President's Message: What’s It Like to Be the TCDLA President? - By J. Gary Trichter

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Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

I am the 41st President of TCDLA. As your president, I have both an awesome responsibility and a great honor. The presidential responsibility I speak of is not only to the membership, but also to the presidents that preceded me.

Like me, all the previous presidents have been volunteers. Like me, all previous presidents have had a desire to leave the Association at the end of their term in a better position than they found it. Notwithstanding, the work of the president today is far more time consuming, and different, then it was 40, 30, 20, 10, or 5 years ago. We are now an Association of near 3200 members and have a full-time home staff of 10.

Being president, it is not uncommon for me to spend 15–20 hours per week on TCDLA business. Every day there are emails, letters, and phone calls to receive and to make. Frequent interaction with Joseph Martinez, our Executive Director, and Melissa Schank, our Assistant Executive Director, is also challenging. Topics range from staffing issues, various committee matters, CDLP, NACDL, NCDD, other affiliates, multiple TCDLA seminar topics, numerous budgets, tax documents, grant administration, judicial complaints, the Voice, TCDLEI, strike force help requests, and the weekly fire or two that we did not see coming.

Moreover, in addition to the working with our staff, I regularly speak with State Bar President-Elect Buck Files on State Bar matters, with the Honorable Judge Barbara Hervey of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (or with her staff) on grant issues, and with your other officers, the Executive Committee (all volunteers), and numerous committee representatives (all volunteers).

Here, as an aside, I want to note that your officers today are much more proactive than those of the past. Specifically, each officer actually shares in the volunteer workload of running this Association. For example, all serve on the other committees and all have accepted delegated responsibility from me. Your President-Elect, Lydia Clay-Jackson, is in the loop in almost every decision I make. This is a teaching process that Stan Schneider initiated with Bill Harris and that Bill carried on with me. Bobby Mims, our 1st Vice President, has been very active with grant matters and affiliates. Emmett Harris, 2nd Vice President, and Sam Bassett, Treasurer, have been working on budget reviews, and John Convery, on corresponding and going green.

And so, having a real-life everyday appreciation of the work, effort, and time it takes to be your president, I ask you to remember the 40 trailblazers that preceded me, your other officers, committee chairs, and seminar course directors, and to honor them. Please join me in thanking them for their great personal sacrifice and for their devotion to TCDLA. Absent their efforts, TCDLA would not be the best state criminal defense bar or association in the country. That said, I thank you for your trust and confidence in allowing me to be your president. I will do my best and always “cowboy up” for you!


—J. Gary Trichter
Your President