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Anita Burgess runs the Lubbock, Texas, City Attorney’s Office with a military flair. But that’s not unusual considering that Burgess spent 13 years in the U.S. Marine Corps and is a Marine Reserve colonel. The 48-year-old Burgess, who’s been the city attorney for almost six years, says the organizational skills that she learned in the Corps are ingrained in her. “I do it by rote,” she says. Burgess says she has set up her office in a typical military structure: She’s the commanding officer and each of the office’s section heads is a battalion commander. Marines use the “rule of three” in their organizational structure, and Burgess says she has incorporated that concept in the city attorney’s office. With that structure, she supervises no more than three or four people, and each section head supervises three or four. MARINE HAT Burgess says she also adheres to the Marine Corps’ belief that personnel should specialize and has created areas of specialization within the office. Attorneys are assigned to specialized areas so that they can compete effectively with lawyers in private practice when the city’s interests are at stake, she says. Lawyers who work for Burgess give her high marks for her organizational skills and her people skills. “She’s just super-duper,” says Don Vandiver, the first assistant city attorney and a 28-year veteran in the office. Vandiver, who has worked directly for three city attorneys during his career with the city, says Burgess is probably the most organized person he has ever known. Jeff Hartsell, head of the office’s litigation section, says Burgess has told him, “You take care of your people, and your people will take care of you.” Notes Hartsell, “That’s certainly what it’s all about.” But Vandiver says Burgess doesn’t spend all her time at the office and has a variety of interests, including riding horses. COWGIRL HAT “The cowgirl side is probably the side that keeps me sane,” Burgess says, noting that she got her first horse — a Shetland pony named “Tar Baby” — when she was 3. “That was the beginning of my love affair with horses.” Burgess and her husband, retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Randy Pyles, also a lawyer, live with their three horses — a dun, a paint and a sorrel Arabian mare — on a 10-acre ranch located about 12 miles east of Lubbock. She says the spread was dubbed the “Almost Dun Ranch,” because Pyles rides a dun and when they work on a project they always think they’re “almost done.” When she can, Burgess competes in endurance riding — events in which the riders and their horses cover 25, 50 and even 100 miles within specified time periods. The idea is to get there in the shortest period of time, she says. Burgess also flies to Camp Pendleton, located north of San Diego, once a month to fulfill her Marine Reserve duty and spends two weeks of every summer on active duty. A native of Hale Center, Texas, Burgess says she made a commitment to join the Marines during her junior year at Texas Tech University and was commissioned a second lieutenant when she graduated in 1976. She entered the Marine Corps in 1979 after receiving a doctor of jurisprudence degree from Texas Tech School of Law. Burgess says she spent her first five years on active duty practicing criminal law and became interested in labor and employment law while assigned to the Marine Corps logistics base in Barstow, Calif. The Corps sent Burgess to the University of San Diego School of Law, where she earned a master of legal letters degree in employment law. LAWYER HAT Congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1991, the year before Burgess left active duty and moved to Plainview, Texas, to open a law firm with her husband. At the time, not many West Texas lawyers were practicing labor and employment law. “It was an area that was untapped,” Burgess recalls. “She’s a good employment lawyer,” says Lubbock sole practitioner Floyd Holder, adding that he frequently referred clients to Burgess. “I never had any complaints from the people I referred to her.” Burgess says she handled a number of employment cases against the City of Lubbock. “One day they called me and asked if I’d do labor and employment cases for them instead of against them.” When John Ross retired as the city attorney in 1995, Burgess applied for the job and got it. “It’s the only job I ever competed for,” she says. Don Dennis, a partner in Lubbock’s Boerner & Dennis, says some people were surprised when Burgess was selected the city attorney because her background isn’t in municipal law. Burgess has shown that she has what it takes to do the job, he says. “I think what she brought to the job was being a good lawyer and excellent management skills,” says Dennis, who has represented clients in suits against the city. Burgess says her legal experience in the Marine Corps included labor and procurement, water law, land use and other issues of concern to municipalities. Dennis and Holder worked with Burgess on one of the highest-profile cases ever for the City of Lubbock. On Nov. 16, 1998, Lubbock police officers arrested Hampton University women’s basketball coach Patricia Bibbs, her husband, Ezell, and then-assistant coach Vanetta Kelso while the Virginia school’s women’s basketball team was visiting the city for a game against Texas Tech’s Lady Raiders. Burgess says police arrested the trio based on a witness’s allegations that they were involved in a “pigeon drop” scam in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart store in Lubbock. It turned out to be a case of mistaken identification, and the three were released after about four hours, according to reports published in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. In April 1999, the trio filed a suit, Bibbs et al. v. the City of Lubbock, in a Wichita Falls, Texas, federal court, alleging that the city and its police officers deprived them of the right to be free of search and seizure, Burgess says. They also alleged that they were arrested because they’re black. The trio sought $30 million in damages, the Avalanche-Journal reported. The case focused national attention on Lubbock when the coaches told their story to ABC’s “20/20.” Holder says he told Burgess that he would like to represent one of the officers in the case because O.J. Simpson attorney Johnnie Cochran had been hired by Bibbs. “I said, ‘Anita, I would dearly love to kick his [Cochran's] rear,’ ” Holder says. Although Cochran argued before U.S. District Judge Jerry Buchmeyer of Dallas that Lubbock was biased against civil rights cases, the federal judge approved the city’s motion to move the case to Lubbock. U.S. District Judge Sam Cummings of Lubbock dismissed all claims against the city and the police officers in December 1999. Burgess says the case ended in June of this year, when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the trio’s appeal. “I think that window is closed,” she says. Holder says Burgess was “very much in charge” of the Hampton case, although she delegated authority to him and other lawyers. “We call her the colonel,” he says.

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