Whoever follows in the footsteps of state Sen. Eddie Lucio will be walking in a shadow that will be long and wide.  Sen. Lucio has a long legacy of representing his community, championing the cause of the less fortunate, advocating for economic development and job creation, creating access to healthcare, standing up for our veterans and protecting our children.

He has accomplished all of this while simultaneously working across party lines with his fellow senators  to get funding for the many programs, services and initiatives that continue to serve the Rio Grande Valley as well as the rest of the state.  No matter who fills this seat, and despite their work ethic and accomplishments, they are most likely going to be measured against the legislative, leadership and humanitarian record of Sen. Lucio.  The bar is high, both in Lucio’s accomplishments and, perhaps more importantly, in our expectations of his successor.

When Sen. Lucio was elected to the Texas Senate, the Valley was suffering from double-digit unemployment.  Many residents were living in poverty and our corner of the state was suffering from lack of economic opportunities.  The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) made great strides to increase trade, jobs and economic prosperity, but there was much more to do on the state level, and Lucio wasted no time getting to work. 

He had a vision back then that was rooted in the universal truth that as a community, we can’t move forward unless we move together.  That is a very valuable piece of advice we I share with all the candidates that seek to be the next senator from Senate District 27.  

His life and struggles formed the foundation of what he would champion as a senator.  He was one of many siblings who lived in public housing that inspired him to fight for more affordable housing.  He was often told that college was not for him, but found a way to attend what was then known as Pan American University.  Realizing that access was important for those who couldn’t afford to attend college out of town or for those who preferred not to be far away from home, he fought for more higher educational opportunities right here in the Valley.  When a judge ruled that insufficient educational opportunities existed in South Texas, Lucio co-authored a bill to tie schools in South Texas to the U.T. and A&M systems, putting them on equal footing with the rest of the state.

He fought for clean water and proper wastewater treatment in colonias.  He championed the economic development opportunities that brought Space X to Boca Chica and helped forge the higher education ties to produce a new generation of aeronautical engineers, programmers and astronauts from our region.  To Sen. Lucio, even reaching for the stars was a worthy goal.

It’s difficult to think of moving on without him, but we take comfort in knowing that he leaves many monuments to his years of leadership.  Those monuments are the many students who are taking advantage of undergraduate and graduate programs available here in our region; the veterans who no longer need to travel to San Antonio for healthcare; those less fortunate who can successfully find affordable housing; and the job creators seeking to create and enhance economic opportunities. 

So, to Democrats, Republicans and Independents who seek to succeed him, we ask that like Sen. Eddie Lucio, you put community over party.  Cross party lines when it helps your constituents, and work with leadership to get things done.  Remember, those of us back home are counting on you to advocate, champion and, when it’s called for, fight for us.  

Yes, he’s a hard act follow, but if you have the “ganas,” then we can do great things together.

Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned jointly by Al Villarreal (pictured right, above), president of IBC Bank-Brownsville, and Adrian Villarreal (pictured left, above), president of IBC Bank-McAllen. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service with the approval of the authors. They can be reached by email via: [email protected]


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