EDINBURG – Since the election for the 449th District Court was over, upon her victory Renee Rodriguez-Betancourt hit the ground running knowing Jan. 3 would be here sooner than later.

At 35, Rodriguez-Betancourt took her oath of office at the Edinburg Auditorium Sunday Jan. 1 beginning her four-year campaign as the youngest district court judge in Texas.

Knowing her first day of work Jan. 3 would be here sooner than later Rodriguez-Betancourt hit the ground running after winning her race in May.

The judge-elect visited different counties across the state including Cameron, Bexar and El Paso to see how other juvenile judges practice their trade.

It didn't matter whether the judges were from a different political party Rodriguez-Betancourt saw the judges purpose was to help these children.

Now back in Hidalgo County Rodriguez-Betancourt wants to give juveniles an expectation their cases will be heard in a timely manner and that they will not just be sitting in a detention center.

“These children need to be rehabilitated and not broken down,” she said. “These children need to know that they still have hope and they can have another chance in Hidalgo County.”

The judge also said her court has the opportunity from keeping a child out of the adult system. She wants to change the dramatic change from happening when a child is tried as an adult.

She will utilize her compassion for children to help her make the best decision in their case.

Accomplishing being the youngest judge in the state has been tiring for Rodriguez-Betancourt. She has always had the ambition to be an attorney and judge but now in her new post the Edinburg-native hopes other young girls can see her as a role model.

“I hope I can serve as a role model to other little girls who were in my same situation,” she said. “To other little girls who didn't come from much, worked hard and made their dreams come true.”

Down the road Rodriguez-Betancourt hopes to be part of a team that will create specialty courts in the county for juveniles.

In El Paso she saw the drug charges are heard in a specific court for drugs. She saw a court that tackled mental health issues in Bexar county. If she remains at her post by re-election she wants to bring a female treatment center for juveniles.

“Those are issues that are being addressed in specialty court,” she said. “My ultimate goal will be to help create a female treatment center.” 

Restoring Integrity

When Sheriff J.E. Eddie Guerra was appointed to a tarnished position in 2012 his mission was to gain the citizen's trust back. It was his task, amongst his other duties of the office, to restore the integrity of the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Department.

Guerra and his deputies have done so and in May he won a re-election bid by a landslide. Sunday in front of his family, friends and hundreds of deputies he took his oath of office at the Hidalgo County Detention Center.

“Two years ago I asked most of you to take a leap of faith and cross the battle lines with me with a mission to restore integrity for our office,” the Sheriff told those in attendance. “You did, we have (restored integrity) and for that I thank you.”

Guerra said as a result of the hard work from his office there is now a clear mandate of four more years of faith and trust, four more years of integrity, four more years of service and because of that he thanked the citizens of Hidalgo County.

At the same ceremony Guerra did his first duty of the year a had his deputies take their rightful oaths to begin their new campaign along side the sheriff.

Now in a new year Guerra told his commanding officers that he will continue to believe in the principle of delegation and accountability.

“I will continue to foster an environment where responsible risk taking for the protection of the community is supported and encouraged,” he said. “In return I expect you to remain focused on the means of your subordinates to accomplish the goals within the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office.”

To his deputies Guerra said he will continue to make sure they receive the proper training, equipment, supervision and support and in return he expected no less than professional integrity, courage, confidence, compassion and commitment to the office.

“I expect you to be leaders,” he told them. “By taking your oath you accept to be leaders and do your part in maintaining the honor and integrity of this office.”

Rest assure Guerra and his staff find themselves today not at a crossroads but a dedicated path to a pursuit of excellence. He challenged the entire department to pursue excellence and build on what they have achieved without losing focus.

“I will continue to dedicate myself upon this office,” he promised his deputies. “To build upon a strong foundation to do our part in defining who we are and what this office stands for now and in the future.”