Skip to main content
LawHub

Shaping Policy, Making Decisions: The Legal Affairs of Harris County

Mar 18, 2024
Listen to this episode

Christian Menefee was elected as Harris County Attorney in 2020 at 32, the youngest ever and the first African-American in this role. Harris County, home of Houston, is such a large county that its legal department functions like a large law firm. As the county's chief civil lawyer, Christian oversees the entire department and sets the direction for the county's legal affairs, wielding authority in a role that is both figurehead and decision-maker. As an elected official, he does so while navigating the political landscape.

Christian gets sued, sues others, and otherwise represents the county as its officials and staff go about the business of local government. He candidly shares his journey from private law practice to public service, reflecting on the risks and rewards of challenging established norms within his own political party. Christian is a 2013 graduate of Washington University in St. Louis School of Law.

Transcript

Kyle McEntee:

We're joined today by Christian Menefee, the Harris County attorney. Elected at 32, he is the youngest person and the first African American to serve in this role. Harris County, home of Houston, Texas, is actually larger in size than Rhode Island and larger than 26 states by population. So Christian, as the county attorney, the office you manage reflects that size. You and your team of over 300 people, including attorneys and staff, provide civil legal counsel to the Harris County government, its elected officials, and its employees in their official capacities. What sort of things do you and your team do for the county government?

Christian Menefee:

I think the best way to think of the office is three different hats that we wear. One is the legal department. Anybody who works in a large corporation knows that before you can get anything of consequence done, you gotta go get signed off from the legal department. We're that for Harris County Government. Now, that doesn't sound like too big of a job, but you gotta remember, Harris County Government has about 18,000 employees. So it is a large organization and we're drafting contracts. We're giving advice about which Texas codes apply before a decision is made, whether something is potentially gonna get us in trouble. So we're doing that for just about every single major thing that happens in County Government.

The second hat we wear is what I like to call the shield, which is when the county, when its officials, its employees get sued for things related to the work of county government, we represent them in court. That is a big job because Harris County government gets sued pretty often. So we have a team of lawyers that that's all they do is represent the county and its officials in lawsuits. And then the third part is what I think of as the sword, and that is certain laws give us the ability to file lawsuits on behalf of counter government. So...

One of the areas where we do it most often is on environmental matters, right? You have companies that are violating environmental laws, polluting in neighborhoods, contaminating, discharge in ways that violate our state laws. My office has the authority to go and file lawsuits against them. Those are the three major hats that we wear, but with an office of about 300 some odd folks, every day is a new adventure. So we navigate the issues as they come.

With so many different areas of responsibility, how much control do you have to determine what the county is doing? I think we have a huge impact. So think of it like this, county government is different in the state of Texas than pretty much any other local government structure you can think of throughout the country. The city of Houston, for example, has one executive, one CEO, one head honcho, and that is the mayor of the city of Houston. County government doesn't work like that. Not only do we have the five person commissioner's court, which basically makes all the administrative and financial decisions for the county at large. We have about 60 elected officials. And what the law says is each of those elected officials have their own sphere of authority, meaning they get to control their budgets, they get to control who they hire, they get to make their own decisions that nobody else gets to lord over them. So when you think about it, you have 18,000 folks who report up to many different people who have many different views and get to run their own budgets.

There's about three offices in county government, I think, that touch every single office, and that's IT, HR, and then the lawyers. So we have the ability to kind of be deeply entrenched in each office to collaborate with folks to make sure this stuff gets done. It puts us in a good position to be able to build bridges in a governmental structure that is incredibly decentralized and at time can be disjointed.

Kyle:

Before we get into what you specifically contribute, I wanna talk a little bit more about how you came to this position. So you're an elected official, can't just do that on a whim. What are the eligibility requirements to run for county attorney?

