AUSTIN, Texas – While on his latest “fruit run” to the state Capitol, veteran South Texas broadcaster Ron Whitlock has been promoting the Valley Legislative Tour.

“There is definitely a lot of interest in the tour. Some legislators know about it and having been on the tour before. For those that do not know about it, I have been educating them,” said Whitlock, in an interview from Austin.

Ron Whitlock

“I ran into Julian three times at the Capitol on Monday and he told me who I needed to see about going on the tour. I have been taking his advice. I will be coming up next week to continue that effort.”

The ‘Julian’ Whitlock refers to is Julian Alvarez, former president of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, the Valley’s regional chamber of commerce. The legislative tour is organized by RGVP.

Alvarez is now labor representative on the Texas Workforce Commission. The new president of RGVP is Sergio Contreras.

The Valley Legislative Tour is a four-day event that occurs every other year in conjunction with the Texas Legislative session. According to the RGVP website, the event was created in 1975 for the purpose of engaging our local communities and supporters in a direct conversation with the state policymakers.

The tour alternates focus between the upper and lowers parts of the Valley. One year, it focuses on the Hidalgo and Starr counties and two years later it features the Cameron and Willacy counties. This year the focus is on Cameron and Willacy counties. The 21st RGV Legislative Tour of the Rio Grande Valley will be held from Jan. 26 to Jan. 29, 2017 at South Padre Island. The event will feature a number of legislators to highlight the challenges and opportunities unique to the region.

Among the top sponsors of the Valley Legislative Tour 2017 are IDEA Public Schools, AEP Texas, AT&T, Texans for Lawsuit Reform, Valley Crossing Pipeline, UT-Rio Grande Valley, Union Pacific, Mission Economic Development Corporation, Cheniere, Valley Baptist Health System, Charter Communications and Harlingen Medical Center.

“We are going to showcase and educate our legislators of the need of healthcare, infrastructure, transportation, education … and our ports of entry which are our key drivers in our economy and also our communities,” Contreras said last month.

Whitlock is considered the Valley’s roving ambassador in Austin at the start of each legislative session because he takes Valley-grown grapefruit to the Capitol. The grapefruit serves to remind legislators and their staff about the good things that happen in the Valley, in contrast to the negative coverage the region sometimes gets.

While distributing grapefruit, Whitlock said it was also important to promote the Valley Legislative Tour. In previous years he has produced videos of the event for RGVP.

“I started doing this back when Bill Summers was president of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership. We thought it was a good idea to make sure legislators from other parts of Texas got a real taste of the greatness of the Rio Grande Valley. After all, the Grapefruit is the official State Fruit of Texas and these are the sweetest grapefruit you can get,” Whitlock said.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story shows Ron Whitlock delivering grapefruit to state Sen. José Rodríguez of El Paso at the state Capitol in Austin, Texas, on Monday, Jan. 9, 2017.