Hilltoppers Vote: SEU alumna Sheriff Sally Hernandez discusses reelection campaign

Sally Hernandez emphasizes need for better mental health training in law enforcement

Sheriff Sally Hernandez studied criminal justice at St. Edward’s Univeristy. She is currently campaigning for her reelection as Travis County Sheriff.

Courtesy of Official Sheriff Sally Hernandez

Sheriff Sally Hernandez studied criminal justice at St. Edward’s Univeristy. She is currently campaigning for her reelection as Travis County Sheriff.

On Oct. 21, a little less than two weeks before election day, Hilltop Views sat down with incumbent democratic candidate for Travis County Sheriff, Sally Hernandez. 

Hernandez, a St. Edward’s University alumna, never set out to work in law enforcement. In 1981 she began searching for a job where she could work at night so that she could take care of her son with special needs during the day. That same year, Hernandez got a job as a dispatcher and realized that she loved law enforcement.

“I fell in love with law enforcement,” Hernandez said. She worked her way up to deputy before moving to Austin. She then worked at the constable’s office before transitioning to the district attorney’s office where she worked for 21 years, the last seven as a Chief Investigator. 

While working as Chief Investigator, Hernandez began to notice a loss of trust between the community and law enforcement.

“I saw cases come before our public integrity unit that reflected violations in that constable’s office,” Hernandez said. “There were so many things that sent red flags.” So she decided to run for constable. 

The race for constable inspired her to pursue more leadership opportunities in law enforcement, and she was elected as the county sheriff in 2016. 

“I was determined, and the more that I got out and heard the needs of the community, — the disappointment, the expectations, all of those things — it just hit me. It energized me to put in the hours and go talk to voters and raise the money,” Hernandez said. 

Hernandez has always focused on community involvement. She also has a passion for the intersection of mental health and the criminal justice system. “We are going to invest in programs. We are going to invest in counselors and psychologists and all of the things we need to do,” she said.

Hernandez is currently working with NAMI of Central Texas and Integral Care to help strengthen families who are impacted by mental illness. She discussed that traction in the field of mental illness and community building would be lost if her opponent, Raul Vargas, was to win the election. 

Hernandez explained that the position of Sheriff requires leadership and administration. “With all of these [issues] getting funded and being passionate about all of these issues like mental illness and the trauma-informed care facility…just all of the work and all of the things that we started would die,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez encourages students to get out and vote. “I think sometimes we don’t think one vote matters, but I remember, not very long ago, a state representative won by four votes. So if four people would not have thought their vote mattered, we would not have an awesome state rep. It shows unity as a community.” 

Learn more about Hernandez on her campaign site.