Christian:

Oh man, this is a good question because I need to make sure I know this. You gotta be 18. You have to be an attorney, so I guess you gotta be older than 18. And you have to have resided in the state of Texas and in Harris County for the statutory amount of time, which I believe is a year for Texas in 90 days in the county. Interesting fact, to be attorney general of the state of Texas, you actually don't have to be a lawyer. But you have to be a lawyer to have my job. I have no idea why we have higher minimum qualifications than attorney general of Texas. But those are the qualifications. And then, of course, you have to run, which means you have to put your name on the ballot. You have to pay a filing fee. You have to ask people for their vote. And then you got to win the election.

Kyle:

So what made you know you were ready to run?

Christian:

I don't think anybody ever knows that they're ready to run. I was working in the private sector. I knew at some point I wanted to get involved in government. Both of my parents served in the military, and they were adamant about public service because they're upbringing. They grew up in underserved communities and low-income households. And the military provided them an opportunity out of their situation. So they really believed in this American experiment of democracy and what it means to serve the public, and advocating for the democracy that you want. So I was brought up in a house where we all kind of firmly believed in democracy and in our government. So I knew that eventually I wanted to get back there. And in fact, when I was coming out of law school, I split my summer between the Harris County Public Defender's Office and a firm in town. And I really wanted to go to the Public Defender's Office because I wanted to do what I thought of as the Lord's work.

Thankfully, the public defender's office didn't hire straight out of law school back then. That was a really good thing for me because I had about $200,000 in student loans. So instead I was forced to go off to a firm and be able to make money, pay off my loans. And then eventually I started getting more involved in politics and I saw this office at the intersection of policymaking and the law. And I love being a lawyer and I love trying to impact change. So I knew it was the right thing for me.

Kyle:

So at the time you were working for the local democratic organization, right? And they tasked you with finding the person who ultimately was you.

Christian:

Yeah, so I was the president of a local club out here for one of the political parties and my predecessor was in office. Some folks in the community had taken issue with some of the things that he did, myself included. And so I was tasked with being the person to go find the person to run against him.

You know, it was one of those moments where, okay, the person needs to be able to raise money, preferably young, handsome, I might say. And it was one of those situations, I was like, oh man, am I describing myself? Oh no. So I went and talked to my wife, and we didn't expect to be successful in the race, but we felt like it was the right thing to do. And a few months in, we put a poll out, and what it showed was that I had a real chance to win, and then we really galvanized people, had a bunch of volunteers, and I was able to get over the hump and I beat a 12-year incumbent who had been in elected office for about 20 years.

Kyle:

So there's some risk involved in challenging someone from your own party. How did you decide that that was what you wanted to do as your first attempt to get into politics?

Christian:

I think it's important to, in anything in life that you do, to be courageous and not to conform to the things that have happened in the past and how people view the common path for success, right? There's not one path to becoming an attorney. There's not one path to getting to law school. There's not one path to being successful after law school. And I didn't view there being one path in politics. Most people would say it's career suicide to run against somebody in a primary, especially if you're at the start of your career. But for me, this was about the issues. And it was about advocating for the things that I believed in. You gotta remember, social change is never handed to people, right? These things don't happen by chance. They're not handed to you. You have to advocate for the things you won. You gotta take risks. I have generally been a risk averse person, and I think it was really helpful that I viewed this run as something that I was doing for the community. And I also think it was helpful that I didn't expect to win at first, because I just figured, okay, if I lose, I'll go back to work and everything will be just fine. The really scary thing was winning, right?

Because now you're in charge of an office of 300 people. But the experience of jumping out there, putting my name on the ballot was something I'll never forget for the rest of my life.

Kyle:

Did you let the firm know that you were working for at the time that you were going to run?

Christian:

I did. You know, I believe in transparency. I think that what you'll find is if you're just honest with people about your intentions, most people will allow you to do what it is you're trying to do if it works for whatever goals they're trying to attain. And so what I told the firm was, “Hey, I'm gonna take a few months off so that I can do this. But here's where my billable hours are now and here's where they'll be at the end of the year. If I lose, I'll immediately get back to work. I'll dive back in, I'll make up all my hours.”

