At the end of August, many were surprised, including me, when Parole Board Chair Rissie Owens abruptly announced her retirement after serving on the Board since the late 1990’s. The Governor appointed Board Member David Gutierrez right after Owens officially announced her departure.
As recently as June, 2015, I was told Ms. Owens planned to serve as the Board’s Chair for at least a few more years. She had been in that position for the past 12 years. Of course, Governor Abbott has the absolute right to appoint whomever he pleases, and in this case, he chose to promote an experienced and well regarded Board Member to take over for Owens. I commend the Governor in his selection of David Gutierrez to take over as Board Chair. He is an excellent choice!
David Gutierrez has been a Board Member since 2009, and prior to serving on the Board, he was the Sheriff in Lubbock County for more than a decade. He has a friendly, professional, and easy going demeanor. In my dealings with Mr. Gutierrez during his tenure as the Board Member in Gatesville, I found that he possesses a genuine willingness to listen carefully and consider all relevant information in any given situation prior to making a decision. In short, he is exactly the kind of man who can hopefully usher in an era of greater transparency and cooperation between the Board Members themselves, and those outside the Board who have dealings with the Board.
The full Board of pardons and Paroles had its first official meeting last Friday with Mr. Gutierrez as the Chair. Although that meeting was in Huntsville, it remains to be seen where future Board meetings may take place. Speculation is that the Board may meet in Austin in the future, as Austin is much closer to where Gutierrez resides. Another theory is that the Board may hold its quarterly meetings at alternating locations. Regardless of where the meetings occur, it will be interesting to see how the new Board evolves under the leadership of David Gutierrez.
Although I had some real concerns about how Ms. Owens handled a few important matters in recent years, there is no doubt that she worked very hard, and there is also no doubt that she left the Board in a much better place than where she found it when she took over as Chair. In other words, she did a lot of good for the Board and the people of the state of Texas, for a very long time, and it is completely unfair to label her negatively or see her overall legacy in anything other than a positive light.