Antonio “Tony” L. Kosta Jr. was a municipal court judge in Harker Heights for the past 20 years. Prior to his service as a judge, he was a Harker Heights councilman for six years.
City Manager David Mitchell began Kosta’s retirement ceremony Wednesday with a welcome before a standing-room-only crowd in the Kitty Young Council Chambers. He then presented Kosta with several gifts from the city administration staff.
The court staff joined court administrator Julie Helsham in expressing their appreciation to Kosta.
Kosta, 77, was not the first to start a teen court for high school students in Harker Heights. He told the Herald, “It was in pretty good shape, but I tweaked it a little and made a few improvements.”
Billy Ray Hall, who will take over the municipal judge position in October, said, “I’ve had the pleasure of being the presiding judge working under Tony for the last eight years. When you talk about courts, you often think of punishing people. I was privileged to learn from Tony that even through the court system, we can make a positive impact on our community.”
Kosta believed that a good starting place for that would be to not just offer a teen court program but to offer an outstanding teen court program.
Hall and the teen court leaders eventually developed an award in honor of Kosta for his leadership with teen court.
Many students have received that award and testified by way of a video presentation how much it had meant to receive the award.
Kosta said, “When Billy Ray took over the teen court, we had a visit and I told him what my vision was for the program. He took that idea and ran with it and it’s become one of the best in the state. I believe he also deserves credit for its success.”
“I told the kids in teen court that we would continue to give the Tony Kosta award to a deserving student each year. Today, however, as we surround the man who deserves the praise for this award, we are presenting him the Tony Kosta Award in honor of his retirement,” Hall said.
Others who offered Kosta gifts and words of appreciation were Chief of Police Mike Gentry and several members of the Police Department, City Councilman Steve Carpenter, Mayor Spencer Smith, Mayor Pro Tem Hal Schiffman, Former Mayor Mary Gauer and City Attorney Burk Roberts.
At the end of the reception, Kosta said, “I didn’t plan on any of this. Someone talked me into running for the council and I did it. I also ended up a municipal judge because someone asked.
“There isn’t a judge anywhere who could survive without a good staff,” he said. “I’ve had one from the beginning until now. There are so many people I would like to thank but I would miss some. I will say that my barber is here and cut my hair for 24 years before he closed his shop. He’d get me in the barber chair and we would have some good conversations.”
Mitchell closed the ceremony by saying, ”When I came here, Tony and the council were instrumental in turning this city around. We haven’t always had what we see now. I tell my staff that we have a great foundation and our challenge is to keep building on that to make our city all that it can be.”