Of course, these law firms, they're here to make money, right? So as long as they were gonna make their money, I think they were fine with it. But the folks at the firm were also incredibly supportive. One of the things about running for office is you gotta raise money. And one of the great things about being at a law firm was you could talk to those people and raise money from them, as opposed to going through the traditional means of raising money in the political sphere, which was a big deal to me when I was running against an incumbent.

Kyle:

All right, so you win. Got this giant team that you're now responsible for. Were many of them career professionals, or are you bringing people along with you?

Christian:

It was a little bit of both. So I won, my primary race was March 3rd, 2020. My general election race was November 3rd, 2020. I got sworn in January 1, 2021. That day, my wife was like, oh, my stomach hurts, she went and took a pregnancy test, found out she was pregnant. So, 2020 was a crazy year. And as soon as I won the primary in March, I immediately started reading books on running large organizations, right? When I was at the law firm, I had never managed more than four or five people. I knew that it was gonna be an uphill trek for me, to make sure that I had all the skills necessary to be able to run an office of 300 people. So I started reading books on running public sector organizations, on running large organizations. Started reading books on transforming governmental organizations. And also started meeting with the top brass who were already in the office so I could better understand what they did and what the office did. So when I got in, I brought about four or five people with me from the private sector, but it was important to me that I wasn't gonna come in and do mass firings of the people in the office. I mean, look, these folks aren't in politics, right? Many of them, these are just career public servants who want to do good. And so what I did was I told everybody in the office, here's my vision, laid out my vision for them. And I said, if you think that you can work towards that vision, I would love to have you. And I welcome you to jump on board the train. If you don't think you can work towards that vision, then I think you should see yourself out and I will be helpful to help you find another job opportunity. And maybe three people left before I got to the office, but everybody else stuck around. And I brought on about four or five people who were kind of the new senior management, people who I've known for some time and have trusted. But I think it was a seamless transition. And I would say a large part of the reason why you've never seen a bunch of articles about us and morale or anything in the office, because folks are happy. They enjoy working, they enjoy the opportunity to give back. And we focus very much on people who have been in the office for a long time and have maybe been ignored.

Kyle:

So there's four or five people you brought in. Are they equal into political appointees or do they have to go through the hiring process?

Christian:

Well, the good thing about local government is I'm in charge to get to hire anybody I want, fire anybody I want. You know, weird, but okay. Yeah, I guess the best way to think of them is political appointees. With the caveat that these were all seasoned lawyers, professionals who have been practicing law in the private sector. And I went through a hiring process to get managers throughout the office. So we have about 30 managers in the office from the senior ranks to kind of the lowest levels of management. And what I did was I had, I told everybody in the office, hey, nobody's a manager today, okay? I'm about to decide who's gonna be a manager tomorrow. So send in a letter, a cover letter, and a resume if you would like to be considered for these management positions. I listed all the positions out. So basically had everybody in the office who was in management reapply for their management position. Of course, understanding that if you're not selected, you're not gonna be fired or anything, you just won't be in management. And we ended up retaining like 95% of the managers. And the folks who I brought in had been doing private sector practice. So most of the folks had been at law firms. And it was a great overlay because the beautiful thing about when you take over a new organization, right? You take over an organization. A lot of the folks in the organization have been doing things a certain way for a very long time. And it's no fault of their own if those things aren't as efficient, aren't as effective. It's just how they've always done stuff. So bring it in like a fresh pair of eyes to think through the issues in a new way, I think has been very helpful to the office, while at the same time retaining a lot of the talent at the top so as the people in the office don't think that we've come and moved all the top brass out the way and brought in all new people.

Kyle:

So it's all new to you. You read the books. What was the actual transition like once you started to actually put that theory to test?

