Interview with Rep. Larry Gonzales of the Hispanic Republican Conference (VIDEO)
The following interview with Texas Representative Larry Gonzales is one of a series of interviews conducted by VOCES Action and TexasGOPVote with members of the Hispanic Republican Conference in the 82nd session of the Texas Legislature. Video and a transcript of the interview are included.
Rep. Gonzales is a freshman in the House of Representatives, and we sat down to talk about his values, Hispanics and conservatives, education and Autism. Rep Gonzales also discusses the explosive growth of Williamson County and the factors underlying the countys success.
Larry Gonzales has dedicated his entire professional career to making Texas a better place to live, work and raise a family. A strong conservative, his extensive legislative experience and knowledge of the issues facing our state make him an effective leader for the citizens of Williamson County.
The membership of the Hispanic Republican Conference has been growing. Originally it was formed by the House’s five Hispanic Republicans but has since been joined by other State Representatives whose districts have at least 30% Hispanic constituents. The Hispanic Republican Conference will be addressing some issues that have been controversial in parts of the state with large Hispanic populations. Rep. Larry Gonzalez is the Texas State Representative of District 52.
Hispanics make up 36% of the Texas population and this percentage is growing. Hispanics share Republican conservative values of fiscal responsibility, faith, hard work, family values and pro-life. VOCES Action has been educating and empowering Americans with Hispanic backgrounds, and who hold conservative values, to make more responsible and informed voting decisions.
TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW:
Adryana Boyne: Can you tell us about your value and what shapes those values?
Larry Gonzales: I grew up in a very conservative home, historically conservative, historically very religious as well. My grandfather began his ministry at the age of 18, and at the age of 84, he is still in the ministry. Both my parents are pastors at a Pentecostal church in Alvin, TX. I guess the genesis, the roots, historically for several generations has been conservative Christian principles. Growing up in a very spiritual, conservative church, those were the values we were taught. The extent past the church and into educational values, into hard work, it was instilled in us very early that you had to do the work, whether that was work with your hands, whether that work in school with the books, you had to do your work. It was very important that that bar was set, that to be successful, you had to go out and get it. So that was a lesson learned very early on, it was a lesson my dad learned very early on when he was young because my grandfather, everybody understood that. What it does is, it sets up this generational understanding for commitment, dedication, hard work, understanding that what you want in life, you go get, and that something wasnt going to be given to you, that it was there for the taking, but it wasnt easy. I think several generations later weve proven that. My father, as well as being a pastor, he worked 43 years at Johnson Space Center in Houston as an aerospace engineer, and quite successfully, but it doesnt mean its easy. So I think those conservative values, hard work, commitment, dedication, understanding what it means to take care of your own, take care of your family, to support your family, is what all of the now political views come from.
Adryana Boyne: I know that you are a member of the Hispanic Republican Conference here in the House of Representatives, and as a Hispanic and through my work with VOCES Action and meeting with thousands of Hispanics, I know that Hispanics have conservative values. Can you share the ways that you have observed among Americans of Hispanic background?
Larry Gonzales: Absolutely. I think its important to say too is I like the way you phrased that question because there are a lot of people who like to preach that Hispanics are conservative, and I dont disagree with that method, but what Ive been clear to tell people is rather than me telling you, why dont you watch us. Why dont you watch us at church, watch us in the community, watch how I run my business, what how I am with my family. We practice conservative values everyday, theyre on display. Its not that I have to tell you you should be conservative because…thats one way, or just watch us. As you go through your daily life, there are two things here, you can live your life as a testament to your faith, and you can also live your life as a testament to your principles and your ideals. So I think that the way we run our business and the way weve been involved with the community, and the way we operate our own little family, I think it shows what conservative values are. I dont think that I have to tell you, I think that if we do everything correctly, you will see it, and you will understand that theres something about people, when you see them you know them, theres something there, theres something there that sets them off a little bit differently, and those are just going to be conservative principles that are practiced everyday. So when you see that in a community, you know it when you see it and you can recognize those who hold values true to yours, whether is be at a certain place, or certain action. I think that is our witness, our testimony when asked who we are as people, and conservative principles, I think people respond to that when they see it.
Adryana Boyne: Now I know that you are a representative of Williamson County, tell us a little bit about your district, and issues your constituents are concerned with.
