I look forward to 2018 with great optimism. This is also a good time of year to reflect on 2017 and to be thankful for the many blessing my family and I have received.

In 2017 I completed my third term in the Texas House. I appreciate the hard work of my colleagues and staff to help pass needed reform for the foster care system, increase penalties for inappropriate student/teacher relationships and for passing strong legislation to help the victims of sexual assault and protect kids from online predators. To the voters of Williamson County I thank you for bestowing upon me the honor to serve you.

Our oldest daughter started her senior year in high school and was accepted to six colleges. Soon our firstborn will be off to college. This is a big transition for all of us. Mary and I are proud of her.

Our youngest daughter, sign up for cheerleading, said she wanted to quit before it started, stuck with it and decided she loves it. It’s been fun to watch her grow as a person.

The Austin Business Journal at their Profiles in Power Awards lunch named Mary one of the top 20 businesswomen in Central Texas. She capped off the year buying the building that houses The Mary Dale Law Firm. Seven years ago she started her firm subletting a 10 x 10 office inside a local business. It has been so amazing to watch her grow her firm and her reputation for excellent legal representation for local businesses.

In August we took a family vacation to Port Aransas. We drove home on a sunny and calm Wednesday. Just three days later Hurricane Harvey slammed into Port A and Rockport and caused massive destruction. I was activated for nine days of state active duty with the Texas State Guard and assisted in the relief efforts. One thing I’ll never forget is the calm before the storm. On that Wednesday it was sunny and mild. The wind was so weak that we could barely keep a kite flying at the beach. It is a metaphor for how quickly things can change.

In September American Legion Post 911 dedicated the Central Texas Gold Star Families Memorial Monument. Together with a group of folks Mary and I worked on this and after nearly two years of work it became a reality. Thank you to the many volunteers and contributors who helped make this happen.

The best part of the year is that our family is intact. In the fall Maggie was a passenger in car that was in a serious auto accident. She was injured, but we are lucky she was not killed. We received a call from the Austin Police Department informing us that she was in a hospital. Imagine that. Our hearts sank. By the grace of God we are all still together and that is the greatest blessing of all.

As we begin 2018 I wish each of you a Happy New Year. I pray that our nation will experience peace and prosperity and that our Armed Services deployed throughout the world will remain strong, prepared and safe.