After 11 years with the Grayson County District Attorney’s Office, Assistant DA Donnie Carter is saying goodbye to the agency.


Carter is headed to Lufkin where he will continue his legal career and serve as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas. Ahead of his last day Friday, Carter was honored this week at the Grayson County Commissioners Court with a commemorative plaque and words of thanks from local officials.


“It’s bittersweet leaving Grayson County and the district attorney’s office after over a decade,” Carter said. “But, I’m thankful for my time here.”


Prior to joining the DA’s office, Carter served four years of active duty in the U.S. Army as an artillery field officer. He then enlisted in the Army Reserves while he completed law school at Nebraska’s Creighton University. Carter officially joined the DA’s prosecution team in October 2008 and said he quickly felt at home in the courtroom.


“I wanted to to do something in public service,” Carter said. “It was a continuation of what I did in my first career as a soldier.”


That military service opened a new door for Carter in 2015 when he was asked to oversee Grayson County’s participation in the North Texas Regional Veterans Court. The court now spans five counties and is offered to veterans who hold an honorable discharge and suffer from some sort of disability, often Post Traumatic Street Disorder. Carter said many veterans wind up in the legal system because they self medicate with drugs and alcohol, but the court offers them a shot at a clean slate.


“They get an opportunity to come into the court and essentially do intensive probation,” Carter said. “If they successfully complete program, then they have the opportunity to have that arrest and charge expunged from their record.”


Of all the criminal cases Carter has tried in Grayson County, he said those involving children were the most difficult, both professionally and personally. Despite the legal and emotional complexities of the job, Carter said it has allowed him to work alongside remarkable people and seek justice for others.


“I’m proud that we’ve been able to help people and be the voice for victims of crimes,” Carter said. “When they come to you, they often feel helpless and overwhelmed by the system, but I’m proud that our office is there to help guide them through it and to the other side.”


A replacement for Carter has not yet been named, but Grayson County DA Brett Smith said whoever is chosen will follow in the footsteps of a hard worker and a man who truly cares about his job.


“They’ll be big shoes to fill,” Smith said.


Drew Smith is the crime and emergency reporter for the Herald Democrat. Contact him at asmith@heralddemocrat.com.