Hidalgo County Constable Gallardo became president of the TAC Board of Directors on Jan. 1 and will serve for two years. The county’s constable since 2001, Gallardo has worked extensively with TAC and the Justice of the Peace and Constables Association of Texas (JPCA). The JPCA chose him as Constable of the Year in 2007 and 2010. In 2010, the National Constables and Marshalls Association named him National Constable of the Year. And in 2015 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from JPCA. Gallardo recently sat down with County magazine to discuss his involvement with TAC, his life as a constable and his hopes for TAC during his tenure.
As Hidalgo County constable, what has been your main priority, mission or goal?
As constables, we’re the lowest on the totem pole of county government. It’s the oldest elected office that goes all the way back to England. Roles for constables change depending on the population in the county. Before I took office, the role wasn’t much — escorting funerals, evictions, etc.
One of my primary goals was to change the image of constable. We are law enforcement officers just like any other law enforcement. The public didn’t know that. My office now gets involved in illegal dumping, truancy and stopping undocumented immigrants. We expanded because we have the authority. One of the biggest things I did was educate the public on what we do.
What do you like best about your job? What is the most challenging aspect?
What I like is to serve the people. We’re public officials elected by the people and held to higher standards. If I’m able to help someone by giving them time — like when they’re being evicted due to falling on hard times — I’ll do it to help out a little.
I’m also proud of the truancy program. We have a lot of undocumented immigrants and poor families. We had one incident where a girl wouldn’t go to school and we couldn’t figure out why. It turns out she didn’t fit in because she didn’t have nice clothes. We helped her out by getting her some new clothes. Finding a way to help people is very important. We play two parts — one as an enforcer and one as a servant. I like to figure out a way to help people.
A challenging aspect is that I’m often seen as the bad guy. When someone is going through hard times, it is very difficult to take their home because of unpaid taxes. It’s part of our job and what we’re expected to do, but it is very challenging. Unfortunately, we have a lot of poverty.
Another challenge is just letting the public know what we in county government do.
When you first became the Hidalgo County Constable, what were your interactions with TAC like? How did you get to know TAC?
I am a two-time past president of JPCA. Back in 2009, Sheriff Ron Hickman appointed me to the TAC Board of Directors. I worked closely with TAC through the legislative process when I was on the legislative team with JPCA.
Why did you decide to become more involved with TAC?
I have always been one to be active member in anything I’m involved with. I always like a challenge. It was the next step for me. I wanted to learn more about other areas of county government and get to know other officials. I knew it would help me better serve my community and hopefully, I could teach it to someone else down the road so they can better serve their community.
What have you learned or accomplished through your involvement with TAC?
I’ve learned so much about the TAC Risk Management Pool (TAC RMP), as well as all the services TAC provides for counties across the state. TAC is so important for rural counties that really need support. Whether in risk or unemployment or providing health benefits — the counties depend on TAC for help.
What benefits do you feel you’ve gained by becoming involved with TAC and the
I have learned how to communicate with people from across the state in other offices. I’ve had the opportunity to meet all kinds of people, and they all have concerns and ideas that may be different than mine. The Board is made up of every official, so they all bring their own issues and solutions. You learn firsthand what other counties are facing. If I wasn’t part of TAC’s Board, I may not know all the different issues or successes other counties and other offices face.
Do you have any goals or initiatives you’re planning to work on during the next two years as TAC’s president?
There is a new building going up that we’ll be managing — that is going to be a major project. I’ll come in and sit down with my executive committee, then go from there. It’s not about me — it’s about the group. We’re a team. I think it’s very important that we all work together to provide better services for TAC members.
I also want to make sure TAC employees have the best. Without them, TAC would not be where it is today. TAC has the best staff — they’ve worked hard to build it up to where it is today. I want to make sure they are taken care of.
What aspects of the TAC presidency are you most looking forward to?
Definitely, I am most looking forward to working with the team and building the team.
What hobbies or interests do you have outside of county government? What do you do in your free time?
I have two young ones — a daughter who is a senior in high school and very active in basketball. I love going to her games. My son is a freshman and is also in basketball. So, I spend a lot of time watching them. We also have a ranch in Starr County — I love just getting out there in the quiet. I do love fishing, too.