It’s a little bit hard to imagine, but the petite woman with the blonde hair and blazing blue eyes carries a gun and knows how to use it. Just about everybody in law enforcement does, and Sally Hernandez, currently the Chief Investigator for Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, is campaigning to become Constable in Precinct 3.
So packing heat is one thing she won’t have to learn how to do after the election. Her first job in law enforcement was working in civil process with the Llano County Sheriff’s Office. In 1988 she became a deputy for Constable Kevin Miskell in Travis County Pct. 3 and joined District Attorney Ronnie Earle as a sergeant investigator. In 2005, she was promoted to Chief of Investigations in the D.A.’s Office. Born in Kansas, Hernandez grew up in Llano but has lived in Travis County’s Precinct 3 for 20 years. With a degree in criminal justice from St. Edward’s University, she plans to stay — and hopes to become one of our duly elected Travis County officials in November.
QUESTION: What prompted you to run for Constable?
HERNANDEZ: When I first moved from Llano to Austin, I took a position as a warrant clerk. But when Constable Miskell hired me as a Deputy, he gave me great opportunities, and that allowed me to work my way up. The experience opened the door for me to apply to the District Attorney’s office and start my 20-year career there.
I knew how the Constable’s office had been run years ago, and it just didn’t seem right now in terms of management and cooperation with other agencies. If there’s a problem, I feel like I can fix it. That’s just my personality — I like to find solutions. The Constable’s office is a very important office that sometimes gets a bum rap, but I just think I can make it better.
QUESTION: What do you hope to accomplish as Constable?
HERNANDEZ: I’d like to add a lot more training within the office and with other agencies, for the deputies and for the staff. And I’d like to add more customer service. I’m also interested in getting more women into law enforcement and helping imprisoned women get back into our community.
QUESTION: Superficial minds (OK, mine) want to know: Will you wear a uniform?
HERNANDEZ: It is a uniformed office, but whether I will wear one or not, I don’t know. Probably only for official occasions, but I do carry a gun. In law enforcement, you have to carry a gun.
QUESTION: Maria Canchola is the Constable in Precinct 4, but do you think it’s more difficult for a woman to be elected to this particular office?
HERNANDEZ: I don’t expect that to be a problem. I’m probably the only female Chief Investigator among the larger counties in Texas. I’ve never had a problem with sexism or discrimination. I‘ve had to work my way up, but I’ve been president of Capital Area Law Enforcement Executive Association, which includes the Chief of Police and the Capital Police. Everybody has treated me with respect. In Texas, we have a very low percentage of female constables in the state’s 254 counties, so it’s very cool that Travis County could have two.
QUESTION: How did you get interested in politics? Have you always been a Democrat?
HERNANDEZ: My life has been strongly influenced by my belief in community service. Yes, I’ve always been a Democrat, and I’ve always worked for Democrats. My Dad was a Labor Democrat, and my mother was postal worker, but neither parent was very political.
In the early ‘80s, I had a son who was born without oxygen for 45 minutes and was brain damaged. I tried to care for him at home, but realized I needed help. Llano had few care facilities to offer, so I found one in Austin and tried to get him accepted. But by that time I was a single mom and they wouldn’t accept him, so I contacted Congressman Jake Pickle for help. Within a matter of weeks, he was accepted. From that point on, I was more of an activist and saw the benefits of what Democrats stand for and can do. People helped me — Jake Pickle, Kevin Miskell, Ronnie Earle, Rosemary Lehmberg — now I’m ready to help others.