Bud Kennedy

New DA Wilson’s first hire knows about infighting

UPDATE: District Attorney-elect Sharen Wilson has named former prosecutor Greg Miller, county criminal Judge Mike Mitchell and former prosecutor and Innocence Project lawyer Larry Moore to lead the office’s criminal division. More will follow at star-telegram.com .

If taking over the Tarrant County Courthouse means a fight, the new district attorney brought her own boxing official.

Austin lawyer and former pro boxing judge David Harris, once ringside for Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Oscar De La Hoya fights, will lead District Attorney-elect Sharen Wilson’s civil division.

Harris is the first of several new hires for Wilson, a Fort Worth lawyer and 23-year judge taking over Jan. 1. Essentially, she’s overhauling the office for the first time after 42 years under the late Tim Curry and successor Joe Shannon.

Harris, 57, is a former Southlake City Council member returning after 17 years in the state attorney general’s office.

“I think what Sharen will do is exciting,” Harris said by phone.

“If I didn’t, I wouldn’t leave a fairly comfortable job.”

He worked as a pro boxing judge from 1993 to 2008 and named Fort Worth boxers from memory: “I worked Paulie Ayala’s fights, Sergio Reyes, Donald Curry, Robin Blake, Stevie Cruz.”

In a 1997 Star-Telegram profile, he talked about how both boxing judges and lawyers have to “step back and remove your emotions from the situation, concentrate and make a fair decision.”

He’ll need those skills as the Tarrant DA’s office goes through sharp change.

Harris will succeed civil division chief Ray Rike, who is staying an extra month to help Harris learn the job before retiring Feb. 1.

First assistant Marvin Collins will retire Dec. 31. More announcements are expected Dec. 1.

“Ray is an expert on the government code, and I’m very grateful that he will stay on for a month to help,” Wilson said.

Harris was a personal-injury lawyer in Southlake and was in private practice 15 years with the late Dallas lawyer and boxing referee Arlen “Spider” Bynum.

At the attorney general’s office, Harris represented state law officers and judges in lawsuits, which is how he met Wilson. In 2013, he was recognized by the Austin-based Texas Center for the Judiciary.

He knows civil law and how to represent county government, but might have to learn how to referee among the various county offices, constantly in conflict under the balance of power established under the Texas Constitution.

“I just want to get in and see what Tarrant County does and why,” he said.

Harris was on the Southlake council under Mayor Rick Stacy when the city planned Southlake Town Square and tangled with Westlake.

“We had more than the Dairy Queen,” Harris said, referring to an old Texas 114 landmark at Dove Road, “but we didn’t have much more than the Dairy Queen.”

Farm Road 1709 was still two lanes, he said.

Wilson, instead of working for the county as many incoming officials do during a transition, has spent the year making the civic-club circuit and studying other counties such as Bexar, she said.

“I want people with the highest ethics I can find and the smartest people I can get on board,” she said.

She’ll have more jobs to fill.