WESLACO — Hidalgo County Precinct 1 Commissioner David Fuentes was chosen as one of 14 to participate in a prestigious leadership program for county officials across the state.

The Texas Association of Counties awarded Fuentes a scholarship and invited him to participate in the upcoming 2021-22 Leadership 254 — a development program aimed at helping county officials become better leaders.

“It’s a tremendous honor,” Fuentes said Friday. “And I hope it’s a reflection of my continued desire to continue to be a better public servant.”

As part of the program, Fuentes will attend four training modules lasting two to three days each over the course of 14 months, with the first one scheduled to begin in February. This year’s theme is “Reflect, Grow and Transform.”

“The program is really designed to improve your leadership skills — be more well-rounded — kind of like a continuing education and just an extension of good practices (and) sharing insights into different things,” Fuentes said. “I believe learning is a lifelong activity. So for me, I always look for self improvement. I always look for ways to try to make myself a better leader, better public servant.”

The program is also a great way to network, he said.

“You know, a lot of times, it’s not necessarily what you know, it’s who you know,” Fuentes said. “For example, a couple of years ago, I took my administrative staff and we went to Harris County right after the floods of 2018.”

It had been six months since the Rio Grande Valley, and in particular Precinct 1, had been slammed with torrential summer rains that left widespread flooding, and Harris County, home to Houston, had recently dealt with the now infamous Hurricane Harvey.

“We traveled up to Harris County to ask questions and to try to gain knowledge over what they went through and what we had recently gone through and said, ‘How can we be better at what we do?’” Fuentes recalled Friday. “And I think that through the rain event of ‘19, and even through the hurricane of 2020, our staff was much better organized, much better prepared.”

Shortly after their visit, his staff created a centralized command center that was very similar to what Harris County has, but on a much smaller level, he said.

“You can read about theory; you can read about concepts, but until you actually experience and learn through that experience, you (don’t) gain that wisdom of how to prepare and how to plan, how to respond,” Fuentes said. “So having those relationships and the ability to pick up the phone and have a relationship with another county leader within the state that maybe has gone through a similar circumstance, you can gain from that experience and move through the learning curve a lot faster.”

And when you steepen the learning curve, he said you conserve the most valuable asset there is: time.

“And it’s not perfect. It’ll never be perfect. But I think the experience that we’ve gained, the knowledge that we’ve digested over these last couple of years through those relationships with Harris County and from our own experiences, we’ve evolved into a different precinct and we are much better prepared,” he said.

Fuentes is hopeful the upcoming leadership program will continue to expand his networking pool and knowledge.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for me and I look forward to bringing that experience back and sharing it — not just with my brethren there at the dais, but, all of my staff and any executive staff of the county that would benefit from it.” he said.