Victim assistance director to retire
As the month of October marches toward its close, so does the career of a long-time employee at the Grayson County District Attorney's Office. Victim's Services Division Director Mona Robnett will retire at the end of the month after 19 years with the office.
"My husband has been at his job for 40 years so we were kicking things around about retirement," Robnett said when asked about her intention to leave. "And then there was a murder. I know this sounds silly, but this one, this murder, there was just something about it. It hit me hard. I felt the weight of it and it made me feel tired. That was when I knew it was really time to seriously start thinking of retirement. This job takes its toll and 19 years is a long time to do this. I haven’t looked back since I told Brett I was leaving and it’s been said that my smile gets bigger every day."
But her smile was already pretty bright before retirement plans began to be part of her daily talk.
"Mona always had a maternal and calming effect on anyone who came into our office," said Grayson County District Attorney Brett Smith of Robnett. "She had a natural way of bring calm into the most stressful situations, so much so that she even effected the prosecutors handling the cases. Behind the scenes, Mona was securing grants for our office to ensure we retained our Family Violence Investigator and our family violence coordinator."
Robnett is a native of Gunter and went all through school there.
"When I graduated High School two of my friends and I went off to Tyler Junior College. My roommate was an Apache Bell, our friend was a TJC Cheerleader, and as a Dance Major I was in a couple of dance classes, one of which worked on the Apache Bells routines," she said of her early years.
While she loved dancing, she didn't love it as much as the idea of having a family so she left school, got married and started raising a family.
"I did that until the 90’s when I went back to college to gain my associates degree in Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counseling During that time I worked as an intern at the Gainesville State School with teen males who had drug issues," Robnett said.
Her experience with teens led her to a job at Juvenile Alternatives after graduation. Juvenile Alternatives provides direct shelter services for troubled youth. The center works with children from the ages of 14-17 who have been displaced or are runaways. "We often worked with children who had been removed from their homes by CPS. These children came from all over the state of Texas and it was our job to keep them safe and well cared for," Robnett explained.
After a couple of years of that, she went back to school. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminal Justice at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in December 1998.
"In February of 1999 I returned to Juvenile alternatives Family Connection Program and developed a Truancy Program. We worked with the justices of the peace, juvenile probation, school districts and The District Attorney’s Office to keep kids in class and work on family Issues that needed to be worked on. The kids went to life skills classes, and counseling and the parents went to Parenting classes."
She first thought about going to work for the District Attorney's Office after Joe Brown was elected to the office and a friend said they were looking for help.
"She wanted me to apply. One thing led to another and I did and Joe hired me, and the rest as they say is history," she said. And that first two weeks on her new job, she had to write a grant and get it approved by the Grayson County Commissioner's Court and turned into the state.
"I could have done none of this without the things I learned in my counseling classes and the work I did at JA. I also could not have done any of this without Ms. Dorothy Fleming and Tara Wall Brown and one or two others," she said.
The job involved a lot of paper work and some out of the box thinking at times..
"I worked with all victims of violent crime; provided crime victims compensation applications, victim impact statements and assisted with completing those if necessary; assisted with getting the VINE (now called SAVNS) system in Grayson County and assist victims in signing up with VINE/SAVNS when requested; accompany victims to criminal proceedings and trial and assist with trial prep; write and maintain grants for our grant programs; developed the Domestic Violence Investigator Program; worked for and with Joe Brown and others on the development of the Children’s Advocacy Center; and maintain various report and documents requested by entities of the State of Texas," she said.
Though she wishes she could say her job has been less needed by the office as the years have worn on, she said she couldn't.
"I love my victims. I love working with them, making sure everything is taken care of for them. It has been both an honor and a privilege to serve the victims of Grayson County these last 19 years," she said.
She has also enjoyed working with the staff at the D.A.'s office from the elected official to all of the office staff.
"I have worked with two DA’s well, maybe three. Joe Brown, Kerye Ashmore, and Brett Smith. Joe was my first boss and we did a lot of things together. Kerye was there for most of what we did as our 1st assistant. All I can say about Kerye is that he is 'The Man.' Kerye Ashmore is the Best of the Best.," she said.
But she also has loved working with Smith.
"I have worked with Brett Smith for 15 or 16 years. We have done a lot of juvenile and adult cases together. I love the way Brett works. We’ve done some really gruesome cases together and he was awesome."
Smith returned the sentiment.
"I was first introduced to Mona Robnett in 2003, " he said. "I began working at the D.A.’s Office as a juvenile prosecutor. Within a year, I was going to trial on average 4-6 times a year. Mona was always with me each and every time I had a meeting with a victim or victim’s family. Within a few years, I was bumped up to felony prosecution and the pace of trials continued at 4-6 trial a year for the next 15 years. Mona again was with me during every victim introduction or interview. Most importantly, Mona was the “rock” who stood with our victims during trial, helped them complete the arduous task of testifying, and stood with them during their V.I.S. (victim impact statements)."
He said that while what she did for him was amazing, it was made even more amazing by the fact that she did the same thing for the other felony prosecutors in the office at the same time.
Robnett said the secret to keeping her job as long as she has comes down to just continuing to show up each day and fight the fight for those who can't fight for themselves.
"I just do my job. I love what I do. I’ve been doing it for a long time and some things I don’t even think about anymore I just do them," she said.
While she has loved the job, she said now she is ready to find out what she is going to love next and to spending more time with those she knows she loves already, her family.