President’s Message

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”  President John F. Kennedy

Ah, change! The last twelve months have been among the most taxing and joyous of my life. I knew becoming USCRA’s President would be stressful and demanding but ultimately rewarding. I looked forward to the challenge and hoped that I could successfully meet all the demands it entailed. I also knew I would need lots of help along the way from more experienced hands, and I am grateful to all of those who have helped along the way. I couldn’t have made it this far without them. What I didn’t know a year ago was that I might be out of a job.

To give a little background, I moved from the Chicagoland area to the Rio Grande Valley of Texas in 1982. Being young and adventurous, I figured if I didn’t like it, I could always move back home. I stayed. After spending many years as a freelance reporter, I got my dream job as a federal reporter in 2002 and went to work in Brownsville, Texas, for newly appointed Judge Andrew Hanen. Judge Hanen was a transplant to Brownsville from Houston, so together we learned everything about Brownsville and the federal way of doing things. We are the same age, so I envisioned spending the remainder of my court reporting career in Brownsville and retiring when Judge Hanen took senior status and moved back to his roots.

Lo and behold, that change thing happened when Judge Hanen announced last fall that he would be leaving Brownsville and transferring to Houston as soon as possible. My hope of working for the new judge was dashed when he announced that he was bringing his staff from state court. I could not transfer to Houston along with Judge Hanen because they have a pool, and there was not an opening in the pool. Ah, change! Now I’m worried about my future.

So here I am, president of USCRA during a time where complex issues are arising. Reviewing the “new” manual must begin again, and the AO is planning a work measurement study. I inform USCRA’s Executive Committee that I may not be able to fulfill my term when/if I lose my job. No one is happy with my annoucement, but everyone is very understanding of my plight. I’m totally stressed and worried and frustrated because I have no timeline as to when this all might happen.

I had started looking for another position and had a number of interviews without much success; sometimes I didn’t even get an interview. After reporting for 39 years, it was a rude awakening to discover that people were not clamoring for my services. I’ve never felt so inadequate and embarrassed and incompetent in my whole life! After months of rejection and watching my savings get depleted by going on job interviews, I decided to stop applying and resolved myself to my eventual and inevitable unemployment. The replacement judge was confirmed in April, and now it was just a matter of time before I was no longer a federal official.

July was an incredibly intense month of USCRA activity. The AO had released the voluminous new work measurement study documents to the CRAG members. The documents will need to be exhaustively reviewed and comments prepared detailing our concerns and objections. I know many hours will be spent by the Executive Committee during this month. The Committee has planning and strategy sessions scheduled, and the work is daunting.

In the midst of all this, I hear of a job opening in Kansas City. I apply and am asked to interview. Nothing is easy when you live in Brownsville, Texas. My flight to Kansas City took me from Brownsville to Houston to Nashville and then to Kansas City. The interview was at 9:00 a.m., so I travelled the day before. The interview went great and I had a job offer before noon! I flew home with a huge smile on my face, knowing that I now had a future. Ah, change! I have a future!

Then reality sets in. Kansas City wants me to start in two and a half weeks! There are a million things to do. I quickly found an apartment in Kansas City, but I’ve got to pack and move a three-bedroom house into a small apartment, get the house on the market, arrange for a mover, continue working full time, including two trials in the two weeks before I leave, and do all this by myself without losing my mind! The pressure was unrelenting, and I never thought it would all get done.

Not to mention, I had to explain to the USCRA board that my time would be severely limited during one of the most time-consuming projects of my tenure as an USCRA board member. Everyone else had to work harder to make up for my lack of participation. While I stepped back, the people on the Executive Committee picked up where I slacked off and got the job done. That’s real leadership and why you should be very proud of the nominated slate of officers. USCRA’s future is in good hands.

As I write this article, I am on my third day on the job in Kansas City. I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am to be here and how relieved I am to know that I have a future. Every person I’ve met at this courthouse has been kind and welcoming, especially my judge. After an insane three weeks, I’m honored to call Kansas City home.

My year as USCRA’s president has been a crazy roller coaster ride. Despite everything, I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to serve my fellow reporters. I take great pride in the fact that USCRA’s submissions to the AO regarding the work measurement study were seriously considered and made some difference in how the study will be conducted. Every FOCR should be thankful for the dedication of those who worked so diligently on this project. USCRA is helping save jobs.

We’re closing in on the time for USCRA’s annual convention, where significant changes will take place. New officers will be installed, and each of us will be facing the challenge of reporting our work time in a new and different way. Accept those changes as they come and work toward a better future. It has been a privilege to serve this wonderful organization.

Barbara Barnard, President
September 2015