After 21 years working with the Texas County juvenile office, Tina Wimberley is retiring.
As of the end of August, Wimberley no longer occupied the position of 25th circuit juvenile officer.
“In retrospect, I feel like almost everything in my life that happened to me prior to becoming a juvenile officer prepared me for this job,” she said. “It has been the perfect fit for me and I feel like I was in the place that God wanted me to be for the past 21 years.”
The job of juvenile officer includes a wide range of assignments, including (but not limited to) handling child abuse and neglect cases, runaways and truancy. The 25th circuit includes Texas, Maries, Phelps and Pulaski counties.
“All juvenile matters are referred to the juvenile office, so we have many different duties,” Wimberley said. “The best part was having the true sense that some children’s lives have literally been saved because we were able to intervene and get them out of extremely dangerous situations. There has always been a lot of responsibility involved in being a juvenile officer and it’s something I’ve never taken lightly.”
Wimberley is a native of Washington state and obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash.
She spent a year with the children’s division in Wright County before taking on the juvenile officer position in Texas County.
“I have seen so many incredible things – mostly bad and tragic – and those things unfortunately stand out in my mind,” Wimberley said. “Things that have happened to children in Texas County that nobody would believe.”
Wimberley’s path to her lengthy stint as a juvenile officer began at the age of 10 when she saw a movie on TV about a woman from the Chicago projects who was trying to help families.
“I thought ‘that’s me,'” Wimberley said. “I knew right then that that’s what I would do. Instead of being a nurse or a ballerina, I knew I was supposed to be like that woman in the movie and help families that were in trouble.”
At a high school career day, Wimberley listened to a social worker and got the same feeling.
“I thought ‘that’s the line of business I want to be in,'” she said. “The helping people business.”
During her college days, Wimberley worked in a residential treatment facility for troubled girls. After college, she worked at a halfway house for women off the streets.
She then married Cordie Wimberley and ended up working at a mission in Bellingham. The couple then moved to Missouri so Cordie could pursue teaching opportunities, and Tina got a job as a family services division case worker.
All that experience (and more, including a time as a substitute teacher) gave Wimberley ample knowledge of the types of problems children must sometimes deal with.
When the juvenile officer position came open, Cordie encouraged his wife to apply.
“Lo and behold, it was the culmination of everything that my experiences and training and education had led me to be,” Wimberley said. “It has been incredibly rewarding. This is exactly what I was made for and I have always given it my whole heart and tried to really serve the people of Texas County with sober conscientiousness.
“But really, it’s all about the kids.”
Russell Sheldon, 25th Circuit Chief Juvenile Officer, hired Wimberley and was her boss the whole way through.
“Tina was always willing to learn and was an excellent team player,” Sheldon said. “She was always positive and energetic and never complained. She really was the right person for the job at the right time.”
Sheldon said he hoped to be able to name Wimberley’s replacement within the next 30 to 45 days.