Larry Gonzales: Williamson County is and has been one of the fastest growing counties in the country for the past decade, explosive growth. There are 422,000 now in Williamson County. We are going to have a very interesting time in redistricting because were so many people. But theyre coming here for a reason. Theyre coming to Williamson County because we do things very well, from our school districts, they work well with our city, they work well with our county, they work well with our state, and we work very well with our federal representatives as well. Williamson County, although very diverse, from very, very rural, but also truly suburban, the one thing we have in common, it is overwhelmingly conservative, and there are certain values that all the elected officials share that help us going forward. So that being said, that really helps us move things along because there is not a lot of opposition with our business community or our elected official community. So one thing thats extremely important to us, since theyre coming here, theyre coming here for jobs, theres no doubt about that, theyre coming here for jobs. Williamson County is a thriving point for entrepreneurialship, people come here to start businesses, people come here looking for big corporate jobs. So we have created an economic infrastructure that is the hot bed for these types of opportunities. So when they come here, you need to be ready for them. That means your schools need to be ready, that means your infrastructure of roads, how you plot out subdivisions, commercial, residential. All these considerations go into city management, city planning when youre expecting growth. Weve done that very well. So the issues are going to be public ed, clearly, because weve got several new high schools, but youve also got higher education. Within just House District 52, which is just a portion of Williamson County, there are parts of eight universities and colleges that are here. Students are coming here from all over the area to those schools. The opportunity for higher education is extremely important. Public education is in place, but the higher education, the ability to keep going, to really get that extra little something going forward, to have those extra letters behind your name, thats what the workforce is looking for. They want to make sure you have the capacity to learn, they want to make sure youve met some criteria, some obstacle in showing I can learn, Im teachable and trainable. So thats great for higher ed, thats Bachelors, Masters, PhD, you can even get a medical degree in Round Rock now. But we also have set up in the eastern parts, career and technical, so you learn through the Texas State Technical College. Youve got phenomenal programs that are two year degrees, there are associate degrees, there are certificates, so its being able to be an occupational therapists assistant or a physicians assistant, theres those kinds of programs as well. So we always say from the gambit, from a two-year degree, career and technical all the way to a medical degree at A&M, we have it all, and that sets up an infrastructure, an educational infrastructure and an economic infrastructure thats made us so successful in Williamson County.
Adryana Boyne: Certainly, one of my questions was because I know you are very concerned with education, what do you think needs to be done to improve education in Texas?
Larry Gonzales: I think there is a significant shift in some priorities in what were looking at here in Texas now. Obviously the budget shortfall is significant, but as you walked through my office you saw a big sign that says "Make education a priority." It always has been. So for those of you out there that say when is education going to be a priority for you, it absolutely has been. Education has historically been about 60% of our state budget. It is a priority. Now, when youre short, as were short, and its 60% of your budget, its going to dig in, theres no doubt about that, theres no way around the fact that educations going to have to be cut, but you do it wisely, and you do it carefully, and you make correct decisions. You do the least amount of impact to the classroom, thats the most important. Teacher in the classroom, kids in the classroom, theres your core, you go out from there making your cuts. Weve seen some school districts make some very, very good decisions, and weve seen some make not so good decisions. But the educational infrastructure, as it is currently, has its own faults, and thats what were looking at. There are several bills to maybe change a few things. So extremely important, but its going to have to get cut, it has to get cut very wisely and carefully, and I think if we do all that, our educational system will be just fine. For those that worry about a class size going from 22:1 to 24:1 what I say is I have full confidence in the teachers.
Adryana Boyne: Your wife is a teacher.
Larry Gonzales: Thats right, my wifes there. I have full confidence in their abilities that they will absolutely be able to continue to teach our kids in the effective manner that they do now. Theyre up for that task. That wont have to be everywhere, theres going to be some flexibility, options on kind of how things look. The truth of the matter is that public education, as in any form of government, there is some room there, there is some room there for some efficiencies, and no ones going to doubt that, you just have to be careful not to affect it too much.
Adryana Boyne: Larry, can you tell me briefly about the blue puzzle pin that you have on your jacket.
Larry Gonzales: Absolutely. This is a puzzle piece for autismspeaks.org, and its an organization that services and helps families of kids with autism.