Christian:

Oh, first couple of months were crazy. A lot of anxiety, right? Think about it like this. I was 32 years old when I was elected. When I took office, I had people working for me who had been practicing longer than I had been alive, right? You know, folks who were good lawyers, who had maybe been practicing 35 years who reported to somebody, who reported to somebody, who reported to somebody, who reported to me, right? It was a very strange feeling. Lots of anxiety those first few months, right? Waking up in the morning like, oh my gosh, what's gonna happen today? Are we gonna be able to navigate it? And then for those of you who recall in 2021 in February in Texas, we had winter storm Uri, right? At this point, I was six weeks in office and the state shuts down effectively because of a winter storm that resulted in people throughout the state of Texas being without electricity, many folks without water, people languishing in their homes during that time period. We immediately sprang into action and set up a price gouging task force because what we saw was that people in Harris County companies were selling things like water, a case of water that's normally 16 bucks, they were marking up $70, $80. They would increase the price of gas, you know, a dollar per gallon because they knew that they could make money. That's actually illegal in the state of Texas.

So the first major thing we did was set up this price gouging task force, which was respected and praised by elected officials on both sides of the aisle. That was a very important moment for me, because out the gate, you know, it's like the state is crumbling because of a winter storm, and we have to spring into action and get to work. I think that helped me shake off a lot of the nervousness that came with running the office initially. And from there, it was kind of off to the races. It took me about nine months to feel like I knew what I was doing in this job. Those first few months were rough.

Kyle:

So on that price gouging story, you set the vision or you made the decision that this is something we're gonna pursue. Then what was your role in it after that? You've set the path for your team. How do you ensure that it actually comes to fruition, everything you envisioned?

Christian:

When you run an organization, it's important to have smart people who are working with you. If you are an executive of an office and you consider yourself intelligent, you are only gonna be as good as the people you delegate to. And so one of the beautiful things about the County Attorney's Office is we have some fantastic leaders in an office. So the way it typically works is an idea like this, it'll either be me, the senior leadership team, or somebody on the ground in the office doing the legal work who will come up with this idea, makes its way up to me. I make the decision and from there, I delegate to the managers.

And at that point, I get to do the most fun thing ever, which is play cheerleader, right? So once they put it into place and we began to execute, it blew up into a national story. That was my first national interview. I think it was like NBC News or something. And mind you, again, I had just taken this office like six weeks ago. I don't think I had done a TV interview at this point at all. And we're on NBC national. So I got to like promote the work that we were doing. And what it led to was other counties in Texas started setting up price gouging task force. So like that is a very smart idea. So being able to execute in these types of instances quickly, effectively, cross all your T's, dotting on your I's is really about the people who work with you, which is why it's so important to ensure that the people who work with you and for you are smarter than you and are dedicated to your vision.

Kyle:

So how much practice of law are you actually doing in this role?

Christian:

Not much. That is the worst part about the job. When I first started practicing law, I fell in love with it. I mean, I absolutely love the practice of law. Being a litigator just felt like my first real talent. I played football in high school, I got injured. My senior year, I didn't play and I instead did debate. And that was probably the first time that I realized that I could talk. I'm like, oh man, I'm pretty good at talking. And, you know, accomplished much in that single year in debate. I felt that same feeling again when I started practicing law. I get into this job.

And when you're running an office this big that does this many things, you know, I can't be on Westlaw researching, although some days I am, but I can't spend a lot of my time doing that. So I would say maybe 10 to 15% of my time is actually working on a legal issue, which is obviously, you know, a small amount of the total things that I do.

Kyle:

Do you ever look at something and just like, ah, I'm just gonna handle this myself. I miss it.

Christian:

Yes. I definitely do. There are times where a legal question is brought from some senior elected official in Harris County government, so like Judge Lina Hedaga, right? And I could delegate it to my team, but I wanna take a first stab at it just because I miss practicing law. So I'll go research a little bit. And after I have the answer that I know is right, now I got to do the boring part, which is write it up, and I don't wanna do that, so I'll delegate that.

I'll delegate that to someone else. But yeah, it is pretty common, I'd say, maybe once a week I find myself diving in on some legal issue. It annoys my team to no end, right? Because you gotta think about it. I get to do all this other fun stuff that they don't get to do, so they're like, hey, don't take our fun stuff. So I try to be thoughtful and not pick up every single issue as a pet project, but sometimes I do.

Kyle:

So that's really different than a career in private practice.

What does your typical day look like?

