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SPECIAL FEATURE: MEETING NEW COUNTY JUDGES ROCHELLE CAMACHO AND LEODORO MARTINEZ III
Rochelle Camacho was sworn in Sunday, January 1, to become Frio County’s first woman county judge.
Camacho was sworn in by outgoing County Judge Arnulfo Luna and pledged to unify the county and begin paving the way for progress.
“It was all about communication,” Camacho said in an interview Thursday, Jan. 5, regarding her quest to draw voters to the polls three times during her bid for the job. “I went door to door and I did not pass anyone up; I saw unfortunate and fortunate situations while campaigning and those situations provided me with the drive I needed.”
In last year’s primary elections, Camacho, a Pearsall native, defeated Albert Alvarez on the democratic ticket but did not garner 51 percent of the votes. She then faced Mary Moore in a run-off election. Camacho won the hotly contested primary run-off and became the democratic pick for the county judge’s seat. She then faced challenges from independent candidate Jose Asuncion and Republican Jessica Villanueva in November’s general election.
The newly elected judge says her ultimate goal and the focus of her priorities this year is to work with local, district and state agencies to start bringing resources for all ages to the county. Camacho says those resources range from weatherization to mental health services.
“We need to lay out implementation plans,” the judge said. “It is about time we prioritize. I also want people to know that the budget is already done and my hands are tied when it comes to the budget.”
Camacho said she heard from many citizens on her campaign trail that they wanted open communications with daily operations of the county and services for those who were once incarcerated.
Beginning in February, the judge plans to hold monthly meetings for each precinct, at which the respective commissioner and justice of the peace will address constituents regarding crime, infrastructure projects and listen to any concerns.
“You know, people just want to be heard, they want an ear and that is exactly what I plan on doing,” the judge said.
With over 15 years of experience in the criminal justice system, Camacho said she has witnessed what she describes as missed opportunities for the county to help those incarcerated.
“We need to implement interventions for these people,” the judge said. “Like counseling, a GED program and check-ups after they have been released.”
Camacho believes it is imperative to know children of the community, especially those with special needs, and she has already begun to brainstorm ideas with the sheriff’s office to implement a program that will help law enforcement identify and handle situations with special-needs citizens.
Just as her campaign slogan read, “Unity, Movement, Progression,” Camacho hit the ground running Tuesday morning, even presiding over a protective order that afternoon.
“It was intense,” the judge said. “But it is keeping me motivated. I am excited and looking into doing what is fair, what is right and doing so with integrity. I know that hard times are going to come but I know there are good times coming with them.”
Inspired to run for judge by witnessing the ins and outs of county business for over 20 years, Camacho said she felt compelled to run for the top county official’s job because she could reach for more.
“Unity is because I cannot do things alone, and it comes with other entities, from the local to state levels, working alongside each other,” the judge said of her campaign slogan. “Movement is when we unify things that fall into place for us to implement proper processes for progression. And progression, the people will see their tax dollars at work.”
The newly elected Frio County judge said she will step down as a Pearsall ISD board trustee during a meeting this month, a position she has held for 15 years.
Camacho is the daughter of Grace Medina and the late Joe Lozano Jr.; she has been married to Mario Camacho Sr. for 31 years and the couple has three children and six grandchildren.