After almost half-century of service, Texas senator stepping down

EL PASO — After serving in the office for almost ten years, Texas State Senator José Rodríguez, 71, announced at a news conference on Friday that he would not seek re-election in 2020.

At the news conference, Rodríguez thanked staff, local news media and his wife, Carmen. “There’s been a lot of accomplishments,” he said. “There’s been a lot of disappointments.

The mood was mostly light, with Rodríguez teasing reporters who he said had “tormented” him.  After knocking over his microphone for the second time while moving excitedly, he joked, in Spanish, that he was moving “like Beto.” Both remarks drew laughter from the pressbox.

As state senator, Rodríguez has represented El Paso, Hudspeth, Culberson, Jeff Davis and Presidio counties. In a news release about his retirement, Rodríguez touted his work funding local hospitals, bringing in economic development and helping to establish Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso as its own university, independent from the main Texas Tech University in Lubbock.

“We have passed more than 240 bills,” the news release stated, concerning a wide range of topics: “education, health care, economic development, local governments, renewable energy, criminal justice, civil jurisprudence, public safety and the courts, ethics and government transparency, and veterans.”

In an interview with The Big Bend Sentinel, Rodríguez reflected back on his career, including the aforementioned accomplishments and disappointments.

He said he was particularly proud of helping to improve education — especially for bilingual and Latino students, who have helped give Texas “the youngest growing population in the country.”

But after increasing school funding during the last legislative session, Rodríguez said state lawmakers “still haven’t made up” for “draconian cuts” to education in 2011, when Rodríguez first took his seat.

“When it comes to bilingual education, I think we get an F,” he added.

Much of the interview was like this, with Rodríguez celebrating the progress he said Texas had made while also stressing the state had a long way to go.

In health care — another area where Rodríguez has focused his energy — he said Texas still had a “very serious problem down along the border” in terms of a “health professional shortage.”

And while Texas’s economy is growing as young professionals move to the cities and suburbs for white-collar jobs, Rodríguez stressed that those newcomers are, “for the most part, high-tech people.”