Christian:

If it's a normal day, let's start with a normal day. On a normal day, I get into the office at about 8.15. I will have a task list on the notes app on my iPhone, and it's five or six things, some are managerial, maybe one is legal, three are comms things, and I'll just kinda go through those things. I am more of a collaborative leader.

So I meet with my direct reports six to 10 times a day, just small brief meetings, 10 minutes here, 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there, which probably annoys them to no end, right? Because they have all this actual work that they need to do and I'm meeting with them to talk their issues. So on a normal day, I start knocking off my tasks until my team gets in. When my team gets in, generally they'll come by, I will meet with them and then it will turn into a day of meetings, right? I'm meeting with some constituent, I'm meeting with some client in county government, I'm doing a media interview, I'm editing a press release, I'm doing another media interview, I'm then going off to this community center to go talk to these kids, it's a lot of that. So that's a normal day. On a crazy day, I have no clue what I'm gonna be doing until the craziness begins. So, you know, if it's a day where some high profile lawsuit was filed against the county and there's a...a press conference going on, all the media's there, oh my gosh, I can't believe this thing that happened, then my day is gonna take a complete left turn and the entire day will be consumed by that one issue.

Kyle:

Got any good examples?

Christian:

I got lots of them. Okay, so a good example is the November 2022 elections in Harris County. That was a complicated election in Harris County. So we started off the day with several polling sites that just didn't open on time. And this is actually kind of standard in elections. In Harris County on election day, typically we have over 750 polling sites, right? So think about that. Each polling site has to have voting machines. You got to have staff there to work the machines, right? You have to have access to the building. You have to have X number of people ensuring that people are lined up the right way, whatever it may be. Over 750 different sites.

So we had a number of sites that didn't open up on time. Okay, no biggie, we're gonna keep pressing through. At some point during the day, there were claims that sites had started running out of paper. This is important because we just got these new voting machines in Harris County. They're like two years old at this point, right? It used to be that you would go vote on this machine, there was a little knob there, and you would go through, cast all your votes, and it was electronically recorded. Now, to ensure that there's no fraud and to ensure the integrity of our elections, we have new machines where you have to insert a paper ballot, then you vote on the ballot, and then you have to pull it out and go put it into another machine. So that creates a lot of room for user error. But it also means that you have to supply all these locations with paper. So there were some claims that places that run out of paper. Still no big deal, starting to see some news hits, but not too big of a deal. We get to about five or six p.m. and an organization files a lawsuit claiming that because a few polling sites opened up late, now all of the polling sites need to be open an hour later.

Kyle:

And you're getting sued. Harris County is getting sued.

Christian:

That's right. And of course, when Harris County gets sued, I'm the lawyer, so I'm in the middle of it. And you all are gonna learn as a lawyer, it's so great to be in the middle of everybody else's drama. So the county gets sued, and the suit is to extend the polling sites an hour.

We generally are unopposed to that. I mean, you know, the idea of voter access and people having the opportunity to cast their ballot in a fair way makes a lot of sense to me. So we don't oppose it. And the judge orders the polls to stay open an hour later. Okay, crisis averted. That could have been a big headache, but we're fine now. Fast forward about 40 minutes. There are lots of allegations that paper's running out in multiple locations. The news is talking about it. It's all over the place. On top of that, the attorney general has gone up to a higher court and asked that court to get rid of the order that extended polling an hour and to throw out every single vote that happened after 7 p.m. Okay, now we're in crisis mode. We're in full blown crisis mode at this point because the idea of votes being thrown out is catastrophic. You gotta think about the type of people who are voting after 7 p.m. These are people who work regular jobs, who may have had to work late.

You know, they have kids at the house, they're putting everything aside to wait in line to go vote. Some of these folks might have waited an hour or more to go vote.

Kyle:

And it's not just about this election, it's about democracy as a whole.

