Candice Bullock has no doubt that she’s right where she is supposed to be.
Bullock is about two weeks into her first term as Precinct Two county commissioner, surprising two-term incumbent Luther Hueske in last November’s general elections and taking the oath of office Jan. 1.
After being sworn in, she asked for an office in the courthouse, wanting to be closer to what she considers her new full-time job. Bullock, who has been with Hi-Line Industries for the last 11 years as projects manager, said she will give that job as many hours as she can spare.
But for now, the hat she wears is “commissioner.”
“I spent the last 11 years really building relationships with our customers. I definitely want to make sure those are still being fostered,” she said. “We have such a great team over there. But this is my primary focus. I want to give it my all.”
Her first few weeks in office have been a whirlwind of “learning,” but Bullock said that was not unexpected.
“I think it was definitely what I expected,” she said of her commissioner duties. “I don’t want to come across as being too sure of myself, but it’s definitely going the right direction that I thought it would. There’s definitely going to be a huge learning curve, but I enjoy that. As long as I’m learning in everything I do, I’m enjoying it.
“I’m surrounded by so many incredible people that I’m learning from. And that’s going to create such a good team. We all kind of lean on each other and learn different things from each other. I’m going from meeting to meeting and trying to meet with different office and department heads.”
Bullock took on quite a challenge in her first attempt at a political office. But she said there were never any doubts it was the right decision.
“This may sound silly, but it was definitely God leading me in this direction,” said Bullock. “It was not on my radar. But it certainly didn’t pop up out of mid-air. It was something that was suggested. And that culminated with a few other individuals as well saying, ‘Hey, is this something you’re considering?’
“By that time I had started to take a little bit more of a serious look at it. There was something inside me ... God knows us like that.
“I think He saw the inner desire in me to want to get more involved in the community or just to do something. I never really knew or thought how I would do that. And then this just kind of fell on my radar. It really was something that I felt God led me to do.
“As I went through the whole campaign process, I tried not to worry so much about winning or losing. It was more about that I was going to do the best that I can. And if this is something God wants me to do, He’s going to provide and I’m going to get there.”
And Bullock got there.
“I feel like I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to. At some point, I will witness the good, the bad and the ugly, but it’s all for a reason. It’s going to be a great character-building experience. I know I’ll get a lot from it. I just hope I’m able to give others and the community the same.”
Bullock, 37, married into one of the state’s most politically prominent families. Her husband Chris (they were high school sweethearts) counted longtime Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock as a great-uncle.
“He thinks this is really cool,” Bullock said of Chris. “I’ve been around their family for a long time, 21 years. It was always joked about to my husband, that he should run for something.
“Chris would say, ‘No, that’s not for me. I don’t think I could do that. Candace should do it.’
“He was joking, but others have said that. And here I am.”
In high school, then-Candice Kocian was a standout athlete, starring in three sports (volleyball, soccer and basketball). Her main love was soccer, and she was good at it. Bullock, a high school junior, was in the Olympic Development Program when she tore her ACL for the second time.
“I basically at that point couldn’t go any further,” she said.
Bullock made the decision to concentrate on soccer, earning a scholarship to Baylor University, which had won the Big 12 title in 1999, a year before she arrived on campus.
She called Baylor “an incredible school” but said the head coach who had recruited her left for another university.
“After the year was over, I told my parents, ‘I’m just not getting the warm and fuzzies,’” she said.
Chris was attending Texas State University, which was just starting up a women’s soccer program that included several of her high school and club teammates and a head coach she knew, Kat Connor, a former assistant soccer coach at Texas A&M University.
So Bullock decided to transfer there.
“It (Baylor) just wasn’t a good fit for me,” she said. “I made the switch and I don’t regret it for a day. I love Texas State. It’s a fantastic school.”
Athletics has always been an outlet for Bullock.
“I enjoyed the competition,” she said. “I was just always naturally athletic and naturally competitive, but it wasn’t a case of being competitive with other people. It was more of an internal competitiveness for me. I set these standards and I tried to push myself to get there. I loved being on a team and the camaraderie that comes with that.
“Even at almost 38, I still have dreams fo being on that field. It’s crazy that you still dream about things that the heart desires.”
After graduating from Texas State, Bullock joined Hi-Line Industries here. The company is a designer and manufacturer of custom-fabricated equipment.
That, she said, was another steep learning curve.
“I had core attributes where I felt I would benefit the company. But as far as my knowledge of the industry and learning the ropes, there was a huge learning curve, especially a technical learning curve,” said Bullock. “I was able to learn quickly, and a lot of that comes from teamwork, people who take you under your wing.”
Bullock said Hi-Line’s Ryan Lampe was “like a big brother” to her during those early days.
“I felt like I was at his door nonstop throughout the day,” she said. “Just asking him questions. He was very good and patient. He told me, ‘If anything, you’re being too hard on yourself.’
“Hi-Line taught me as well — we all work together, even when things get tough. It also gave me exposure to business executives, different clients, managing projects.
“You have to be organized. I’d have to put on my steel toes (boots) and my hard hat and go out on the shop floor to help solve any issues. I don’t think you could buy that experience.”
Bullock hopes to put her business acumen to use as a county commissioner.
“Intimidating? It kind of threw me for a curve at first, because it was like ‘Oh, why me?’ But it didn’t take me very long to know why me,” she said of her new position.
She said her father, businessman Dennis Kocian, was a major influence on her decision to run for public office.
“I’m very much my father’s daughter,” she said. “I attribute so much of my success to him. But at the same time, I am my own woman. I am an individual and different in some ways.
“I think my personality is very well-suited for something like this. I’ve always felt I’m good with people. I think that to a certain level, being good with people can be taught, but I think in some sense, it’s something that can’t be taught.
“I enjoy people and I enjoy helping them.”
Bullock still manages to find her way back on to the soccer field. Her 5-year-old son Henry (the Bullocks also have an 8-year-old son, Austin) participated in an under-5 league for the first time.
“There were six boys. I cannot tell you how much happiness that brought me. I love every single minute of it,” she said. “Going in, I told the parents, ‘Yes, I want to try and teach ehese kids some fundamental skills. But I just want them to have a good time.
“And I think they did. I was pulling my hair out because Henry was the one who took off and was climbing the bleachers (during games).”
“All of that was going on during the general election (campaigning), so that was like my happy place.”
Bullock said where — or if — a political career takes her is in the future.
“I really feel confident that I’m in the right place and that whatever path this honor, this opportunity, takes me is where I’m meant to go,” she said. “It might sound crazy, but I feel in my bones and feel in my heart that I’m right where I’m supposed to be.”