Gilberto Balli is a first-generation American who grew up in the heart of Brownsville and whose career has taken him from Brownsville Police Department dispatcher to FBI special agent.
The Texas Southmost College alumnus is an Assistant Special Agent in charge of the FBI Jacksonville Resident Agency in Florida and said his interest in pursuing law enforcement as a career goes back to his childhood.
“I remember being about nine or 10 years old and watching police officers around the city,” the 50-year-old reminisced. “I held such a high respect and admiration for them and what they did to keep us safe. I wanted to be just like them.”
As a student at Pace High School, Balli’s main interest was sports, never school or even studying, so landing a career with the FBI seemed farfetched for the young teen.
“Never did I imagine that I would serve and have a longtime career with the FBI. I was that student who didn’t have the best grades early on,” he said. “I was going to be a police officer and be a ball player. I chose TSC because of their baseball team.”
But a career in sports quickly changed for Balli after a sports injury left him unable to play.
“It was hard coming to terms that I would never play again, but it also served as a realization that my education now had to be my top priority,” said Balli.
With that realization, Balli began taking criminal justice courses at TSC, graduating in 1991, paying his way through school as a dispatcher for the Brownsville Police Department.
However, being a dispatcher was the closest he got to serving with the Brownsville Police Department despite his dream of becoming an officer with them, because he decided to continue his education join the Border Patrol in San Diego and then begin his journey with the FBI in 1998.
“TSC positioned me for success and fostered everything I have achieved since then with a solid foundation,” he said. “This is where I grew up, where I learned good study habits and where I realized that a college education was going to be a life changer.”
Balli went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology and a master’s degree in criminal justice.
“I always thought I would be a Brownsville police officer, but life had different plans,” said Balli. “As a Latino from a border city, I have been able to offer my unique perspectives as an FBI agent and have been able to better serve Latino communities and combat new generations of crime.”
Since joining the FBI, he has served in Omaha, Nebraska where he led violent crime and drug investigations with a focus on Mexican drug trafficking organizations. While there, he also served on the SWAT team as an undercover employee.
His stint with the FBI continued in Dallas, conducting backstopping and risk assessments of undercover operations. He also spent time in the Washington, D.C. office, where he was promoted and served as Supervisory Special Agent of the Counterterrorism Division and worked with the communication analysis unit and domestic terrorism operations undercover program.
He went on to serve several more years in Dallas, climbing the ladder, earning several promotions, and even served in Bogota, Colombia managing FBI equities in Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela. He led multiple investigations in Ecuador and Colombia.
Earlier this year, Balli was promoted to Assistant Special Agent in charge of the FBI Jacksonville Resident Agency in Florida overseeing seven FBI offices in the state. He is the first to hold this position that was developed to strengthen partnerships with local, state and federal law enforcement executives throughout the FBI Jacksonville Division’s 40-county territory.
“It all started at TSC. It was the transition I needed to get to where I am today,” said Balli. “I take a lot of pride in my work and in serving the communities in which I live not only as an FBI agent, but as a mentor and guide for children and adolescents. I still follow TSC to this day because it played a fundamental part in my success, and I love seeing how others are succeeding thanks to the work the college is doing.”