Christian:

That's right, that's right. The idea of casting votes aside is, you know, works to undermine our democracy and it makes people lose confidence in the system on which we're built. So, we're in full blown catastrophe mode at this point because we're nervous. because the attorney general's of the same political party as the members of the tech Supreme Court. So we're nervous that not only are they gonna end the court order, but they're also gonna throw all the votes out. So we are working to no end to get the filings on the docket so that the court can make a decision. So the court ends the order, and I wanna say it was about 7:50 when this happened, ends the order to extend the polls an hour. Now, stop right here. When the first judge said, keep the polls open another hour. We have to now tell over 750 locations, hey, you can extend it an hour. Yeah, you can't send a group text to 750 people, right? So, you know, the news is reporting it. We're frantically on the phones telling everybody, hey, hey, the court said you have to keep the polls open. You can't shut down, you can't shut down. And then another court steps in and says, no, stop, shut everything down. So now we're back on the phones again, calling, you know, everybody saying, hey, shut it down, shut it down.

Thankfully, the court did not throw the votes out, the votes that were after 7 p.m. But what the court did say was set those votes aside in case any of the candidates who lose decide that they want to challenge their election, they'll know which votes were cast after 7 p.m.

Kyle:

So you've got one group the pre-7 p.m. and one group post-7 p.m.

Christian:

That's right, that's right. And all of this laid the foundation for a bunch of lawsuits that came later by candidates who had lost their elections saying that those votes and a number of other votes should be thrown out.

Kyle:

These are lawsuits against Harris County.

Christian:

The way that the election code sets it up is it's a suit by the loser against the winner, but Harris County is in the middle of it because all of the processes for the elections, all the documents, we had all of it, so we were stuck in the middle of it. But I cannot stress enough how crazy and hectic that day and night was, given how fast everything was moving because we had an election.

Kyle:

So in particular, because everything's moving so quickly, how do you prepare when you're ready to speak publicly about an issue that is developing in real-time, like within minutes?

Christian:

It's like your life is just flashing before your eyes. I mean, you're, you know, one second, you're sitting in your office with kind of your top brass and your communications people, and they're saying, okay, make sure you hit this point and this point and this point and everything's going through one ear and out the other because you're just thinking, oh, they are gonna roast me when I get in front of this camera, I am in trouble. I think though what I've learned from having enough of these experiences is you just wanna speak clearly, you wanna speak calmly, you want to instill confidence, and you wanna stick to the facts, to what you know. So in that instance, we very much tried to just give information because we didn't really know what we had on our hands yet. We had heard that people were saying that locations had run out of paper. We knew that the courts were kind of back and forth on whether the location should stay open an hour, an extra hour or not, but it was very much like drinking from a fire hydrant.

Kyle:

Speaking more broadly about this communications role that you have, how do you balance the urge to speak your mind versus the responsibility to speak on behalf of Harris County?

Christian:

I just try to always speak my mind. You know, I think it is important, when you get elected to office, people elected you to represent them, right? We do not have a direct democracy where every single piece of legislation that comes forth is voted on by every single member of the public. No, we have a representative democracy where decisions are made by people who are elected by others. And those people elect you in part because of what you believe, but they also elected you in part because of who you are. And so I think it's important to when you get into a position to use your voice, you actually use your voice. So I try to be unapologetic about bringing my full self to this job and about speaking my mind on the opinions that matter. That said, I am careful not to say anything that's gonna jeopardize the county or expose us to liability, undermine our goals. And I think the way that you walk that line correctly is to just properly prepare to make sure that when you're going into these situations, you have thought through the questions that you might get asked. You think through themes, like communications is very much about themes. If you're doing a two minute interview with the news, they're probably gonna pull six seconds of it. And so you wanna make sure that in every six second clip, you hit towards your theme, but really fleshing stuff out and being thorough in your preparation so that when you sit down or when you stand in front of the cameras, you're sticking to that theme. And I like to have outlines but not scripts. Scripts really throw me off because I just start reading from the paper. And so I will either go with no notes or I will go with an outline. And a lot of times at the outline, at the very top is my themes. And then right after that is like the absolute worst question that could possibly be asked so that I know how to pivot and get back to my theme.

Kyle:

Part of your position is necessarily political. What does that mean to you to say that it is a political position?

