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District Clerk Chris Daniel

Harris County District Clerk If can-do spirit is in the air that Houstonians breathe, Chris Daniel has caught the infection.

He was a high achiever as a youngster even though he was only 12 when his dad was killed in a car crash caused by a drunken driver and all parental duties fell on his mom, a secretary.

When computer issues hampered his little sister's efforts to register at Lone Star Community College, Daniel, then 24, ran against a long-time board member at the school in 2006 - and won. That made him one of the youngest elected officials in the state.

Daniel, a lawyer and engineer, has brought a similar energy to the Harris County District Clerk's Office, where he often prefers that things were done yesterday rather than today. Elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2014, Daniel heads an office with about 450 employees and oversees a $32 million budget that has remained lean even as the county has put the recession behind it. His office staffs 76 courts with clerks, maintains records for these courts and runs jury service.

During his first term, Daniel kept the office focused on turning more and more courts into efficient, cost-saving e-courts, modernizing the subpoena process and offering additional services to aid residents, such as a quick, convenient passport operation.

He also has learned that bridge-building and diplomacy are required when he works with scores of judges and county officials to improve court operations.

Marriage also has grounded him. He married Jennifer Barber, a CPA who grew up in Barber's Hill near Baytown, in 2012. Their first child, John, was born in November 2013.

In 2013, Daniel collaborated with the Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia and the Sheriff's Office, the District Attorney's Office and judges to create eSubpoena, an efficient, electronic system that greatly reduces the time it takes to notify witnesses. The digitized system helped make the courts safer at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center. Under the old system, 37 sheriff's deputies serving as bailiffs left courtrooms while they were processing subpoenas. One person can now do this task, allowing three dozen deputies to stay and maintain security in courtrooms.

Under Daniel, the District Clerk's Office turned the civil and family courts into e-courts, saving money on paper and printing, slashing storage costs and reducing the time spent waiting in line to file. Daniel has pushed for electronic records because they are more secure and enhance public access to documents. More access means better accountability.

Further efforts at modernization are in the offing. Electronic warrants are in the talking stages. And the District Clerk's Office has begun preparations to turn the criminal courts into e-courts.

The passport service is Daniel's brainchild. He observed long lines at several post offices' passport operations and decided the District Clerk's Office could do better. He also wondered why the District Clerk's Office didn't provide a passport service when most other district clerks' offices elsewhere in the state were doing so. Daniel's office launched its passport service in the Harris County Civil Courthouse in 2013. Customers regularly compliment the office on the speed and convenience of its service.

Raising awareness about the importance of jury service has been a key thrust of the office under Daniel. He oversaw a major, multi-pronged public awareness campaign designed to encourage people to come to jury service. That campaign, called Honor the Call, featured public service announcements on television and radio, posters on more than 700 Metro buses, news interviews on radio and TV and opinion pieces in newspapers.

His efforts paid off. The juror appearance rate exceeded the 2007-2010 level by at least 4 percent in 2012 and 2013.

Daniel was born in Houston and grew up in Jersey Village and other parts of northwest Harris County. His mother, Jolie, grew up on Curacao, an island off Venezuela that is part of the Netherlands. From his mom, Daniel learned to speak Dutch.

An active Boy Scout, he went on to become an Eagle Scout. His pride in this achievement remains - his award-bedecked Scout's shirt hangs in his office.

After earning a mechanical engineering degree at the University of Texas at Austin, Daniel worked as a project manager at National Oilwell Varco. He later jumped to KBR, serving as a design engineer.

While employed full-time, he took night classes and graduated from South Texas College of Law, passing the bar in 2012.

The Daniels live near downtown Houston in the Washington Avenue area. They are active members at Second Baptist Church. Daniel also occasionally attends Bible classes at Champion Forest Baptist Church.

His sister, Alyson, is a Los Angeles-based actor, and Daniel supports and encourages her in her career.

Daniel is a lifetime member of the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo and a member of the Gatekeeper and Lamb and Goat Auction committees.

He is an advanced scuba diver and loves to travel, having visited more than 14 countries.

E-mail Chris Daniel

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