Denise Gray

The Panola County Sheriff Office’s civil deputy Denise Gray is running for election to be Justice of the Peace for Precincts 1 and 4.

Panola County Civil Deputy Denise Gray wants to continue her work for the county by entering a new position — Justice of the Peace for Precincts 1 and 4.

In her work for the Panola County Sheriff’s Office, Gray has seen all sides of the process.

“In May of 2000, I moved home after being divorced and had a 5-month-old baby, and needed a job,” Gray said. “Sheriff Jack Ellett was the sheriff then, and I went there, I filled out an application to be a part time seasonal dispatcher, and Sheriff Jack asked me, he said ‘Can you do this job?’ and I said, ‘Well, if I can’t you can send me home.’ That will soon be 22 years ago.”

Gray spent six years in dispatch and then went to the police academy, which she had to attend at night because she worked during the day. After getting certified, she worked in the courtroom as bailiff for Judge Terry Bailey and then-District Judge Guy Griffin.

“I got to see that side of the civil part, and that kind of got me interested in the civil part, ‘cause I thought, I’ve already done the criminal part over in dispatch in the jail, booking in people. I got to do the civil part for seven years, and then Sheriff Blake came and I got the opportunity to be on the road, and I’m the first female patrol deputy in Panola County, ever.

“I got to do that for three years, so then I got to see the outside; I got to see the people at home, the things that they dealt with, evictions, if they got paperwork,” she said. “If you get evicted from your house, that’s a huge thing. Disputes, I got to see all of that. Child custody. So I did that for three years, and then when Sgt. Linda Pope retired, she was in the civil department, and I got offered that position at the office and I’ve been there for about six years, and I love it.”

Gray said that she loves civil process in part because she can be a listening ear.

“You’re not only serving people, which could be a really bad day for them, but if you have that ear that you can listen, you can kind of understand, of course you can’t give legal advice or anything like that, but you can listen to them, and all their stuff is in their papers,” she said. “You point it out to them who they need to contact, what they need to do, and I can successfully say that when we leave, a lot of people are not as upset. Because when you get something that says you’re sued, that’s the first thing you do is get upset.”

Gray wants to see all the offices in the county and city work together cohesively.

“Sometimes it can feel like maybe there’s a little bit of indifference, and I don’t want that anymore,” she said. “It’s different times now, and both law enforcement and government, I just believe it all needs to be the same. You need to work cohesively. We’ve all got one goal, and we need that to happen. That’s my main thing.”

Justices of the Peace does important work and have a huge impact on the community, Gray said.

“People think that that the justice of the peace, oh they just marry people. No, the office of the justice of the peace is a huge office,” she said. “We not only do marriages on good days, but we do bonds at the jail, set bond amounts. We do eviction paperwork, when someone gets sued, we do all of that. We keep copies of and take money for tickets. It’s a huge money impact on the county, that when they turn their tickets and stuff in, that we have to get paid for that. The county has to recoup that money. It’s a huge thing for that office, and that’s why we have two of them. We have one for 1 and 4, and one for 2 and 3 because Panola County’s a huge county, and we just need it all to work together cohesively.”

Judge Pat Davis is someone Gray takes as an example for the job.

“One thing that I learned many many years ago, when I first started working at the office, Judge Pat Davis, the best woman that I would ever meet, she had this job. She did it for years, and I always looked up to her,” Gray said. “People could come in, and they would be mad and stomping feet and all that, and when they left they were hugging Ms. Pat telling her ‘thanks for listening.’ That’s what I want. I want you to be able to come to me and tell me what it is and let’s see if we can fix it. That’s my goal.”

Really listening is a big deal to Gray, and that’s one of the reasons she says you should vote for her.

“I not only hear you, but I listen to you. Anybody that knows me knows that,” she said. “Anybody that knows me knows that I am not a politician, and I’ve never claimed to be a politician, but I do know how to make things appear and appear easier and give you the steps that you need to take, and I just want to lend that helping hand. I think that there’s so many things in our county that is great, and we need people to know that. It’s not all about getting sued; it’s not all about going to jail. It’s not that. You got to listen.”

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