Incumbent Garza touts his department's track record

Christopher Maher, Jim Wells County Correspondent

Joe Frank Garza is seeking re-election for his fifth term as district attorney, and he cites his experience and recent track record of convictions as reasons the voters should keep him in office.

Garza is a 1965 graduate of William Adams High School in Alice and received a bachelor's degree and master's degree in education from Texas A&I University in Kingsville. He was a teacher in Alice from 1969 to 1981, when he entered law school at the Thurgood Marshall School of Law.

He graduated in 1985, and immediately began working as an assistant attorney with the Jim Wells County Attorney's office. He went on to work in the district attorney's office and then in private practice, until he was elected to his first term as district attorney in 1992.

He and his wife, Hilda, have a son who is a teacher in Pleasanton and a daughter who lives with her husband and children in Alice.

Garza said one of his most important accomplishments in office has been a re-emphasis on juvenile cases, something that was lacking before he was elected.

"Back in 1992 when I ran, I made a promise to the public that I would handle juvenile cases. Nobody was handling them at the time," Garza said. "We've been very successful with that program.

"It's about helping the juvenile and rehabilitating the juvenile."

Garza also pointed to his office's recent jury trials, and said he was proud of the work his staff had done.

"I think we've come a long, long way, in that we've gotten pretty established with the prosecutors and the great support staff. That is evident by looking at our track record for 2007," Garza said.

"We won every jury trial we had. We had six convictions, six sent to the penitentiary, two with life without parole."

Garza said his office is currently working to develop programs to address issues such as teenage pregnancy and sexual abuse of children, primarily through education in cooperation with local school districts.

Although his office has a good working relationship with the Jim Wells County Sheriff's Department and the Alice Police Department, Garza said there has been a lack of communication with smaller departments.

"One of the things that needs to be addressed more is working with the smaller police departments," Garza said.

"We've established better communication, especially with how cases are reported and worked up by the smaller departments."

He is currently working to correct that issue, Garza said, starting with opening a new dialogue with the Orange Grove Police Department.

"Crimes are being committed over there, and and I brought it to their attention that we've never received anything," Garza said. "There was apparently a break down dealing with how to send cases over here. We're doing pretty good, considering last year I only got five reports submitted by Orange Grove for the whole year."

When asked what separates him from his opponent, Garza said his experience and the staff he has placed around him make him the right person for the job.

"He claims he has the experience, but I guess he forgets that I've been a prosecutor for over 20 years," Garza said. "I know the system very well. I know this town very well. I grew up here in this town.

"Change just for the sake of change is not my cup of tea."