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Our Person Behind the Badge this month is CASA John Wright who was born, raised and spent 18 years in northeast Arkansas in a town called Pocahontas. During junior year in high school, he attended Arkansas Boys State, an immersive program in civic education organized by the American Legion. John states that his parents never talked about “if you go to college; but rather, when you go to college” and acknowledges they knew the value of education.

John graduated from St. Edward’s University in 1967 with a BBA degree and a Major in Management. Fun fact is that John and all his siblings (he is the second oldest of five) graduated from St. Edward’s University. John married following graduation and took his first job with the Steck Company, later to become Hart Graphics, a custom printing business. He became Department Manager of the County, City, and District Sales Department. Eventually, he assumed the position of outside sales for several Texas counties. During this employment, John and his wife adopted a baby girl. In the fall of 1977, John changed career paths to work for TXDOT, where he became Branch Chief of the Purchasing Division. He was responsible for the purchase of all roadway materials and highway safety devices required to build and maintain highways. In 1982, John and his wife adopted a second baby girl.

In 1984, John was recruited by Stimsonite Products, a major traffic safety company, and assumed the position of Regional Sales Manager for a multi-state region. He remained with Stimsonite for 13 years until he was recruited and employed by another major highway safety company named Quixote Transportation Safety. John was a Regional Sales Manager for a multi- state region until he officially retired in December of 2007. Although John misses the friendships, he sure doesn’t miss the grueling travel schedules!

Following his divorce, John met and married Deborah, who he lovingly calls his best friend and the love of his life. Deborah had a son whom she adopted as an infant from Honduras. Once these two very special people were together, they realized they had a special place in their hearts for older foster children. So in 2013, they became foster parents to an 11-year-old girl who had been removed from her home due to abuse and neglect. Six months later, and when John was 67 years old, they adopted her. She is now a 17-year-old young lady. And, to round out their family, they are proud grandparents to their 10-year-old grandson.

Through the years, John attended the City of Austin and City of Elgin Citizens Police Academy and has remained active in supporting law enforcement. John also volunteered for “Meals On Wheels and More” where he personally had regular visits with homebound people who had no one else to talk to. Deborah is president of “Elgin Alleycats” and John volunteers. This organization traps, spays and neuters and vaccinates feral cats and returns them to their colonies.

John first learned about CASA through newspaper articles and finally decided to join so he might be able to help other children who had been removed from their homes for the same reasons his youngest daughter had faced. In April of 2018, John was sworn in as a CASA and accepted his first case in May. He has since been assigned to two other cases. John recalls his most meaningful experience to date has been successfully having parental rights terminated in a case when neither parent took the steps required or made the changes necessary for reunification with their children. John felt it rewarding that the Judge presiding over the trial acknowledged and respected CASA’s role and contribution to the case. And, John was personally proud of the working relationship between CASA and CPS. CASA Coach-Supervisor, Sylvia Olson echoes, “The case was active since June of 2017, when John jumped in and began advocating for these three children. John went a step further and worked side-by-side with CPS and was present at every supervised parent-child visitation. And, during the trial, his testimony was essential to the case outcome. John loves children, and they know it. He always has a smile on his face and a kind thing to say about everyone. He consistently approaches every challenge with a smile and a can-do attitude!”

It’s easy to understand that the CASA mission is significant to John, in large part, from knowing what his adopted daughter had to endure and knowing that there are ways to end the cycle of abuse. He acknowledges that the primary goal should be to return the child to their own parents; but, unfortunately, that is not always possible. Sylvia agrees, “John’s experience with adoption gives him an in-depth perspective and sensitivity towards children, especially children in difficult situations. He brings an added dimension to our organization, one that all who work with him admires.”

John has many interests, including fishing in the pond in front of his home. One of his prized catches from his pond is this 9lb, largemouth black bass pictured. In addition to loving and having a soft spot for children, John and Deborah share a love of animals. Fondly called the “cat whisperer” by his wife, they have nine cats living in their beautiful home located in the country in Lexington. In fact, John jokingly states that all of their cats and children have been adopted! John also loves his raccoons and is not lying (he has pictures to prove it!) when he says that there have been as many as 38 raccoons on their patio waiting to be fed each evening. Even though raccoons tend to be a nuisance to most homeowners, John and Deborah find it relaxing and enjoyable to sit on the patio and feed them.

Our Men of CASA understands that every abused and neglected child needs a Champion who won’t let them be hurt again. We are proud to have John as one of our Champions. Our Men of CASA. Fighting for Kids. Protecting the Vulnerable.