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By W. Gardner Selby March 30, 2012

Charlie Baird says Travis County office has had same leadership for 30 years

Charlie Baird, the former district and Court of Criminal Appeals judge challenging Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg in the May 29, 2012, Democratic primary, vows to bring a freshness to the local office responsible for prosecuting felony cases in the county.

A Baird leaflet we spotted in early March says: ""We've had the same leadership in the Travis County DA's office for 30 years."

Is that so? We recall that Lehmberg took office as district attorney about three years ago.

So, how does Baird get to his 30 years of the office being under the same leadership?

In an interview, Baird told us Lehmberg started working for the Travis County district attorney’s office before Ronnie Earle won his first term as DA in the 1970s. Baird also specified about 10 of Lehmberg’s deputies or section chiefs who he said had been with the office for an "extraordinarily long time."

A day later, Baird called back to say that his leaflet statement was based only on the tenures of Earle and Lehmberg -- and not time served by any longstanding deputies.

All righty, let’s count.

Earle became the district attorney in 1977, the Austin American-Statesman noted in a December 2007 news article on his decision not to run again in 2008.

According to Lehmberg’s biographical entry on the office’s website, she left private law practice to join the DA’s office in 1976. The entry continues: "Rosemary began her career with the district attorney working with the Grand Jury and then as a trial attorney in the 167th District Court, presided over by Judge Tom Blackwell. She later became chief of that court and then the chief of the Trial Division. She has served as the chief of the Career Criminal, Major Crimes and Public Integrity Divisions."

The entry continues: "In 1988, Rosemary became director of the Family Justice Division. While director, she was a founder of the Travis County Children's Advocacy Center, now the Center for Child Protection... Rosemary served as First Assistant District Attorney from 1997 until 2009, when she was elected District Attorney. She took office in January 2009, the first woman district attorney in Travis County history."

Our ruling

The Travis County DA’s office had two elected leaders over 35 years, from 1977 through 2011. Earle was the district attorney for 32 of those years, leaving office after voters elected Lehmberg, who earlier held several leadership roles under Earle and, significantly, was his first assistant for a dozen years.

Counting her time as the first assistant district attorney, it’s fair to say Lehmberg has been a key leader of the office for 15 years.

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However, Earle -- who is no longer there -- was the office’s leader most of the leaflet’s proclaimed 30 years.

We rate Baird’s claim as Mostly False.

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Charlie Baird says Travis County office has had same leadership for 30 years

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