To be good leaders, ‘We have to be ourselves,’ Texas county judge says

Profiles in Power highlights public officials nationwide who are improving their communities through their dedication, enthusiasm, creativity, and experience. 

This week’s profile is Tano Tijerina, county judge of Webb County.

Public career highlights and education: I was a professional baseball player at one particular time and I played with the Milwaukee Brewers. I used to go to all these high schools and let everybody know the importance of education. When I let go of baseball, I’ll never forget my wife looked at me one day and said, “You talk about all this education. Why don’t you go to school?” And she hit me right between the eyes with that. So I decided to go back to school. I graduated from TAMIU in 2000. When I first took office in 2015, we had an $87 million budget with $14 million in the bank. Nine years later, we’re at about $140 million with almost $80 million in the bank. The first four years were very difficult. We had to make some cuts. We had to say no.  

What I like best about public service: The people – communicating with the people, looking at the people in the eyes, talking to the students. To be a good leader, I have learned we have to be ourselves. We have to remind ourselves who we are and not get bigger than we are. 

The best advice I’ve received: Stop and smell the roses. My dad told me, “Son, you have everything. You have a beautiful wife, beautiful children. You have a career that’s just beautiful. But you’re going and going. You need to stop smell the roses.” So now I have a model that I live by.  I tell everybody to live in the moment. Because I have to remind myself to live in this very moment. 

One thing I wish more people knew about county government: Being County Judge is one of the most fulfilling opportunities I have received in my whole life. It is beautiful, but it does come with its negative sides. You have to have thick skin, you have to know who you are, you have to trust yourself, you have to believe in yourself. Number one, my rock is Jesus Christ. And he is the one that I look for. He’s the one that I seek advice to. When I look in that mirror every single day, I need to remind myself, who am I in Christ and who am I for the people? And to me, that’s the most important thing in the world because we could do a million things right, but we mess up one time and everything goes to waste. So my handshake and my word – that’s all I have in this world. And that’s the only thing I’m going to leave with. 

Government Market News Staff

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