During the last few months I have been spending more weekend and evening time at my children’s baseball and softball fields, encouraging them to become team players and to experience the values of a well-rounded life. During that time, I have noticed the similarities between teamwork in a sports setting and in my own work as a prosecutor. Teamwork in the sports arena—resulting from a strong, hands-on work ethic and sound coaching—is much like teamwork in our field. It is a behavior that is learned and that, if practiced with clear objectives, can run circles around even its best individual member—and certainly against any criminal. And teamwork can become culturally ingrained to achieve positive results not only for the immediate circle but also for the community and for society at large.
For a team to excel requires that each player bring elements to the group that, when those ingredients are combined, yield a greater-than-one result. In my 13 years serving as a prosecutor, I am fortunate to have worked with individuals who brought to the table all the elements that made an excellent synergy. My current team includes Patty Acevedo, John Cisneros, Dora Coy, Carlos Masso, Chuck Mattingly, Juan Mijares, L.J. Rabb, Oscar Rivera, and Marisela Salazar. Our office successes, in no small measure, were a team effort. For their work ethic and profound commitment to seeking justice for the victimized, there are no adequate words. This team has the greatest pride in representing the State in our judicial system and the humblest gratitude for having served the people of Willacy County to the very best of our abilities. Together we made inroads in cutting crime to a 10-year low and reducing violent crime by 43 percent
As I remember taking office as Willacy County & District Attorney and then fast-forward to my imminent departure on December 31, I am reminded of President James Buchanan, who addressed incoming President Abraham Lincoln with a unique perspective about his own departure: “If you are as happy in entering the White House as I shall feel … (upon leaving) … you are a happy man indeed.” I leave office with certain misgivings about the fate of those for whom I will no longer fight and whose justice I must place in the hands of others. However, I also leave with a knowledge that my team and I always worked diligently to do the right thing. With that clear conscience, I’m a firm believer that as one door closes, another will open.
I also need to express that I am profoundly grateful for the opportunity to serve as president of TDCAA. It has been a rewarding experience. Looking back, I have come to realize that who we are as members of this organization is in no small part due to the head coach and leader, Rob Kepple. He is truly committed to seeking justice for Texans and, as the coach, he considers the angles, contemplates the ifs, and solves the most complicated problems for prosecutors. For every significant criminal-justice bill that affects prosecutors that is generated at the Capitol, 10 are handled by diplomacy before they get traction. His staff also embodies this pursuit by providing assistance daily to help prosecutors both in the courtroom and at the legislature.
TDCAA leadership in the next year will continue strongly with our 2017 President, Randall Sims, 47th Judicial District Attorney—a soul with a heart of gold—and President-Elect Jennifer Tharp, Comal County Criminal District Attorney, a force to be reckoned with, especially at the Capitol. I look forward to a great year under their commitment and fine leadership.