By Rob Kepple
TDCAA Executive Director in Austin
With nearly 1,000 attendees and speakers, TDCAA hosted one of our largest Annual Conferences ever in September at the Kalahari Resort and Convention Center in Round Rock. The Kalahari was very nice, the food was great, and the line-up of speakers was outstanding. I want to thank everyone on the TDCAA staff for a great effort. Led by Brian Klas, LaToya Scott, and Andie Peters, we produced a quality conference.
As always, let us know what you think by completing your evaluations and picking up the phone and calling us!
Annual award winners
We honored some very special people at the Annual Conference this year. Here are our worthy 2023 award recipients:
State Bar Criminal Justice Section Prosecutor of the Year: Randall Sims, former 47th Judicial District Attorney (retired). Randall served as TDCAA President in 2017, as a regional director, and as the President of the Special Prosecution Unit. He always answered the call when his profession needed help. In a shining moment, in the 2000s he and a band of prosecutors dove in and negotiated the difficult journalist shield law.
Oscar Sherrell Award: Jack Roady, CDA in Galveston County. The Oscar Sherrell Award recognizes someone who has served the association and our members. In 2023 Jack wasn’t just the Chair of the Board—he also showed up at the capitol whenever the call went out, and he guided the efforts of the TDCAA Rule 3.09 Committee with the State Bar Committee on Disciplinary Rules and Referenda.
Lone Star Prosecutor Award: Beth Toben, Assistant County and District Attorney in Limestone County. This award recognizes a prosecutor or staff member who has done great service but may not always get the statewide recognition they deserve. Beth has had a quiet yet stellar career as a prosecutor, trainer, and mentor. She has tried over 225 felony jury trials in McLennan and Limestone Counties. A longtime first assistant in Waco, she specialized in child abuse cases. She is a regular faculty member with TDCAA and teaches at the Baylor University School of Law. She was honored to have been the first female president of the McLennan County Bar Association.
C. Chris Marshall Award: Jarvis Parsons, District Attorney in Brazos County, and Jessica Frazier, ACDA in Comal County. This award is for distinguished faculty: It recognizes a person who has made significant contributions to TDCAA’s training efforts. It was a tie this year with both Jarvis and Jessica winning the award.
Jarvis was an instrumental player in TDCAA’s recent efforts to focus on overcoming bias in the analysis and prosecution of cases. As part of our Prosecutor Trial Skills Course faculty, he introduces these concepts to new Texas prosecutors and expertly contextualizes them in an understandable and immediately applicable way.
Jessica is a fixture of TDCAA training. While she can be seen at an array of events, her work with our TxDoT (Texas Department of Transportation) training on DWI and intoxication-related offenses, plus her regular DWI caselaw updates, have become foundational learning blocks for new prosecutors.
Thanks to everyone for your dedication to the profession!
Thanks to Kane Handford
Over the past year and a half, y’all have enjoyed the great legal support of our research attorney, Kane Handford. Kane did a great job for our members, and he is joining the ranks of Texas prosecutors as he begins his career as an assistant DA in Midland County. Congratulations, Kane. Glad to know we will still see you around at TDCAA conferences!
Welcome, Joe Hooker
We are excited here at TDCAA to welcome our newest staff member, Joe Hooker. Joe is now our Assistant Training Director. He is an experienced prosecutor from the CDA’s Office in Bexar County and has been deeply involved in TDCAA training for years. Joe will bring substantial firepower to our legal support for you, but his main focus is producing TDCAA’s online and distance learning offerings. Welcome, Joe!
Welcome, Jimmy Granberry
We would like to welcome a newly appointed Texas prosecutor to our ranks: James (Jimmy) Granberry, who has been appointed as the District Attorney in Nueces County to replace Mark Gonzalez, who stepped down to run for other office. Jimmy has been an attorney in private practice and previously served as an assistant district attorney and felony prosecutor for the Nueces County DA’s Office from 1990–1994. He is a member of the State Bar of Texas and a former member of its district grievance committee. Jimmy received a Bachelor of Arts from Trinity University and a Juris Doctor from Texas Tech University School of Law.
Henry Garza announces retirement
It is that time of year: People are making their decisions on whether to seek another term of office. It is with a hearty “job well done!” and a hint of “oh no!” that I congratulate Henry Garza, our DA in Bell County, on the announcement that he will not seek another term. Henry has served 23 years as the elected district attorney in Bell County, and he is ending a 40-year run as a Texas prosecutor. Along the way Henry led our association at the Texas capitol and on the national level as part of the National District Attorneys Association board of directors. Thank you, Henry, for your service!
On another note, we will be watching the newspapers across the state for announcements concerning who is running and who may not be; please keep us informed.
Recognizing your staff—with the Bloated Beaver Award
I am very proud of the work TDCAA has done in creating the Prosecutor Management Institute (PMI). These management courses have been wildly popular. By offering real-world insights and solutions for managing people and leading an office, we can all be better at administering justice in our communities.
At a recent PMI training, we had a lively discussion about how offices might recognize the good work of staff members. I can’t say we finished the discussion—there was lots of back and forth about how to do it right, and not just pass around something that amounts to a “participation trophy.” I will say that one office, the County Attorney’s Office in Chambers County, may have nailed it—with the coveted Bloated Beaver Award.
As explained by Ashley Land, the elected County Attorney, the idea came from a newspaper article that included a photo of a dead, bloated beaver that had been found at Lake Travis. People were surprised that Texas does, in fact, have beavers. And with a Buc-ee’s in Chambers County, it took no time for Ashley, et al., to buy a furry little creature to represent the Bloated Beaver Award, which may end up on the desk of a worthy staff member.
We will continue to consider how to best recognize excellence in an office, but I am thinking that nothing says “job well done” like a bloated beaver on your desk.
Thanks to TDCAA’s leadership
This last year has been a strong one for TDCAA. Under the steady hand of Board President Bill Helwig, CDA in Yoakum County, your leadership navigated a legislative session that produced new financial resources for prosecutor offices, adopted a new five-year long-range plan, launched a review of the TDCAA bylaws, and increased our ability to train by prioritizing the funding of the Assistant Training Director position and the Domestic Violence Resource Prosecutor (more on that new position in later editions of this journal). I want to thank Bill, who will transition to Chair of the Board in January, as well as some board members who are concluding their current terms: Isidro “Chilo” Alaniz, 49th Judicial District Attorney; Sunni Mitchell, ADA in Fort Bend County; Andrew Heap, County Attorney in Kimble County; Steve Reis, DA in Matagorda County; Will Ramsay, 8th Judicial District Attorney; and David Holmes, County Attorney in Hill County. Your dedication is much appreciated.