Editor's Note: Melanie C. Hyder, 65, of Kerens passed away Saturday, February 20, 2021 at Navarro Regional Hospital. The following is an article on her retirement as Chief of Navarro County Juvenile Probation after 42 years of service
Melanie Hyder is known by those who worked closely with her as a tough, no nonsense woman but one with a huge heart and passion for helping the kids she worked with.
Hyder recently retired as Chief of Navarro County Juvenile Probation after 42 years of service, the last four decades in Navarro County. The Juvenile Probation Department supervises minors who have been referred by a law enforcement agency after breaking the law.
“She leaves behind a legacy of dedication to, not only her job but to all of those she came into contact with over the years,” said James Lagomarsino, District Judge.
Hyder said she knew early in her career the path she would take.
“I went to Sam Houston State University in Huntsville and did an internship for Harris County Juvenile Probation,” she said. “I worked there for two and a half years.”
Hyder said she knew she did not want to work in the prison system after seeing it firsthand. Her goal was to work with young people to prevent them from getting to that point.
Hyder came back home to Navarro County when she heard one of the juvenile probation officers was leaving.
“Kenneth ‘Buck’ Douglas hired me and I started Dec. 1, 1980,” she said.
Hyder said she has seen many changes in her 40 plus years on the job, some she attributes to the breakdown of the family unit.
“We see a whole different type of child and family now,” she said. “We have drugs, guns and intoxication manslaughter. More kids are dealing with substance and mental health issues.”
Hyder said it made her job harder when the parents struggled with addiction.
“The plan is to rehabilitate,” she said. “If we deal with the child and not the environment, we are not changing anything.”
Hyder said her job was to provide guidance and help keep young people on the right path by enforcing rules, setting boundaries and getting them the services they needed.
“It was heartbreaking at times but fulfilling to see some of these kids grown up with families of their own,” she said. “Some came back to visit and told me they would not have survived without our help.”
Hyder said she believes the department will be in good hands, as she is leaving it with Chris Garrett, whom she has worked with for about 20 years.
“He has worked with me since college,” she said. He has taught school, coached and has done a good job. Hopefully it will be an easy transition.”
Garrett said he learned much through Hyder’s example.
“From Melanie I learned the job is not 8 am. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday,” he said. “Numerous times she would come in and discuss how she was thinking about a juvenile the night before and had come up with some idea how she could help hi or her.”
Garrett said she was invested in every kid she ever worked with.
“I still remember one time when I was on my way to visit my grandparents on Christmas Eve and I passed the courthouse and saw her car was parked outside,” he said. “When we came back from the holiday I asked her what she was doing and she said she got a call about a young man who had some major issues so she drove 20 miles from her home on Christmas Eve to this kid and his parents. That’s dedication to the maximum level. She lived and breathed working with trouble youth. She was always proactive. She was never burned out, she was never complacent. We can all strive to reach her level but that will be tough.”
Garrett said Hyder’s legacy and influence will continue to inspire generations long after she is gone.
“She instilled in each officer to always go above and beyond when working with our youth,” he said. “She would say, ‘We are the only advocates some of these kids have, don’t give up on any of them. Some of these same folks would come back and tell Mrs. Hyder, they might not have realized it when they were young, but how much they appreciated the caring and everything she had done for them when they were teenagers and struggling youth.”
Hyder said she enjoyed working for Navarro County but is looking forward to retirement and not being on call 24/7.
“My office was close-knit family,” she said. “Judge Douglas saw something in me and I am forever grateful.”
Hyder said her retirement plans include volunteer work and travel.
“Comes a time when you are ready to retire and I knew I was ready,” Hyder said. “It was time for someone else to come in and carry on and bring some new ideas and take it to the next.”