By Kleberg County Judge Juan Escobar, Newly Elected Second Vice President, South Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association
I am deeply humbled and happy to be in a position to directly serve the South Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association. I feel that I have been blessed throughout my life with numerous opportunities to serve, and I pledge that I will do so in my new endeavor to the best of my ability.
I am told that I take after my paternal grandfather, Juan Escobar, to us “Buelo Juan.” He sternly taught his children and grandchildren about the drive it takes to exert values of honesty in what we do that result as a benefit to those we serve. I was raised in Escobares, Texas, by the banks of the Rio Grande in Starr County. A seventh generation Tejano, my family has lived in South Texas since 1753 when Texas was under Spanish rule. I learned early on from Buelo Juan that there are always others who are less fortunate than me, and that I need to help them.
My first venture into student politics was in junior high school where I was elected captain of the school safety patrol program. During high school I held various elected positions, culminating as president of the Roma High School Class of 1969. We were involved in numerous civic projects that year. I was also selected to the Class AA All-State Basketball First Team and made state finals in track-and-field competing in the 440-yard dash.
After high school, I joined the Marine Corps and served a tour of duty in Vietnam as an infantryman with the 1st Marine Division. After Vietnam, I was assigned to Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C., where I refined my service skills by observing and learning the attention to detail needed to serve and honor civilian and military leaders at their funerals. It was truly an honor to be a military pallbearer for President Harry Truman, President Lyndon Johnson, former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, and many other distinguished citizens of our great country, including General “Chesty” Puller, the Corps’ most decorated Marine.
I returned to the Rio Grande Valley after active duty where I had previously met the love of my life, Rosie Gonzalez, and had married while still in the Marine Corps. She has been my wife for the past 42 years. We are the parents of two grown children and have two grandsons.
I enrolled at The University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg where I obtained a degree in biology. I also served as a Platoon Sergeant in the Marine Corps Reserves. Although I was selected to attend Officers Candidate School while in the reserves, my wounds from Vietnam kept me from pursuing that duty.
After graduation, I taught algebra at Rio Grande City High School and coached the freshman football team for a short period of time, thus putting to good use the leadership skills I learned in the Marine Corps. In 1978, I joined the U.S. Border Patrol and served there and in other federal law enforcement positions until my retirement from federal service in 2003.
The Border Patrol allowed us to participate in community activities. As a result, and remembering my Buelo Juan’s philosophy to serve, I accepted an appointment to the Brooks County Appraisal District in Falfurrias in the early 1980s. I ran for my first public office in 1985 and was elected school trustee for the Brooks County Independent School District where I served for three years. Upon job reassignment to Kingsville, I was later elected to the Kingsville Independent School District Board of Trustees in 1997 and served for six years.
My dream, though, was to serve in the Texas House of Representatives, and that became a reality in 2003. In a special election to replace the late State Rep. Irma Rangel, I was elected to her vacant position and served as the District #43 state representative until 2009. In the House, I was appointed vice-chair of the Defense Affairs-State Federal Relations Committee. Other assignments included the Border and Intergovernmental Affairs, House Administration, Criminal Jurisprudence, and Land and Resources Management Committees. Numerous pieces of legislation I introduced were passed in the House during my tenure.
Today I am privileged and honored again to serve the citizens of Kleberg County as their County Judge. Our Kleberg County Commissioners Court strives to work as a team and tries very hard to ensure that our decisions improve the quality of life for all of our citizens. The challenges we face in Kleberg County today are similar to those of other Texas counties, e.g. economic development, infrastructure, border security, education, funding, etc.
We must work together in our Association to help each other solve our county issues of today and to meet the challenges of tomorrow. Together we can continue to move Texas forward. Let us start now by exerting our leadership potential. Like Buelo Juan used to say, “Do your best; be your best in all you do.”
I am honored to serve you and to learn from you as the second vice president. Thank you for your confidence in me. I have completed 50-plus years of public and military service thus far, and I will continue to give you my very best effort in the years to come. HH
Editor’s Note: To read more about Judge Escobar’s military career, see our May 2013 Memorial Day feature.