James Skinner’s “social hour” each day begins at 4:30 a.m.
That’s when the 6-foot-3 attorney rises from bed and heads to a downtown gym to train with and coach other CrossFit athletes.
Many of the other 18 hours he’s awake is spent in service of others.
That might be assisting clients with ranching, real estate or oil and gas interests. That might be planting 100 American flags around town with the rest of the San Angelo West Rotary Club in advance of Veterans Day. It might be participating in a board meeting of the YMCA, the Hospice Foundation or the Tom Green County Young Lawyers Association. It might even be calling bingo numbers at a retirement home.
“We all have a responsibility to better the community we live in,” Skinner said. “It is the responsibility of every individual to invest in their community, to lift it up, to make it a better place – not just to reside in it, but to really provide an impact.”
A grandson of the late and highly regarded community leader John Cargile, Skinner’s formative years were shaped by his family’s volunteering in a church-run education center in South Dallas. An Eagle Scout, he learned that giving of one’s time and talents were more important than sharing one’s treasures.
Years later, intent on again helping children with difficult home lives, he volunteered as a Court Appointed Special Advocate while studying law at Texas Tech University. CASAs help judges determine the best and safest permanent homes for foster children.
Skinner still reflects on his first CASA case, which involved three children.
“The emotional aspects of it definitely occupied my mind,” he said. “I had a lot of sleepless nights because of the inhumanity those kids endured just down the street from where I lived.”
Locally, CASA is one of the four main programs housed at the Children’s Advocacy Center of Tom Green County. Skinner serves on the Children’s Advocacy Center board today. His wife, who is also a lawyer, previously served on the board.
“It takes a strong person to do what they do on a day-to-day basis,” Skinner said of CAC staff. “They’re incredible humans.”
He has since helped implement a technology strategy that’s resulted in the Children’s Advocacy Center achieving the highest standards of security. He was involved in identifying and acquiring real estate to accommodate the agency’s skyrocketing growth. He has negotiated contracts and identified cost savings to maximize funds. And he’s acquired needed donors.
He’s also been elected the CAC’s board chairman.
“Leadership is being able to take the skills and tools you have as an individual, and then to work with the team to figure out what the strengths of your teammates are, and to utilize all of those strengths combined,” Skinner said. “A leader is someone who can really harness the strengths of an entire group, and also to be willing to listen and be humble to know exactly how to put all that together.”