Lesley Briones: Running For Office - A Completely Unexpected Blessing
Born and raised in Laredo, Texas along the US-Mexico border, Lesley Briones describes her bicultural and binational upbringing as “growing up on the gateway to the American dream”, a dream that most certainly worked for her. Lesley Briones is the daughter of two educators who instilled in her the value of service, a value that would follow her throughout her educational and professional career. Along with her parents, Briones cites Senator Judith Zaffirni and her work as a role model of hers. She remembers meeting Zaffirini as a first grader and admiring the work of such a powerful woman who fought for communities at the border as well as the environmental issues it faced. She would later intern for Zaffirini in college as a speech writer. Before she could even start applying to college, however, Briones’ American dream was met with rejection when she was just in high school. She recalls the moment she told her school guidance counselor she wished to attend Harvard and was met with a laugh. However, Lesley persevered and would later relocate to Cambridge, Massachusetts where she would attend Harvard University and obtain her bachelor's degree with honors.
Upon graduating, later returned home to the border where she followed in her parents’ footsteps and taught at a public school. It was during this time that she quickly became aware of the inequity in the education system. Her environment along the border exposed her to the juxtaposition of the rule of law between the United States and Mexico. It was realities like these that ignited her desire to take the next step in her career: law school. Briones attended Yale Law School where she led the Latino Law Students in their efforts to provide pro-bono assistance to domestic violence victims and juvenile offenders. Upon graduating from law school, Briones built a diverse work history as an attorney at Vinson & Elkins LLP, as well as the General Counsel and Chief Operation Officer for Laura & John Arnold, a philanthropic non-profit.
In April 2019, Lesley assumed the position of judge for Harris County Civil Court at Law No.4. Lesley described this new role as a “completely unexpected blessing”. It was a Wednesday night when Briones received a phone call from a colleague who told her there was a vacancy on the bench and urged Briones to apply. Her resume and application were submitted that same day. After several rounds of interviews later, Lesley was appointed to the position. And because she was appointed, she would have to run for re-election when her vacant term expired. While running for office may have seemed like a distant reality for Briones, it was only a few weeks before she began her first campaign, "It was judge by day, candidate by night” she says.
Despite the unexpectedness of her campaign, Briones claims her role as judge fully connected her to her purpose in life, saying “What moves me in life is trying to make this world more just, more fair and make the American dream work for everyone…I was swept in and it was baptism by fire”. With the little time she had, Briones sought out members of her community to serve as her mentors as she began her campaign.
In 2020, Briones ran for the unexpired term won in both the Democratic primary and the General election for Harris County Civil Court at Law No.4. She did initially plan on running again in 2022 but when the role of Commissioner for Harris County Precinct 4 presented itself, Briones went for it. In order to do so, however, she had to first resign from her role as judge as the Texas constitution requires the resignation of a current judicial role before campaigning for a different one. She soon found herself in a high-risk, high-reward situation being that it would have been an easier race to stay on the bench but Briones was up for a challenge. The Commissioner role came with more discretion to help one’s community and with service in her heart, it was clear to Lesley that running for the Commissioner role for Harris County Precinct 4 was the right choice for her. Central to her campaign was a commitment to public safety, flood mitigation, and expanding healthcare, issue areas that she, and many other Houstonians, feel deserve great attention. Precinct 4 is home to 1.2 million people, a population size larger than nine U.S. states, and is the size of Rhode Island. In essence, Lesley ‘s role as a Harris County Commissioner is equivalent to being the governor of a small state.
In November 2022, Lesley would unseat the incumbent of Harris County Precinct 4 who served for 11 years. As the first woman, mother, and Latina to serve Precinct 4 of Harris County, Lesley is bringing a fresh perspective not only to Harris County but to the entire city of Houston, Texas. Important to Briones is the ability to listen to all sides of an issue, a skill from that courtroom that has brought to her role as Commissioner. When asked for advice for women hoping to go into politics, she suggests challenging yourself, remaining respectful, and keeping an open mind with individuals who may think differently than you.
When she is not attending town halls and community events, Briones teaches at the University of Houston Law Center as an adjunct professor and raises her three daughters alongside her husband. When her days get long and intense Briones shares that she remembers her why: “I am doing this because I want them [her daughters] to have a better community, legal rights, equal rights as women and as people…to me, it is a sacrifice my family is making for the greater good and my girls’ own future.” Working every day on issues relating to her passions and raising her daughters at the same time is what she believes to be her greatest accomplishment.
Briones’ commitment to helping the next generation of leaders was apparent during her campaign for commissioner which employed student interns. She hopes to build a more robust team of student interns during her next campaign, offering invaluable experience for young people in the most diverse and international precinct, a trait Briones is particularly proud of for Precinct 4. This sentiment of enhancing access to opportunity is of paramount importance to Lesley and was practiced beyond her work in politics when she founded Texas Latinx Judges, a nonprofit that aimed at increasing the advancement of Latinx judges and promoting equal justice in the state of Texas. She is the immediate past president and a current board member.
When asked about barriers she faced throughout her career, Lesley shares moments in which other individuals, some of whom were women, shared opinions on Briones starting a family and what that would mean for her career. She believes that women can do it all and with a team of over 400 individuals, she focuses on how they can all be a champion for women, men, and the transgender community while fostering an environment that allows everyone to be respected for their characters and contributions, not what other people are projecting onto them. Briones urges the future generation of women to be authentically themselves and to never tell yourself no, "There are going to be so many people who tell you no, don’t be one of them” she says. Lesley Briones is a positive force for change that so many of us can look up to. For more information on how to support Briones, please visit the links below.
Campaign Website: https://lesleybriones.com/