Mother, teacher, artist, office manager, paralegal, animal rescuer and wildlife expert are all roles that Diana Leggett, 64, of Denton has held, but if she has her way, she’ll be a judge next year.
Leggett filed her paperwork Dec. 8 to run for County Judge. The Democrat will face Willie Hudspeth in the primary election March 6, 2018. Republicans and Democrats have both put up candidates in the race to replace outgoing County Judge Mary Horn, who announced this year that she would not run for reelection.
A paralegal for close to 20 years, Leggett earns her living working in a Lewisville attorney’s office. In her job, she’s used to working the in the court system at the state and federal district level. The issue that got Leggett involved with the Denton County Commissioner’s Court, over which the County Judge presides, is the confederate monument at the Courthouse on the Square in Denton.
The 99-year-old statue has occasionally come under fire over the years, including by Leggett’s primary opponent Willie Hudspeth. After the violence this summer in Charlottesville, Virginia by white supremacists protesting the removal of a statue there, the calls for Denton County to remove its monument have picked up.
“When this whole thing with the memorial happened, it kind of made me blink because I said ‘who the heck is commissioners’ court?’” Leggett said. “When I found out, I was like ‘I didn’t even know they existed. Why don’t we know they exist?’”
Denton County is governed by a five-member Commissioners’ Court. The County Judge presides, and four commissioners vote on matters of policy and budget. All members serve four-year terms.
Learning that Commissioner’s Court had the authority to remove the statue, Leggett went to a meeting and spoke her mind. She said she suggested the establishment of a committee to study the issue and make recommendations to the court. Judge Horn took her up on that request and established the committee at the Sept. 26 meeting.
It was after this that Leggett decided to run for office. “I have to do something. We all have to do something,” Leggett said. “We can’t not be involved at this point in our country’s life.”
Leggett has not served in political office before, but said she had been involved in campaigns in the past. In the 2004 presidential election, Leggett was a volunteer for Democrat Dennis Kucinich.
When she is not working her day job, Leggett leads nonprofit WildRescue, Inc. Rabbit Rescue, an organization that works to rescue and rehabilitate rabbits, providing foster care for domestic rabbits, and returning wild ones back to nature. That organization also helps to educate the public. Leggett first started her rabbit sanctuary in 1995, and it merged with WildRescue in 1999. It moved from Copper Canyon where Leggett lived to Denton in 2008. The organization takes in from 600-900 animals per year.
Leggett thinks her work with the nonprofit, particularly with regards to budgeting, will help her if she becomes County Judge.
If she wins the election, Leggett says she has a plan in place for handing off the nonprofit’s leadership. “I’ll be dedicated to Commissioner’s Court,” Leggett said. She thinks she’ll still have time to teach classes at the animal shelter.
Leggett says she has lived in Denton County for 30 years. For the last 10, she has lived in Denton, but she also has lived in Lewisville and Copper Canyon. A former teacher, she taught art at Flower Mound Elementary, then taught privately for eight years. Leggett has two grown sons, both of whom attended Lewisville High School.
In describing her political philosophy, Leggett said first that she believes in equality of justice. “One for all, all for one. We are all one people, one heart. We all want to be prosperous and healthy and have a good life,” Leggett said. She thinks that should be the mantra of both parties.
Leggett said that in other states, the county commissioners and similar offices are non-partisan. “Pity it can’t be that way here too,” Leggett said. “The only way I can run is as a Democrat because that’s our system.”
As far as the specific issues that she would face if elected, Leggett said she is still getting up to speed on them, and is in process of reviewing the last year’s sessions. The confederate monument is one thing she would take action on right away. She said it should be removed appropriately and placed in the appropriate venue. “We can’t exclude our history,” she said. “We have to look at truth — the good and the bad.”
Leggett is also scrutinizing the county budget, and said she would be going over it with experts.
Accountability and transparency is important to Leggett, who said she would like to find a way to have the meetings be more accessible to citizens. Currently the Commissioner’s Court meets at 9 a.m. on Tuesdays at the Courthouse on the Square in Denton.
Leggett would like to see those meetings moved to evenings or weekends, and maybe “take the show on the road,” having occasional meetings in other cities within the county. Town hall-type meetings to accept public input is another idea that Leggett has.
Leggett has completed college coursework at San Francisco State University, the University of Dallas, and the University of North Texas.
The winner of the Democratic primary election will face Republican Andy Eads in the Nov. 6, 2018 general election, along with any libertarian or other minor party candidates selected by convention.
For more information about Diana Leggett’s campaign, visit her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/DentonInTheHouse/
The Lewisville Texan Journal will be presenting candidate profiles on each local candidate in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.
Featured photo by Leah Hultquist, Storyshots Photography