Leader of Texas’ largest county takes leave from job for treatment of clinical depression

HOUSTON (AP) — Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, a Democrat who has built a rising national profile as the leader of Texas’ largest county, announced Monday that she was taking a temporary leave of absence for treatment of clinical depression.

In a statement addressed to the county’s nearly 5 million residents and posted on social media, Hidalgo said she checked herself into a facility outside Texas in late July for inpatient treatment. She said she had been coping with depression “for some time” and that it had been undiagnosed until last month.

“My experience has been difficult, but I am taking it as an opportunity to be open about my own struggle, my own challenges, and to encourage others, who need help, to seek treatment,” Hidalgo wrote. Hidalgo, 32, said she is hopeful she will be able to resume her normal schedule by early September.

In February, Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania checked himself into a hospital to receive inpatient treatment for clinical depression. He left Water Reed National Military Medical Center after six weeks.

Hidalgo was 27 years old and had never previously held elected office when she pulled a stunning upset in 2018 to win the top job in one of the nation’s largest counties. A Colombian immigrant who came to the U.S. in 2005, Hidalgo has governed as a progressive in a county that was controlled by Republicans just a decade ago and is seen as an up-and-coming figure in the party.

In Texas, the title of “county judge” is a misnomer. They are not judges in courtrooms but rather presiding officials in their counties who have a big say in spending and are in charge of local emergency response.

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