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New Hidalgo County DA wants to reform office, regain trust

Ricardo Rodriguez took office in January

HIDALGO COUNTY, Texas – There's still no name plate on his office door, but Ricardo Rodriguez won the people's vote and is Hidalgo County's newest district attorney.

Rodriguez's tenure began in January. He replaces Rene Guerra, who held the job for 32 years.

"Coming into the office, we found that there needed to be a lot of work, administrative-wise (and) division-wise," Rodriguez said.

Guerra was voted into office eight consecutive times -- his reign the second-longest ever for a Texas district attorney.

Rodriguez, a University of Texas-San Antonio grad, beat out Guerra in the primary and went unopposed in the general election.

"The previous DA wasn't too happy about it and it kind of sometimes seemed like when we were in debates, I felt like I was at the principal's office," Rodriguez said.

Since stepping into office, Rodriguez has been playing catchup. The backlog at the DA's office, including 13,000 pending misdemeanor cases, is one of his main objectives.

Some 900 have been disposed of since January, but Rodriguez admitted there's no end in sight.

"If we have a approximately 16,000-17,000 cases that come through the misdemeanor section per year, we may have 5,000-6,000 cases that come in on the felony section," Rodriguez said.

That includes crimes which have given border counties like Hidalgo a bad reputation.

"When you talk about smuggling, when you talk about public corruption and when you talk about gangs, those things have been here, but it seems like they are growing as the years go by," Rodriguez said.

It's a perception of crime run rampant, Rodriguez said, and he vows to fight it.

"We want the people to feel that they can trust the DA's office. That regardless of the decisions that are being made, that they are being made fair across the board," Rodriguez said.