Christian:

You know, I think politics gets a bad rap. People use the word political to mean other things that are sometimes nefarious in our partisan process. But to me, political just means I was elected to get here, right? I approached this job in many ways, very similarly to how I approached private practice, which is just trying to operate with integrity and character and make decisions that are in the best interest of the people I serve. And that means both like my clients at the county, but also the people who elected me.

I don't have a negative connotation on the word political, but I know a lot of people do. Like for example, I know a lot of people say, I'm not a politician, I'm a public servant. I'm like, yeah, but yeah, you're a politician too.

Kyle:

So it gets contentious, right? And that's gotta be a little bit anxiety inducing. You talked a little bit about your first few months being particularly anxiety inducing. How did you manage that anxiety?

Christian:

I work out, get up every morning at 4 a.m. and I go to the gym. That for me is therapeutic.

I would consider myself a spiritual person, that's therapeutic as well. But I had the blessing of about nine months in, my son was born. That just changed my perspective on everything. It gave me a much more well-rounded view just on what success in life represents and on who I'm really making decisions for. In those early months, before my son was born, my routine is what really held me down. Now I had two military parents, so routine is incredibly important to me and if my routine gets thrown off, I get really uncomfortable. So that was part of the hardest transition to this job, is you come to work every day, and I might have three good days where I come to work and everything went exactly as I expected, but then I'm gonna have a week where it's just, soon as I get into the office, I'm like, okay, let me tear up whatever agenda I have for the day, because now we're in crazy town. And then not taking myself too serious. Public service is a very important act. It is a duty that we owe to the people that we serve. But I think that when we start to take ourselves too seriously, that's when we lead to some of the hyper-partisan views and approaches that end up pushing people away.

Kyle:

So one place where there's a lot of that hyper-partisanship is Twitter or X. Do you avoid it?

Christian:

Yeah, so that's another thing that I did to get rid of any fear that there could be like mental health impacts from all of this. So I was never on Twitter prior to running for office. I think I had an account and I would just, whenever there were award shows that I would watch, I would just go on and make jokes with everybody. But I wasn't an active user of Twitter. And then when I started running, I started using a little bit more. And then when I got elected, I was on Twitter because political Twitter is a whole thing and it's a way to get national recognition, whatever it may be. But kind of the more prominent my work got, just the nastier, I mean, Twitter is an insane place.

And what you find yourself doing is just reading people's opinions about you and about your work. And even the most resolute person will at some point start allowing that to drive your behavior. So I just deleted the app off my phone. So my team tweets for me now, and I tell them like if there's something crazy that I absolutely need to know about, then bring it to me and show it to me. But if not, I don't need to know about it. That has been worked wonders for my mental health. And frankly, like a lot of people in this business I know who are extremely unhappy.

They tend to be the people who see the news before anybody else, because they're just like on Twitter all day long, incessantly scrolling and reading people's opinions about themselves. But I'm a firm believer that, you know, some guy on his couch on the other side of town who has never like served the public and has never done any type of work to impact change, I have no business reading about his opinions on a daily basis, right? So I just took the app off my phone.

Kyle:

So you didn't go to law school with a roadmap, but-still, what's next for you?

Christian:

Whew. So the first thing that's on the way for me is we're about to have son number two. So that's gonna be a complete shift in priorities. And maybe my 8.15 day will start off a little bit later. But I'm really enjoying this work of being the Harris County attorney. This office was largely thought of as like a backroom legal office when I took it over. We engaged in some really important, meaningful, and high profile work that I think is really caused the office to blossom. We have been in the national news and the state news all over the place because of the fantastic work that the people in this office do. And I love that. And I love that we're able to accomplish all these things. I still get to go home every night. I mean, it's a great thing to me, you know, to work at a place where I leave the office and 12 minutes later I am sitting on my couch. I definitely miss practicing law. And so maybe one day in the future I will find myself practicing law again, because I think...I was born to be a lawyer who ultimately ended up in politics, but I think, you know, my calling is I want to continue being a lawyer. But for right now, Harris County Attorney is a fantastic job.

Previous episode Next episode

Related episodes