MISSION, RGV –  Congressman Rubén Hinojosa retires after serving his district for 20 years and focusing to a large extent on education.

His successor, Vicente Gonzalez, says he, too, will focus on education, as well as financial stability for seniors, access to healthcare for veterans and establishing a few years of free tuition for high school graduates.

Gonzalez, congressman-elect for Texas’ 15th congressional district, recently finished his incoming freshman orientation classes in Washington, D.C. He has office assignments and is working through committee assignments. Gonzalez says he plans to have three district offices–one based in the Rio Grande Valley, one in Duval County and one in Guadalupe County.

During the transition, Gonzalez, a Democrat from McAllen, said Hinojosa has been helpful and very gracious—helping make for a very smooth passing of the baton.

“Hinojosa did a very good job representing our region for the past 20 years,” Gonzalez said. “He transformed education in our areas. Our dropout rate is below the state average. Our unemployment rate was in double-digits when he took office and now it’s in single-digits, so he’s certainly represented us well.”

Gonzalez spoke to the Rio Grande Guardian while attending a news conference about border trade at Anzalduas International Bridge. The news conference was hosted by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar. Gonzalez thanked both for their help in helping him transition into his role as congressman.

Just as Hinojosa’s primary focus was education, Gonzalez said he would to like to continue this endeavor as well as tackle other issues such as social security for seniors, health accessibility for veterans and free tuition for high school graduates.

“We want to help our seniors that are having Medicare cuts like never before, and they’re not getting social security increments to keep up with prices at the grocery store,” Gonzalez said.

“I want to help our veterans get the healthcare they deserve here in the region. As you know, our veterans have to travel four hours for a full medical facility and a lot of times end up not getting the care that they need. We want our high school graduates to be able to attend college at least the first couple of year’s tuition free and somehow not overburden them with the debt that we have. Right now, America has more student loan debt than anywhere in the world and I think we should be ashamed of that record.”

Gonzalez said there’s certainly a lot to learn, but he has a lot of energy and is willing to do it. District 15 may differ in needs in certain areas, however Gonzalez will attempt to find common ground to address the issues.

“Everyone cares about the economy, everyone cares about education and everyone cares about the family values that we all share whether we’re in a different region, a different culture or a different religion,” Gonzalez said. “So, we need to find common ground. In fact, I plan to get to Washington D.C. and plan to find that common ground with folks on the other side of the aisle and I’ve been doing that in my district.”

Gonzalez is set to be sworn into office Jan. 3, 2017.