Lina Hidalgo

Sharon Steinmannn—Bloomberg via Getty Images
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    Harris County, Texas

As the first woman and first Latina county judge for Harris County, Texas, which encompasses Houston, Lina Hidalgo essentially functions as chief executive of the area: She oversees its $4 billion budget, decides on infrastructure projects, sets tax rates, oversees courthouses and jails, and also serves as the director of emergency management. It’s a huge responsibility considering Houston’s 4.5 million population is almost that of the entire state of Colorado. Hidalgo didn’t always intend to end up with the job. The Stanford graduate initially worked in health care and was pursuing advanced degrees at Harvard University and New York University when the results of the 2016 election inspired the Democrat to put her education on pause to pursue politics. She ran in 2018 and successfully beat incumbent Republican Ed Emmett in a high-profile election in which she campaigned on criminal justice reform and more transparency in government.