NEW HOPE, Texas - The appointed mayor of a small town in Collin County announced in an open letter to her citizens that she is transgender.
Jess Herbst is the mayor of New Hope, Texas. It’s a town of 600 people east of McKinney.
Mayor Herbst posted a letter on the town’s website explaining her transition from Jeff to Jess and her decision to live her life as a female.
“I do hope that it helps people understand that we are just normal people like everyone else,” she said.
Herbst has served as city alderman since 2003 and was just appointed as mayor last May. She's now coming out as transgender, something she says she's known about her whole life. But until recently, most residents knew her as Jeff.
“For the last six months, the only time I've ever dressed as a man was at city council meetings,” she explained.
Herbst was appointed mayor in May because the previous mayor died and finally decided she wanted to tell the town what she says she's known most of her life.
Growing up as a young boy in Texas, she always knew she was transgender and started telling family members about eight years ago as more information on the transgender community came out.
“When I would go to school and I would see here's the girls, here's what they're doing, here's how they're dressing, here's how they're acting, I wanted to be in that group,” Herbst said. “But I wasn't allowed to be.”
While hundreds have showered her with emails of support, others are hesitant.
“For him, congratulations,” said Marry Ann Whitehead. “But in the role he plays in the community, I'm not sure how that would be a positive thing.”
“I'm a heterosexual, but I don't go running around telling everybody I'm a heterosexual or what I do with my wife,” said resident Steve Tittle. “It's just your personal business, so keep it personal.”
Herbst says while everyone is entitled to their opinions, she welcomes the opportunity to address anyone's questions or concerns.
“Just get to know me before you judge me,” the mayor said.
Although not everyone is on board with the mayor's decision to come out as transgender, many said they have no problems with Herbst as mayor as long as it doesn't affect her ability to do the job.
Herbst is up for re-election in 2018. She says as of right now she still plans to run.