Voices of County Government - Hon. Mary Louise Garcia

By County magazine

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How long have you been the county clerk?

I was sworn in for my first term on Jan. 1, 2011. I am currently running for my third term. 

Prior to your election, what kind of work did you do? What got you interested in running for office?
I worked at the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO) on the command staff for eight years under the leadership of Sheriff Dee Anderson prior to running for County Clerk. I had always been around and involved in politics as a young person. I felt, after working on the command staff of the TCSO, that I could apply what I learned from the largest department in Tarrant County to successfully run this office. I offered my constituents the experience of navigating through county government if I was fortunate enough to serve at this level. 

What was the biggest surprise or adjustment after taking office? 
My adjustment was to truly grasp the role of leadership in relation to expectations from myself and my senior staff. I observed for eight years many types of management and leadership decisions, both good and bad. I worked hard to pull back at the 10,000-foot level and remain open to the ideas and solutions provided to me through my management teams. Mistakes were going to be made, their decisions may not have been mine, but I have to do what I so often expected from my elected official — let go and let my team members shine and learn from their decisions.
 
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced, and what advice would you give your peers across the state that may face the same or similar challenges?
For my organization it is finding the balance between great customer service, truly recognizing excellence among the individual team members and their divisions, and finally providing a workplace each person enjoys showing up to everyday. We are the third largest county in Texas; my office is the second largest generator of tax dollars through business transactions. Questions I most often ask myself: how do I as a leader thank the team daily, how do we motivate team members, how do we mentor and give a chance for growth? Most importantly, what do our customers think after each phone call, email or in-person experience? I have determined that whatever I practice and project from the top of the organization toward these questions determines the stability, happiness and appreciation from my team and our customers.

Since taking office, what accomplishment are you most proud of?
I think the fact we won a TAC Best Practices award for our internal website, the Cybrary, which was designed especially for employees that could serve as a searchable, one-stop institutional knowledge database. We were also recognized as the first county clerk office in Texas to provide certified copies online for our land records through Mega Search.

What do you find are the most successful methods for reaching out to the residents of your county to communicate what your office is doing and why it’s doing it?
Great question and I must admit, with the different media of communication, I think it is imperative all counties utilize each tool. We have a state-of-the-art county website, we absolutely engage on Facebook and Twitter, and I am always in the community speaking about my office, engaging in civic and businesses events around the county.

How do you describe your job to people who may not be familiar with the day-to-day of what you do, the responsibilities of your office or the way county government functions? Are there any common misconceptions you hear?
A phrase often used to describe my role as county clerk is “keeper of the record.” When I begin to explain my office, I often say, “Most of you will not go through your life without calling on your county clerk for life’s major transactions, including birth and death records, deeds, oil and gas records, court records and a host of other business documents.” 

The most common misconception of my office: “Oh, I pay my taxes to you?” They see my name quite a bit on lots of official documents and assume I am the dreaded tax collector — which I graciously correct them is my good friend Ron Wright!

When you’re not at work, what are you doing? Do have any hobbies or something interesting that may surprise your colleagues?
I have five four-legged dogs at home with my husband Jeff — and when I’m not at work I try very hard to be on my yoga mat or engage in some type of workout. I run at a high pace and absolutely see benefit in staying fit — physically and mentally — for daily, good decision-making for our taxpayers and my team.

What is your favorite thing about Tarrant County?
Every public servant who works in Tarrant County government, which is 4,000 strong, shows up each day ready to work diligently for our 2.1 million taxpayers.