Dwight Richard “Dusty” Gallivan grew up in a military family and came to Odessa at age 6 when his dad, an Army first sergeant, was assigned to teach ROTC at Ector High School.
He learned to like the city and returned after graduating from law school, and now he enjoys playing a constructive role in its political and social fabric as Ector County attorney.
And he might make a small but significant part of Texas history next year, working with staff members and State Rep. Brooks Landgraf to pass a law putting pregnant women in the protected class with police officers and other public servants and making it a felony to hit them.
Gallivan is a reserved, quietly humorous man who is proud of his 19 staff members, including six attorneys, and encourages them to have outside interests. “I tell them it’s a job, it’s not where you live,” he said.
“You need a life outside the office. A young lawyer out of law school wants to work 90 hours a week, but you can only maintain that pace for so long.
“As attorneys, we have to know what we’re doing is the right thing. We review over 6,000 cases a year and file 5,000. We move 60 percent within 30 to 45 days and 99 percent within 120 days. We only have a handful of trials, five or six so far this year.”
Gallivan got his nickname on the day he was born six weeks prematurely at Newport News, Va., when his parents and Aunt Mel were headed to the hospital down a long, dusty road and his aunt quipped, “We ought to call him ‘Dusty.’”
You have to learn patience and how to maintain a poker face, acting like whatever happens is exactly what you expected while underneath you might be freaking out.”
Most of his business is Class A and B misdemeanors, DWIs, the most numerous, and family violence, the most vexatious and dangerous. “One of a prosecutor’s biggest fears is that you will decide not to prosecute or give them a slap on the wrist and they go out and kill,” said Gallivan, 47.
“We handle 700-800 DWIs a year and 300-400 family violence cases, but if we prosecute a DWI, it’s one where nobody got hurt. Ninety-five percent of family violence involves alcohol or some other drug. We have anger management classes, Project Adam and a batterers’ intervention program.
“It’s hard to say, but we like to think they help. We have to do something. We can’t just say, ‘Don’t do it again.’ Part of it is letting the victims know they don’t have to stay in that cycle of violence and letting the perpetrators know they don’t have to hit somebody just because they say something they don’t like.”
Asked why Ector County has so many such cases, Gallivan attributed it to an erosion of family values during the past half-century. “People behave in a way they feel is appropriate,” he said.
“It’s a lack of family unity. There are a lot of one-parent homes where the child only sees one parent on the weekends and the custodial parent is afraid the child will want to go to the other parent.”
A Class A misdemeanor carries penalties of up to a year in jail and a fine of as much as $4,000 while a Class B offense is punishable by as many as six months in jail and a $2,000 fine.
Gallivan, Chief Assistant Greg Barber and the other prosecutors also see beaucoup thefts and marijuana possessions, and they took the protective orders from misdemeanor cases off District Attorney Bobby Bland’s hands last year to file them in Judge Sara Billingsley’s 446th District Court.
Gallivan joined the Air Force after graduating from Odessa High School in 1988 and served in the secure communications department of the Strategic Air Command at Offutt AFB near Omaha, Neb., mustering out as a senior airman. He attended Odessa College, got a bachelor’s of business administration degree at UTPB and worked in the banking industry and as operations manager for Best Buy in Midland. He enrolled at age 26 at Baylor Law School in Waco, where he also took an MBA at Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business.
Gallivan and his wife Monica, a probation officer, have three children. His father David, who also taught at OHS, lives here. His mom Beverly Jean died in 2014. He has a brother and two sisters. “I have a lot of respect for people in the military, but I wouldn’t go back because I don’t like other people telling me what to do,” he said.
“It’s like any job. If personalities clash, you’re not going to like it. I wanted to be an attorney to make a difference, make some money and be my own boss. Nobody was hiring when I got out of law school in 1999, so I opened my own firm where Bell Realtors are now at 2512 N. Grandview, practicing what we call ‘door law.’
“If it walked in the door, I did it — divorce, custody, child support and all kinds of criminal cases. Luckily I had gone to high school with (attorney) Sid Lyle, who showed me how to fill out the paperwork and get court appointments. Within three months, I was getting enough business to stay busy every day. I went all over the state. The bottom line is helping the people who come to you with problems and issues. They want you to fix it, not judge them.”
Gallivan moved to 323 N. Grant Ave. in 2001 and in 2012 sold his practice to his nephew Jason Schoel, then joined Bland as an assistant DA. Commissioners named him county attorney in 2014 when Scott Layh became a county court-at-law judge, and he won a four-year term in 2016.
Longtime friend Mickey Gaines said Gallivan “is hard-working and honest, a straight shooter.
“Dusty may not always tell you what you want to hear, but he will tell you what you need to hear,” said Gaines, who owns an advertising agency. “On the personal side, he is a good family man who has been a role model for me. He married his high school sweetheart and raised his kids well. He’s wicked funny sometimes but in a subtle way.”
Gaines said Gallivan “has a softer side.
“He’s not stone-faced like a lot of attorneys,” he said. “We’ve gone with him and his wife on a couple of vacations, and he was the same there as he was here. He could make so much more money in private practice. His public service is almost better for us than it is for him.”
Schoel’s experience of working for his uncle as a go-fer inspired him to go to Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Houston. “Dusty has always been a great mentor,” Schoel said.
“Seeing him work day in and day out with clients is what turned me to the law. Even to this day, if I have questions I can go to him and get answers. Everything is thought out.”
Schoel said Gallivan’s Air Force years helped shape his career. “Being in the military is a wonderful thing that leads to a life of giving service to others,” he said.
Gallivan said the key to becoming a good trial lawyer “is learning how to act in front of a jury and make an argument one way or the other to achieve whatever it is you’re trying to achieve.
“You have to learn patience and how to maintain a poker face, acting like whatever happens is exactly what you expected while underneath you might be freaking out,” he said. “When I get upset, my ears get red. If you’re sitting behind me, you might not see my face, but you can see my ears get red.”
He sat second chair to the highly regarded late Odessa trial lawyer Tom Hirsch in the 2004 trial of Jamey Naylor, who was charged in the murder of his mother, and he represented 22-year-old Guerdwich Montimere when Montimere was accused of sexual assault of a child and tampering with government records while misrepresenting himself as a teenager and playing on the Permian High School basketball team. Naylor was committed to a state mental hospital, and Montimere was paroled after serving two years in prison.
me sit in, take a few witnesses and gain experience,” Gallivan said. “I once had a client who was accused of aggravated robbery and said he didn’t do it. I told him, ‘The complaining witness knows you and he’s going to say you’re the one who robbed him. You can go to prison.’ He got on the stand and I asked, ‘Why should this jury believe you didn’t do it?’ He said, ‘Because I was at a motel smoking crack with a hooker.’ And they acquitted him.”
One of Gallivan’s chief pursuits is making his office run more smoothly, and he has that goal in his hobby of tinkering with computers, iPads and iPhones “to see how we can use them and become more efficient,” he said.
He also plays with and trains his dogs, including the two Yorkshire terriers he started with and three he adopted from shelters.
The Gallivans have traveled to the East and West coasts, major cities throughout the nation and Jamaica, Mexico, the Caribbean and the Cayman Islands on cruises. “I like to go see different things and see how different people live,” he said.
“What we lack in scenery in Odessa, we make up for in people. Everybody is so friendly. We’re happy here. Where you live is what you make of it.”
- Dusty Gallivan Facebook page.