Graciela Saenz - Special Prosecutor & Community Engagement
Gracie Saenz is a native Houstonian, having been born into a family of nine in the Fifth Ward, and serves as the Community Engagement Consultant at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
Her parents, though not formally educated, insisted that their children obtain the highest education possible, contribute back to the community, and instilled in them the importance of family values. From a young age, Gracie has worked to uphold her father’s standards of not disparaging her good name, working diligently and ethically for her family and community and with a sincere desire to serve others.
Gracie received her B. A. degree in Spanish from the University of Houston. After graduating, she spent six years working as a bilingual Legal Assistant to a renowned immigration attorney in Houston, Charles Foster. Friends and family encouraged her to go on to law school. She graduated from UH Law School with her J.D. in May, 1986.
Her first job as an attorney was with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office as an Assistant District Attorney gaining experience in many areas including juvenile justice, domestic violence, felony and misdemeanor prosecutions, and grand jury service. She left in 1990 to form the law firm of Burkhardt and Saenz, PLLC, where she practiced criminal and general law until 1992.
Committed to public service, Gracie became the first Latina in 1992 to hold the city-wide office of Houston Council Member At Large Position 1, where she served three, two-year terms, and gained further honor when Mayor Bob Lanier nominated her to be the first Latina Mayor Pro-Tem.
Gracie has served on numerous nonprofit boards and received numerous honors and awards; to name a few: Hispanic Woman of the Year from The Mexican-American Opportunity Foundation, Hispanic Women’s Leadership Hall of Fame, Outstanding Citizen Award from the Boy Scouts, International Service Award from the Houston Junior Chamber of Commerce, Women on the Move and has twice been recognized at UH by having been awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the College of Law faculty and the U of H Alumnus Award. Most recently Gracie was awarded the Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award (2018) by the Mayor of the City of Houston for all her community work.
She continues her community involvement in boards and commissions that help in the areas of health care, education and economic development. She has served on many boards including the following non-profit organizations: Memorial Hermann Hospital System including T.I.R.R. (Texas Institute for Rehabilitation and Research); the American Leadership Forum, Board of Trustees for the University of St. Thomas, Project G.R.A.D., The S.E.L.F. Foundation, Advisory Board for the U of H Mexican American Studies Program, Advisory Board of the U of H College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; and is also a proud member of the local Historic LULAC Council 60.