Distinguished Alumni Achievement Awards 2012
The Hon. Veronica Gonzales
BA Spanish and English '86
State Representative District 41
Remarks by Dr. Robert Fischer
Chair, Department of Modern Languages
Representative Veronica Gonzales is serving her fourth term in the Texas Legislature, representing portions of McAllen, Edinburg, and Mission in the Rio Grande Valley. Her legislation has improved her constituents’ lives and brought her recognition as a leader in government.
Veronica, who grew up in San Marcos, was the first in her family to go to college. After obtaining a degree in English and Spanish from Texas State, she attended The University of Texas Law School and joined a McAllen law firm, becoming a named partner in the firm within four years. She later served as president of the Hidalgo County Bar Association and earned the designation as a Texas Super Lawyer.
One day, Veronica’s partners asked her if she would like to run for state representative. Although she thought the idea sounded kind of crazy, she filed for the ballot before she could talk herself out of it. She ran against a six-term incumbent and a former Congressional candidate and won in a run-off, with 70 percent of the vote.
Veronica represents one of the poorest districts in Texas, and her goal has been to make life better for the people she serves. She has passed legislation to provide lighting and clean water in the colonias along the border, and to assure sufficient water for municipal use in her district. She created a bi-national task force to reduce alcohol and drug abuse on the border, and a program to keep abused women’s whereabouts confidential from their abusers. Her legislation has widened the pool of people who can become police officers, created new courts, and increased jurors’ pay, and it has brought doctors to medically underserved parts of Texas. Currently, Veronica is studying the impact of managed healthcare on patients in the Valley. And, as chair of the Border Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, she is leading the state’s effort to improve border security.
A number of honors underscore the impact of Veronica’s legislation locally and nationally. She has been elected to several leadership positions in the State Democratic Caucus and the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus. She received the Voice of the People Award from The Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network, a group of ten community organizations that serve poor people. The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has named her an Ultimate Latina Legislator, and she was selected as one of 24 Democrats and Republicans from around the country to participate in the Aspen Institute-Rodel Fellowships in Public Leadership, a fellowship honoring "true rising stars" of American politics.
Veronica’s current term in the Texas House ends this year, and she has announced that she will not seek reelection. However, she still has much she wants to accomplish, and she says that may mean a future run for a seat in the state Senate or in Congress.
Through her outstanding public service, Veronica has bettered her community and her state and gained the respect of her constituents and peers. The College of Liberal Arts is pleased to present her with its highest honor, the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award.