Chances are you have seen the name Dan Gus around town in recent weeks. If you come into town from I-35, you see his name. If you come into town on Highway 34 from Avalon, you see his name out in front of Mr. Morgan’s home. And if you stop in at the Uptown Café, his name is there in the window.
Dan Gus is a Republican candidate for District Judge of the 40th District Court for Ellis County. While campaigning, Dan has spent a fair amount of time around town getting to know the people of Italy. When asked what it is like to campaign here in Italy, Dan, who lives in Red Oak, said, “I feel very much at home every time I come to Italy. It reminds me of the small town in which I grew up. Even though I’ve seen much of the world since my youth, I am most comfortable living the small town life.”
Dan and his wife, Amanda, moved to Ellis County several years ago so that their children could enjoy the small town upbringing that they both enjoyed. Dan explained, “We both grew up in rural communities. Amanda comes from a ranching family and I was an FFA kid. The fact that we both had small town upbringings really shaped who we are today. I think being raised in a rural environment where the values of faith and hard work are instilled in you can prepare you for a happy and successful life.”
Dan Gus strikes you as the kind of person who has achieved success in life through hard work, determination and Providential blessings. He was raised in a modest blue-collar home and did not have a lot growing up. He jokes, “We were dirt poor and even the dirt was borrowed!” Nevertheless, Dan had the opportunity to attend college and earned a scholarship to debate for his university, Boise State University. Dan graduated with honors from Boise State and, in recognition of his achievements as a student leader and intercollegiate competitor, was inducted into its hall of fame when he graduated.
Dan also had the good fortune of finishing in the top 3% nationwide on the Law School Admissions Test, or LSAT. “When that happened, I was shocked to have law schools writing to me and offering me scholarships to come to their law schools. As a small town kid from Idaho, it was a bit bewildering to receive that kind of attention. Fortunately, I had good mentors who helped guide me through that process. I eventually chose to accept a scholarship to study at Boston College Law School, which was and is one of the top law schools in the country.”
Life in Boston was nothing like the life Dan had known up until that point. “I enjoyed my experience as a student in Boston, but I would have to say I felt a little cramped living in a very crowded city like Boston. I knew after my first year in Boston, that I would head west again when I was finished. So as soon as I finished some clinical training at Harvard and had my degree from Boston College, I headed straight to Texas to accept a job with one of the big firms in Dallas.”
Since coming to Dallas, Dan has worked with one of the largest firms in Texas, was hired by an investment firm as their in-house attorney and financial controller, and has gone on to become a partner with a prominent firm in North Texas. Dan has had cases in state and federal trial courts throughout Texas and has handled several appeals in Texas and federal appellate courts, including the Supreme Court of Texas. “I’ve been blessed to acquire a lot of experience handling high stakes cases in which the pressure to perform at a high level has been intense. I really believe that personal and professional growth is the most noticeable when you are pushed to the edge of your capabilities.”
Now Dan is embarking on a new challenge as he campaigns to be the Ellis County’s next district judge. The 40th District Court is considered to be the chief trial court in Ellis County that handles mostly high dollar civil lawsuits and felony criminal trials. “When I started thinking about this campaign, I prayed a lot to make sure that I was running for the right reasons. I did not want to be one of those people who looks at elected office as a stepping stone in one’s career. I wanted to serve my fellow citizens and make a positive difference in my community. As I studied the 40th District Court, I realized there was an immense opportunity for someone with good legal skills to make a huge impact for good in our county.”
According to Dan and data he cites from the Texas Office of Court Administration, there is a lot of work to be done in the 40th District Court. “Right now, the district courts in Ellis County rank 253rd out of the 254 counties in Texas when it comes to the time it takes to get a civil lawsuit through the system. Jury selection is incredibly time-consuming for those who report to jury duty. And our criminal justice system has seen more than 1,000 cases of failed probation in the last four years alone. All of these factors end up costing Ellis County citizens time and money that can be saved with some creative problem-solving and diligent hard work.”
When asked about his plans for the Court, Dan explained, “Right now we have a large backlog of civil cases that represent more than 60% of the cases that are currently on the court’s docket. I plan to establish procedures and enter orders aimed at clearing this backlog so that Ellis County’s district courts no longer rank next to last among Texas counties in the time it takes to resolve civil lawsuits. I am going to streamline the jury selection process and keep my comments as judge to a minimum, so that jury service does not impose unnecessary burdens on people’s time. I am going to use the tools provided under the Code of Criminal Procedure to exercise greater oversight over probationers in an effort to keep more of them on the straight and narrow and out of jail so that they do not threaten our safety or become a burden to taxpayers. It will be a lot of hard work, but I have never shied from hard work, and I am excited about the challenges and opportunities ahead.”
The election for district judge is already underway. Early voting started on February 16th and will continue through February 26th. The primary election day is on March 2, 2010. To learn where to vote and when, voters can call the county elections office or visit the elections office website. The polling times and locations with maps are also listed on Dan Gus’s website at www.dangusforjudge.com.