REFUGIO – There are only a few meetings left until Pct. 3 County Commissioner Gary Bourland retires from the Refugio County Commissioners Court, and even fewer days until he hangs up his robe as Refugio municipal judge.
The commissioner’s post is something Bourland has only done for 20 years, and the city judge position is one he has held for more than 37 years. All together, including 16 years working for the Texas Department of Public Safety, Bourland has 53 years in public service — even more if you count the time he spent as a teenager serving as a weather spotter for the community.
“There is no doubt that Commissioner Bourland’s life has been devoted to public service,” said Refugio County Judge Bobby Blaschke. “Anything he’s been involved in has been in the public’s best interest. In my tenure as county judge over the last six years I have learned a lot from him, and I appreciate the way he makes informed decisions that are best for the whole county.
“He is a good community-minded person and is well respected. He is also a team player and is very purposeful. His patience and understanding are very much appreciated and his thoughtful approach makes it easier to get things done.”
After serving as a highway patrolman, Bourland was elected as a justice of the peace in 1982 and then was elected to the commissioners court in 2000. It was in the early 1980s when Bourland also began his role as the municipal judge for Refugio.
“I have really enjoyed working with the community,” Bourland said. “Precinct 3 has really treated me well and has great people. I have always tried my best to take care of them and do the best with their tax dollars. The price of oil has a big impact on our budget and it’s nip and tuck sometimes to get things done.”
Although maintaining roads and bridges is a primary duty of a county commissioner, Precinct 3 also has the responsibility of maintaining the county fairgrounds, community center and the airport.
“People who work in Precinct 3 are very versatile. I have the best group of employees working for me that I could hope for,” Bourland said. “They do their best for the precinct and for the entire county.”
Although others might have a different approach, Bourland has advice for those who become involved in public service.
“As an elected official, especially as a commissioner, it’s so important to listen to the people,” he said. “They might be saying things you think are incorrect but listen to them anyway and see what they have to say. A lot of times, they have really good information and ideas that are helpful.”
As for serving as a city judge, Bourland said whoever takes that role should be who they are and always put the public’s interest first.
“The new judge needs to be who they are going to be and not try to be the judge I was,” he said. “They should also remember they are not there to collect revenue for the city but to protect people’s rights and to make sure that justice is done. You have to have compassion for people.”
While Bourland served Precinct 3 and Refugio, whenever a crisis arose the focus was on doing what was best for everyone regardless of location, he said.
“When storms come blowing in and there are things to take care of, there are no precinct lines to worry about,” Bourland said. “After Hurricane Harvey we all worked 12, 14 or 16 hour days taking care of what needed to be done wherever it was needed.”
Bourland said he is not sure what retirement holds for him, but he plans to travel to Colorado more often to see his daughter and grandchildren, and he will stay involved in supporting local school districts.
“I’ve always been involved in supporting the youth of Refugio County and I will continue to do that,” he said. “I am a big Refugio High School fan, but if there wasn’t a game in Refugio, I would go to Woodsboro or Austwell-Tivoli and support the kids there. I’ve always enjoyed that.”
As a longtime member of the Refugio Lions Club, Bourland says he will also stay active in many of the service endeavors of that organization “and will contribute wherever I can.”
Bourland said he will be 75 in March, and chose not to run again for commissioner or to continue his role as city judge because he felt it was time for someone else to take on those responsibilities.
“I’ve gotten to the age where I’ve had two back surgeries and a hip replacement so it’s time to move on,” he said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed serving the town of Refugio as their judge the last 37 years and serving Precinct 3 as well as the county.
“I am very thankful for all the support I’ve had over the years.”