By Tommy Witherspoon
Tribune-Herald staff writer
After 34 years of trying to
shepherd troubled children toward a different path, Rodney Davidson
says it’s time to spend more time with his family and maybe tend to
a few cows.
Davidson, 57, spent his last day
Friday as director of the Bill Logue Juvenile Justice Center,
McLennan County’s juvenile probation and detention center. He
attended a reception in his honor, hugging friends and colleagues
and reflecting on his three decades of service to county youths in
need of direction.
The reception was held at the
county’s new $8 million juvenile facility on Gholson Road, one of
Davidson’s crowning achievements and a symbol of how far the county
has come from the days when juveniles used buckets for toilets and
officials constantly mopped up water from leaks and flooding at the
converted nursing home that served as the county’s former juvenile
Davidson put off retirement until
he could usher his staff into the new facility almost two years ago.
The new center allows the county to
provide more programs, counseling and treatment in an effort to
divert young offenders from the adult criminal justice system.
“It’s a good time,” Davidson said
of his retirement. “I have had a long career. We have reached many
of the goals that I have set for the department. I think that it
will be good for someone to come in with new ideas and new energy.
That never hurts anything.”
The success’ successor
That person won’t be new to
McLennan County. Members of the juvenile board, led by 74th State
District Judge Alan Mayfield, the county’s juvenile court judge,
last week selected Davidson’s longtime friend and assistant chief,
Bobby Campos, as his successor over three other applicants.
Campos, 60, has been in the
juvenile justice business 37 years, including nine as director of
adult and juvenile probation in Beeville. He returned to McLennan
County in 1982 and has been Davidson’s assistant chief probation
officer since 1988.
“I could not have imagined someone
else getting the job because I know Mr. Campos very well and he has
got tons of experience,” Davidson said. “I could assure the board
that he would do an exceptional job. From what I have experienced
over the years, what you have in-house is usually better than what
you can find outside.”
Campos, a Waco native who grew up
speaking Spanish until he went to Sul Ross Elementary School in
South Waco, said Davidson not only has been a good colleague but a
dear friend over the years.
“If it was a marriage, it would
probably be pretty perfect,” Campos said with a laugh. “We have been
on the same page. We have the same agenda: helping kids. Both of us
have a commitment and compassion for kids.”
Because of that, don’t look for
drastic changes when Campos moves into the big office Monday
“Mr. Davidson has done an excellent
job. We are not going to reinvent the wheel. We are just going to
enhance it,” Campos said.
Davidson and Campos have seen a lot
of changes in their time with the county program that was nearest
and dearest to the heart of the late Judge Bill Logue, the county’s
longtime juvenile court judge.
When Davidson started as a juvenile
probation officer in 1972, there were six probation officers, the
juvenile program budget was $750,000 and the detention center,
converted from the county’s former retirement home, included 16
detention beds, four for girls.
Now, there are 29 probation
officers, a total staff of 94, a $5 million budget and 98 detention
beds, including 18 slots for the county’s boot camp program for
Kids today and the problems they
encounter are different, too, Davidson said.
Thirty years ago, probation
officers dealt with paint sniffers and bicycle thieves.
More recently, marijuana and
cocaine abuse and more violent crimes have become the norm.
Since moving to the new facility in
2004, Davidson has been able to add an eight-slot boot camp program
for girls, something he had wanted to do for some time.
Goals yet to be achieved, Davidson
said, are the development of an in-house substance abuse program
with eight beds and an independent living or transitional home for
children who are leaving the facility but don’t have proper support
Campos said he also hopes to add a
full-time psychiatrist and a full-time mentor to the staff.
Cut from the same cloth
Mayfield, the county’s juvenile
court judge, said Davidson has “done a real fine job,” adding that
his department has been instrumental in changing the lives of many
kids for the better.
He said Campos is from the same
“Mr. Campos has been with the
department for many years and has a genuine passion for his work,”
Mayfield said. “He has a real understanding for kids who have the
issues that our kids have and he is always a no-nonsense fellow who
isn’t going to coddle anyone.”
Vickie Rogers-Cobb, a juvenile
department secretary for 31 years, said it was a pleasure working
with Davidson, adding that he was “always fair and considerate and
had the best interest of the children at heart.”
She predicts a smooth transition
from Davidson to Campos.
Davidson said the first thing he
will do in retirement is fence in his 50-acre farm in Mound, just
east of Gatesville, so he can get 10 or so cows and a horse or two.
It’s where he grew up on his
father’s farm and where his 80-year-old mother still lives.
He and his wife will build a home
there soon and hope to spend more time with his daughter, who is
married and lives in Forth Worth.
“In my life, it has gone full
circle,” he said. “It really has.”