office as Gaines County Judge, served one term as Gaines County Judge, from January 2007 through December 2010.

"I’ve chosen to run for County Judge for the same reasons I ran in 2006," said Keyes in a press release issued in early November to the Seminole Sentinel. "Gaines County needs a Chief Executive who has a vision for the future of Gaines County and is not willing to just maintain the status quo, or just do projects that promote their own personal or political ambitions."

Keyes was born and raised in Seminole. A 1970 graduate of Seminole High School, he attended Abilene Christian University before transferring to the University Of Texas School Of Nursing at Houston.  He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 1975.  

He joined the Navy in 1978 and served for a little over five years before switching services and joining the Army in 1982.  While on active duty, the Army Nurse Corps selected Tom to attend graduate school.  He attended the University of Maryland at Baltimore, where he earned his Master’s of Science in 1992. 

He retired from the Army Nurse Corps as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1998.  

Keyes is married to his wife, Beverly.  They attend Westside Church of Christ, where she serves as the Church Secretary.  Tom and Beverly have two daughters; Olivia (SHS, Class of 2003) and Leah (SHS, Class of 2006).  Leah is living in Seminole and will be serving as Tom’s Campaign Treasurer. 

Browne is a 23-year resident of Gaines County and served 22 years as Chief of Police for the Seminole Police Dept.

Browne retired in November 2012 after serving 22 years as the Chief of Police for the Seminole Police Dept.

"I have worked in County and Municipal Government, along with private business for 46 years," said Browne. "I served in supervisory positions for over 30 of those years."

Browne, in his press release, stated his past work experience covers all areas of criminal justice, management, administrative processes, budget development and control, employee relations and teamwork, leadership, Principles of Organization, training and education, along with many non-police functions.

Browne, 68, is a 1963 graduate of Winters High Schoo, a 1975 graduate of Midland College (A.A.S.) and the FBI National Academy, (96th session, 1974).

He and his wife Jeannie, a PIEMS Clerk with the Seminole Independent School District, have two children: De'An of Midland and Jarod of Lubbock, as well as two grandchildren.

"I am asking the citizens of Gaines County for the opportunity to serve as their County Judge, and be a positive member and team player of their County Commissioners' Court," said Browne.

According to the Texas Association of Counties, the Texas Constitution vests broad judicial and administrative powers in the position of county judge, who presides over a five-member commissioners court, which has budgetary and administrative authority over county government operations.

The county judge handles such widely varying matters as hearings for beer and wine license applications, hearing on admittance to state hospitals for the mentally ill and mentally retarded, juvenile work permits and temporary guardianships for special purposes. The judge is also responsible for calling elections, posting election notices and for receiving and canvassing the election returns. The county judge may perform marriages.

 A county judge in Texas may have judicial responsibility for certain criminal, civil and probate matters - responsibility for these functions vary from county to county. In those counties in which the judge has judicial responsibilities, the judge has appellate jurisdiction over matters arising from the justice courts. The county judge is also head of civil defense and disaster relief, county welfare and in counties under 225,000 population, the judge prepares the county budget along with the county auditor or county clerk.