José Rodríguez Sworn in as State Senator
AUSTIN, Jan. 8, 2013 — Senator José Rodríguez was sworn in as Texas State Senator for District 29 as the 83rd Texas Legislative Session convened today. It will be the Senator’s second legislative regular session.
“I am honored and humbled to be back for a second session,” Rodríguez said. “I look forward to working hard in Austin on behalf of the people of Senate District 29.”
Rodríguez first was elected to serve the people of Senate District 29 in November 2010, when the district was entirely based in El Paso. With redistricting, the new district now also includes the counties of Hudspeth, Culberson, Jeff Davis and Presidio, making it one of the largest and most diverse in the state.
During the 140-day legislative session, Rodríguez will focus on issues important to the future of the district and of the state, including public and higher education, access to health care, resource management, economic development, transportation, and border affairs.
“With a $27 billion budget shortfall, we faced a unique set of challenges during my first legislative session,” Rodríguez said. “This session, given our estimated increase in revenues, we have a historic opportunity to right the wrongs of the last session — for example, restoring the unprecedented $5.4 billion in cuts to education — and set a firm foundation for the New Texas.”
Senate District 29 includes the City of El Paso, part of the largest border community in the world, and its neighboring towns of Anthony, Horizon City, Socorro, and Vinton. It also includes Marfa, known around the world as an arts destination, as well as historic Presidio and Van Horn.
The district also includes Fort Bliss, one of the largest and fastest-growing military installations in the United States, the University of Texas at El Paso, which boasts enrollment of about 23,000 students, and Texas’ newest medical school, the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine.
During the swearing in ceremony, Rodríguez was joined on the Senate floor by his wife Carmen, his son Nicolas Rodríguez, his daughter Laura Gallegos and her two sons.
Rodríguez served as the El Paso County Attorney for 17 years prior to being elected to the Texas Senate. He received his bachelor’s degree from Pan American University in Edinburg and law degree from George Washington University’s National Law Center. Upon graduation from GWU, Rodríguez began his legal career as a staff attorney with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington, D.C. He practiced law with the firm of Rodriguez, Lewis & Collins and worked for 10 years as a staff attorney and director of the farm worker program of Texas Rural Legal Aid, Inc, a statewide legal services program.
Rodríguez is a lifelong Texan, born in Alice and raised in the small farming community of Alamo, Texas. He and his wife Carmen have two children and two grandsons.
Senator Rodríguez’s Staff
Senator Rodríguez also introduced his staff for the 83rd Texas Legislature.
Sushma Jasti Smith will continue as Rodríguez’s Chief of Staff and Legislative Director. Smith has worked for Rodríguez since he took office in January 2011. Prior to her tenure in Rodríguez’s office, Smith served as General Counsel to former state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, Legislative Fellow for state Rep. Garnet Coleman, and as a judicial intern in a U.S. District Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
Smith has a keen interest in health care policy. In addition to her work in the legislature, Smith has done extensive work as a freelance science editor and has been published in several scientific journals.
Smith is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, with a B.A. in Psychology and earned her J.D. at the University of Houston Law Center, where she was the Editor in Chief of the Houston Journal of Health Law and Policy.
Ross O. Peavey will serve as General Counsel for Senator Rodriguez. As legislative and legal advisor for the office, Peavey will direct Rodriguez’s efforts on key topics such as energy, natural resources, telecommunications, jurisprudence, and education.
Peavey brings an abundance of experience to Senator Rodriguez’s second session, having worked each session since 2005. Prior to his time in Senator Rodriguez’s office, Peavey served as Law Clerk for the Lower Colorado River Authority, where he worked on energy, water, and municipal law. A devoted student of legislative process, Peavey worked in the Law Offices of Hugh L. Brady on legislative, administrative, and appellate law, providing advice on complicated legislative issues to Texas lawmakers of both parties. Peavey served as Legislative and Communications Director for Representative Stephen Frost during the 79th, 80th and 81st Sessions, and in the legislative services division of the Texas Municipal League as a part of UT Law’s Legislative Law Clinic during the 82nd session.
Peavey is a graduate of the Texas A&M University, and earned his J.D. at the University of Texas School of Law, where he was the President of the Student Bar Association.
Sito Negron will serve as the Communications Director and will work on legislative matters with a focus on border affairs. Negron has been a print and electronic reporter and editor in periodical journalism for almost 25 years, and has covered El Paso politics, culture and public affairs for much of his career. His experience includes time as a reporter and editor at the El Paso Times and assigning and editing duties in television news; Negron was editor of the print weekly, Stanton Street, covered Las Vegas, Nev., city politics for the Las Vegas Sun, and edited Newspaper Tree, an online periodical of news and culture that made its mark on El Paso for five years before ceasing publication. Negron also has written for such operations as Texas Monthly and Reuters.
David Stout will be in charge of Binational Affairs and Media Relations with an emphasis on Spanish language communications. He will also be working on policy areas dealing with transportation, veterans affairs, and immigration. Before joining Senator Rodriguez’s legislative team, Stout was an award winning news reporter with the El Paso affiliate of the Spanish language broadcast news organization, Univision. Stout has nearly ten years of experience in the communications arena, having worked with both English and Spanish language TV news operations as well as doing PR work for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is also recognized as an Institute for Justice and Journalism Fellow.
Stout graduated from the University of New Mexico with a B.A. in Latin American Studies and Spanish in 2001, and went on to finish his M.A. in Latin American Studies (concentrations in International Business and Brazilian Culture and Literature) at the same institution in 2006. He has spent time living in Mexico and Brazil and has become fluent in both Spanish and Portuguese.
Avina Gutierrez is Rodriguez’s Capitol Office Manager. She was born in Piedras Negras, Mexico, and grew up in the Pacific Northwest before returning to Texas in 2003. She moved to El Paso in 2009, and received a BA in Multidisciplinary Studies, with a focus on Business, Political Science, and Chicano Studies, from UT El Paso in 2011. Gutierrez began as Office Manager in the District Office before transferring to Austin in January, 2012.
Corinne Chacon has been Rodríguez’s District Director since he took office. Chacon, who owns her own graphic design and communications firm, worked as a consultant for Rodríguez’s Senate campaign. Prior to starting her own business, Chacon worked in the public and private sector, most notably in the non-profit sector on a variety of community development activities, including program implementation, project development and capacity building.
Chacon attended St. Mary’s University in San Antonio and the Art Institute of Pittsburg. She was raised in El Paso and brings a broad knowledge of the district.
Cecilia Rodriguez (no relation to the Senator) is charged with constituent outreach and casework for Constituent Services. Rodriguez has extensive experience with community action programs where she developed, organized, and coordinated community assistance and educational programs in the areas of public health, housing, environmental issues, community education, and action program development initiatives. Rodriguez has worked in a variety of social service and non-profit organizations in El Paso, as well as serving on various boards and commissions, including a term as President of the Board of Centro de Salud La Fe.
Nellie Tabarez serves as the El Paso District Office Manager and Scheduler. Prior to working for the people of District 29, Tabarez interned for state Sen. Carlos Uresti in San Antonio, where she handled Constituent Services and served as liaison for child abuse and neglect cases. She also has extensive knowledge in the field of child welfare, interning with the Texas Department of Child Protective Services while attaining her BSW (Bachelors in Social Work) from UT El Paso in 2010. She also has an MSW (Masters in Social Work), which she received in 2011 from UT San Antonio.