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Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award 2008

H.S. Buddy Garcia
Austin, TX
Chair of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
B.A. 1990 Political Science

H.S. Buddy Garcia
H.S. Buddy Garcia

Remarks by Dr. Ann Marie Ellis
Dean of the College of Liberal Arts

Buddy Garcia says that tonight’s program is the graduation ceremony he never had. His graduation day in 1990 coincided with a tropical storm that created big waves along the coast, and instead of attending the ceremony, he went surfing in Corpus Christi. He had told his mother Sylvia, who is here tonight, that he wouldn’t be at the ceremony, so that she wouldn’t make the trip from Brownsville to San Marcos unnecessarily. Afterwards, he found out that he had denied her the great pleasure of seeing him walk across the stage to receive his diploma in Political Science. So, tonight has an added meaning for Buddy and his mother Sylvia.

Since his graduation in 1990, Buddy has had a high-profile career in public service. Last year, Gov. Rick Perry nominated him and the Texas Senate approved him as a member of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality—the second largest environmental agency in the world. Gov. Perry then appointed Buddy to chair the Commission, knowing that Buddy could handle this big assignment because he had worked closely with Buddy for many years.

Before his appointment to the environmental commission, Buddy served as Texas’ Deputy Secretary of State, as Border Commerce Coordinator, and as an advisor to Gov. Perry on border affairs with Mexico. He worked on issues related to trade, water and wastewater, and sales of electricity to Mexico. Buddy is particularly proud of his work in settling a treaty dispute with Mexico over use of water from the Rio Grande—a complex negotiation that helped to prepare him for his current position as an advocate for the Texas environment. In 2006, Buddy received the Ohtli Award from the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the highest honor given by the Mexican government to individuals who have distinguished themselves by working to build stronger relationships with Mexico.

A native of Brownsville, Buddy graduated from St. Joseph Academy in 1985 and enrolled in Texas A&I University on an academic scholarship. He also played football for Texas A&I. During his freshman year, he visited some friends at Texas State. He thought the campus and the coeds were beautiful, and, with nothing more on his mind than his academic progress, he transferred to Texas State. He remembers college as a place where he made good friends and had fun. He went to class religiously because that’s where the girls were. He lived off-campus and rode the bus or his motorcycle everywhere. He spent time swimming at Sewell Park, hunting and fishing in South Texas, and playing in football games between Greeks and Independents, which he helped the Independents to win. He also remembers being enthralled in Dr. Jim Garber’s anthropology course on magic, ritual, and religion. He spent a summer with Dr. Garber on an archaeological dig in Belize and surfed and dived in his free time.

A determining factor in Buddy’s transfer to Texas State was the campus’ proximity to state government in Austin. Growing up on the border, he noticed that elected officials rarely came from his ethnic background, and he developed strong opinions that he wanted to put into action by working in government. He credits his state government professor, Dr. Bill Stouffer, with introducing him to the concepts that made him a believer in public service and enabled him to be a successful public servant. Dr. Stouffer would start each class by saying, “Good morning, future leaders of America,” which resonated with Buddy. He was very engaged in his coursework and would annoy the other students by continuing to argue with his professors when the other students were ready to leave at the end of class.

Buddy says he enjoyed college so much that he wanted it to last forever. But his career in state government was calling. In his senior year, he worked as a messenger at the Capitol and after graduation he became a staff member in the office of Texas Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., who gave Buddy increasing responsibility as he worked on a wide range of legislation related to agriculture, the coast, the border, and natural resources. At the Capitol, Buddy met his wife Meredith, a University of Texas graduate, and they were married in 1999. They have two—Clark, 6, and Reid, 4.

After nine years in Sen. Lucio’s office, Buddy became special assistant to then-Lt. Gov. Rick Perry, advising him on border affairs, intergovernmental relations, and the environment—a role that Buddy would continue to play in the Governor’s office, then as Deputy Secretary of State and as Border Commerce Coordinator, and now as chair of TCEQ. In addition, he serves on the Texas Coastal Coordination Council, the Texas Coastal Land Advisory Board, the Border Security Council, the Governor’s Competitiveness Council, the Gulf of Mexico Alliance, and he is co-chair of the Border 2012 Bi-national Environmental Program. He also finds time to help coach his son Clark’s baseball team.

Buddy says that government can be only as good as the people who work in it, and he wants to see other talented Texas State students pursue careers in public service. In a letter supporting Buddy’s nomination for this award, Political Science Department Chair Dr. Vicki Brittain wrote, “My support for Mr. Garcia’s nomination is based on his commitment and genuine interest in our students. Mr. Garcia came to campus this semester and spoke to a Political Science class and a Geography class. During those presentations, he made very clear to the students his pride in having a degree from Texas State. He described the path he followed after graduation to build his career, and he spoke in a very caring and sincere manner about the opportunities available to our students.”

Dr. Brittain adds that Buddy engaged several students in conversation to learn more about their backgrounds and areas of study, and he offered to help with internships. Dr. Brittain concluded: “In every conversation, he left the student feeling appreciated, motivated, and confident in their decision to study at Texas State.”

Buddy credits his success to having wonderful opportunities, to his fine parents, to studying in college, and to his ability to work with people to resolve problems. He says he is a good example of someone who has stood on the shoulders of many great people, and he hopes he is not the exception. At a time when Texas state government is becoming more sensitive to the environment, he believes that it is also more reflective of our state’s cross-cultural population. And that’s why he says it’s particularly fun to have the opportunity to be the spokesperson for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The College of Liberal Arts is very proud of Buddy and grateful to him for the values that he models for Texas and our students. I am pleased to present H.S. Buddy Garcia with the College’s highest honor, the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award.

Buddy, I have another presentation to make to you. This presentation is for your mother. I know you didn’t walk in your graduation ceremony. As Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and on behalf of the University, I want to take this opportunity to present you with your diploma and to confer upon you the degree of Bachelor of Science in Political Science and all of the rights and privileges appertaining to that degree. Congratulations!