McALLEN, RGV – In previous interviews, South Texas Congressmen Filemon Vela and Henry Cuellar have told the Rio Grande Guardian that their first swearing-in ceremonies in the U.S. House of Representatives were the best.

On Jan. 3, McAllen attorney Vicente Gonzalez had the opportunity to share that experience, having been sworn in as only the sixth U.S. Representative to represent the 15th congressional district of Texas.

Congressmen Vicente Gonzalez, Henry Cuellar, and Filemon Vela on the first day of the 115th Congress.

“It was an exciting and historic event for me and for our district,” said Gonzalez, told the Rio Grande Guardian.

Gonzalez said it was a “humbling experience” to see freshmen representatives present with their family and friends during the ceremony, as well as constituents of from his district at the Capitol. He said many of the constituents had driven from the district to Washington, D.C., to show their support.

“We had over 100 constituents show up, some of them drove for days to get here. I was quite impressed, it was It was an emotional and happy day for us,” Gonzalez said.

With only six different members of congress in the history of 15th congressional district of Texas, Gonzalez said it is a “tremendous honor” to represent the area, especially following in the footsteps of predecessors such as Rubén Hinojosa, who served in Congress for 20 years, and Kika de la Garza, who served for 32 years.

“It is certainly an honor, I am humbled and I am ready to get to work for my constituents,” Gonzalez said.

During the ceremony, representatives for the 2017 term were sworn-in by House Speaker Paul Ryan. Despite the difference in political party representation between Republican Speaker Ryan and Democrat Gonzalez, the freshman congressman said he is confident both parties are willing to work together to improve the country.

“We had a very cordial relationship, we talked about trying to work together and finding a common ground,” Gonzalez said. “I get a very good feeling that hopefully the traditional members from both sides of the aisle [Republicans and Democrats] will try to do the right thing and move our country forward.”

Referring specifically to his district, Gonzalez said: “I know that I am most interested in our district, that we get all what we deserve and we never get left behind.”

Regarding threats to the immigrant community and fears from the border region generally following the election of Donald Trump as president, Gonzalez said he will work towards reaching understanding in the House to defend the District 15 region, but also work for the country.

“I am hoping a lot of what we heard prior to Nov. 8 was just campaign rhetoric. Still, I am going to defend my region rigorously, but also look out for the interest of our country,” he said. “I think that there is certainly common ground – we both care about education, taking care of our seniors and finding ways to educate our young in America.”

Before being elected to represent the 766,342 constituents of District 15, Gonzalez said he had already felt the stress the task would bring. However, he said he remains optimistic about bringing success and attention to Brooks, Duval, Jim Hogg, Karnes, Live Oak, Guadalupe, Hidalgo, and Wilson counties.

“It is overwhelming (the size of the district), but I know the tremendous responsibility that I carry with this office and I intend to make South Texas proud by working hard for them, and doing the right thing for our country the state, and our region,” Gonzalez stated.

And, being elected to Congress has not just changed his life, Gonzalez said, but also that of his wife, Lorena Saenz Gonzalez. Though it has been a busy time for both, Gonzalez is proud to have his wife’s support. “She’s very proud and she has done an amazing job for having done this for the very first time. Lorena has been an amazing woman to me and I think she is going to make a great first lady for Texas District 15,” Gonzalez said.

Voting on different rules and pieces of legislation will continue in the U.S. House of Representatives until Jan. 14, at which point will come a mini-break. Gonzalez said he will have four days to return home before the 2017 United States Presidential Inauguration takes place on Jan. 20.

Following the inauguration, February through April will be busy months, Gonzalez predicted. Nonetheless, he said he would manage his time and agenda so that he has time to spend in the eight counties he represents.

“I plan to work back in the District and tour all of the counties listening to constituents, different municipalities, counties and school boards,” Gonzalez said.

“Whenever I have a two-day break I plan to fly to the northern district, perhaps San Antonio, and then work in my northern counties, and in longer stretches I am going to fly down and work throughout the Valley and the tri-county area just above us,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez ended his interview by promising constituents he would have an open-door policy and would listen to the public.

“We will continue to work and listen to our people, and we will have an open-door policy and anything anyone needs is free to call and visit us,” he said. “We are going to see more of an open-door policy than we have ever seen in the history of District 15.”