Brigid Lester’s signature color is purple, and that’s not just because it’s her favorite. She wears the color to highlight the fact that while she is a Democrat, she believes issues across Williamson County aren’t blue or red, but are instead nonpartisan.
“I wear purple because I’m picking the best of the blue and best of the red,” she said. “County politics should be nonpartisan. I believe the issues that divide the parties are at the national level. Purple is also my favorite color because it’s the color of both strength and peace. Those colors define me and what I aspire to be.”
Lester is running for Williamson County Commissioner in Precinct 2, which includes Liberty Hill, Leander and Cedar Park. She is up against incumbent Cynthia Long, who has held the position for 15 years.
Lester grew up in a military family in California. After high school, she enrolled at West Point and was part of the first group of women to graduate from there.
“I instantly found my calling there,” she said. “I have always loved leadership and service, and this place was and is the leadership pinnacle of the world. Being in the first class of women, it was the challenge you could imagine, but it strengthened me more than not and opened my eyes to strength and compassion.”
Following her graduation from West Point in 1980, Lester joined the U.S. Army, where she spent the next 24 years of her life.
“The Army didn’t dissolve the women’s corps until 1978, so when I joined the Army, I was still on the cutting edge of women being in the regular Army,” she said. “Every unit I was in, I was the first woman to do that job or the first woman they had seen. I had a lot of firsts all through my career because of that.”
Lester served in many locations around the world during her Army career. She also served as a civil engineer with the Corps of Engineers where she managed the construction and maintenance of a 250-unit housing division overseas. Lester retired in 2000 as a lieutenant colonel and moved to Cedar Park with her husband. Between the two of them, they have a blended family of five children and nine grandchildren.
Retirement for Lester didn’t last long. She got a job working for Cedar Park-based National Oil Well as a project manager and retired for a second time in 2016. Lester also spends a lot of her time volunteering for various local organizations, including the Austin Children’s Shelter and SAFE Place, as well as serving as a lifetime member of the Leander Veterans of Foreign Wars and a volunteer deputy registrar for Williamson County.
Lester has come out of retirement once again to run for public office. Her main reason for running for county commissioner is that she’s not pleased with a lot of what’s going on in the county, from water and voter rights to school issues and the roads. She is especially upset about the plans for the proposed I-2 Corridor, which is slated to go through several ranches around Liberty Hill.
“I was pretty content in retirement, but it’s not right for people to battle these issues on their own,” she said. “I’ve always been for the little guy, because sweeping something under the rug doesn’t make it go away -- it affects everything.”
Lester added that she believes if you can’t change the behavior of an organization—in this case the County Commissioners Court—then you have to change the composition.
“I believe the focus of the current Court is economic development and what could move here, but I think it should be focused on the people who are already here,” Lester said.
She added that she’s right for the role because of the amount of leadership experience she has had throughout her life.
“My experience in the military is unparalleled and unmatched to any civilian leadership,” she said. “I had people’s lives in my hands 24-7 for 24 years. For me, the big thing is that human element. I’m not running for this position for self-gain. I’m genuinely trying to help. It’s not about the money for me. I intend to donate major portions of the salary to various charities, including Operation Liberty Hill. I’m the right person for the job because it’s not about me and I have the right skill set. I believe that’s the perfect combination for a successful elected official.”
Lester added that she feels like she’s in the right place and time in her life to serve in a political role.
“Lots of people coast through retirement, but that didn’t sit well with me,” she said. “There are so many others who don’t have what I have, so I decided I needed to give back and pay it forward. My dad used to always say, ‘In everything you do, write your epitaph,’ meaning how do you want this phase of your life to be remembered? That has really stuck with me.”
Several of the issues facing Liberty Hill specifically are things Lester plans to address if elected, including working alongside residents to prevent the Exfluor chemical plant and Wilco Aggregates rock crushing plant from relocating to the area, improving voter rights, addressing the area’s need for water including creating a groundwater conservation district, and being proactive on how future roads are developed.
“Liberty Hill hasn’t been targeted, but I believe it has taken the brunt of everything coming in policies from the Commissioners Court,” Lester said. “That’s why I’m really focusing on Liberty Hill, because it’s the area that’s been the most abused, and I think it can benefit the most from a more caring, service-minded commissioner.”
Lester is hosting a meet-and-greet event for the public Sept. 29 at Agape BBQ in Liberty Hill.
For more information on Lester, visit betterwithbrigid.com.