Robert Herrera was born in Hondo and grew up in Devine where he attended all 12 years of school, graduating in 1980. Robert says he has many fond memories of those growing up years in Devine. Today, with his parents, brother, and sister having passed away, he still has nieces and nephews who remain in the area; thus, he still calls Devine home.
Upon graduation, at age 18, Robert says he had no plans whatsoever of attending college. He also didn’t have any direction of where he was going or what he was going to do in life. Then, a very close family friend named Hank Sumner approached Robert about a career in corrections. Robert recalls, “As a young man, the benefits and pay sounded like a good direction for me.” After visiting with his family about this opportunity, Robert decided to choose this field of work, knowing it would take him away from home. Having his family’s full support, in September of 1980, Robert entered the training academy for TDC in Huntsville, Texas.
Upon completion of the academy, Robert began his career as a correctional officer at the Ramsey II Unit, now known as the Stringfellow Unit, in Brazoria County, Texas. He says, “Embracing my new found career, I decided to promote into the ranks of the agency. So, in September 1987, I promoted to Sergeant at the Ramsey I Unit [where I remained] for the next two years.” Continuing to advance at the Ramsey I Unit, in September 1989, Robert was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant.
For the next three years, Robert dedicated himself to reaching as many goals as he could. Thus, “The promotions came fast and furious,” he reflects. In November of 1992, he promoted to Captain of the Ramsey III Unit, now known as the Terrell Unit. He adds, “The prison system grew, and I seemed to be growing up with it. With only thirteen years in the agency, my next promotion came in September 1993 to the rank of Major at the Dolph Briscoe Unit in Dilley, Texas.” At this point, Robert had reached the position of the highest uniformed ranking officer. He states, “I felt like I had accomplished so many things and had completed the security process in gray. I looked back at my years and realized that the blue and gray was something I was so proud to be representing.”
To clarify for the layman, Robert explains that the colors of blue and gray are the representation of the correctional officer’s uniform. From the early 80s, prison staff and correctional officers have worn the colors of blue and gray to represent the beliefs and core values of protecting the public and maintaining safe and secure institutions. The symbol of a blue line means respect for the current officers and remembrance for fallen ones.
Proudly, Robert further adds, “Just as in any profession in uniform, we stand together to conduct our job duties side-by-side.” And, he states that “the mission of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is to provide public safety, promote positive change in offender behavior, reintegrate offenders into society, and assist victims of crime.”
At this point, Robert decided it was time to advance to the administrative level of the agency. Thus, in December of 1995, he was promoted to Assistant Warden at the Mark W. Michael Unit in East Texas. Robert humbly admits that over the next seven years, he learned “more than ever.” As an Assistant Warden, he applied those skills when he was transferred to the George J. Beto Unit, an East Texas Maximum security facility in Tennessee Colony, TX.
At this time, Robert felt he accomplished his “biggest learning curve,” and his teachers helped him obtain a degree in criminal justice. This achievement opened more doors within the agency; thus, Robert’s next step up the ladder came in July of 2010 when he was promoted to Senior Warden at the Wallace Pack Unit in Navasota, Texas.
Robert states with pride, “This agency that I entered into at the young age of eighteen years old has molded me to the person I am today. During my career, I had several mentors that saw something in me, encouraged me, and directed me into taking the right path in the agency.”
Robert humbly shares his latest accolades. In 2018, he was called over by his boss for a phone conversation – one which he supposed was just another business call. “Little did I know the celebratory news I was about to receive,” he declares. The news was that he had been selected as “Warden of the Year” for the State of Texas! Robert says that it was at this moment that he realized he had accomplished a “stride of dedication” for which he was being recognized. It was an honor to be forever cherished.
Robert humbly expresses his pride for having surpassed any expectations he had set for himself and beyond. So, imagine his amazement when, just a year later, in 2019, he earned an even bigger award – the North American Association of Wardens and Superintendents “Warden of the Year”.
A banquet to present this award took place on August 5, 2019, in Boston, MA. Robert states, “My heart is full, and I know I could not have reached this accomplishment without the support of my family and staff who walk beside me every day.”
On a personal note, Robert shares that he met Deborah Wages, his “beautiful wife of 32 years” while working in the prison system, side by side with her brother, Robert Wages. It was in the summer of 1986, and they were married in July 1987. Robert and Deborah have a son, Robert Chance Herrera, who is 23 years old “and a musician at heart,” Robert says, adding, “…and a very good one, if I do say so myself.” Robert Chance performs in a band named Jordan Nix and the Day Drinkers. Today, Deborah works in the Commissary at the O.L Luther Unit, and Robert states, “We have raised our son on the grounds of a prison community, as it takes a village.”
In reflection, Robert concludes, “As I look back on my life, I am very thankful where my journey has taken me. Now, with thirty-nine years under my belt, I am still going strong. I will dedicate my knowledge and appreciation to this agency for years to come.”