Speaking at the Beeville Country Club, the senator explained that District 21 now has more than 800,000 residents and that it extends from the Rio Grande Valley to Travis County.
The senator told the gathering that much of her district is on the cusp of a great economic opportunity with the development of the Eagle Ford Shale oil field.
But she encouraged parents to keep their children in school and not let them abandon their education to find jobs in the oil fields until they qualify for the better positions.
Although one employer told her to send his company truck drivers and welders, that they would get the engineers from San Antonio, she said she was offended by the remark.
Residents of her district want their children to become engineers as well.
Zaffirini said that when she was asked once what a state senator does, she answered that she decides who lives and who dies.
The senator qualified that comment by saying that members of the Texas Senate decide issues relating to immigration, nursing schools, and other important issues. She reminded those at the banquet that she had spearheaded the effort years ago to keep the state from locating a low-level radioactive waste disposal site in Live Oak County near Choke Canyon Reservoir.
She said she was able to persuade the Senate to vote 28-2 to keep the disposal site on public land and off private land.
“Get it?” Zaffirini asked. “There is no public land in Bee County or Live Oak County.”
Zaffirini said it is an honor to serve in the Texas Senate. Of the 31 senators, only six are women. Three of them are Republicans and three are Democrats.
In introducing the senator, Bee Development Authority Executive Director Joe B. Montez said that Zaffirini is the second highest-ranking member of the Texas Senate and is the highest-ranking woman and Hispanic in that branch of state government.
The senator has been named one of the 10 best legislators four times by Texas Monthly Magazine, and she has maintained a 100 percent attendance record since 1987.
Montez told the gathering that Zaffirini has earned a BS, MA and PhD, all from the University of Texas at Austin.
Following Zaffirini’s speech, Coastal Bend College board member Laura Fischer introduced the college’s new president, Dr. Beatriz Espinoza.
Although Espinoza was recruited from a college in California, the new president was born and grew up in South Texas.
The college president reminded those at the banquet that CBC is planning the celebration of its 50th anniversary in the near future.
She said that more than 13,000 students have earned degrees and certificates from the college. That is an important consideration in a part of Texas where salaries are $15,000 below the national average and $12,000 below the state average.
Espinoza also said that the growing oil and gas industry in South Texas is expected to bring considerable economic opportunity to the region.
“Coastal Bend College works,” the president said.
Espinoza used her own upbringing as an example of how education can improve the lives of South Texans. Her own parents had no more than grade school educations. But they were especially dedicated to seeing that their eight children had better educations.
“They were ‘no excuse’ parents, especially when it came to education,” Espinoza said.
Growing up in a family where the children in the family had to work in the fields of South Texas farms was enough to instill in her and her siblings the importance of schooling.
“My story is very familiar in South Texas,” Espinoza said.
The president said 67 percent of CBC’s student body is female and 65 percent is Hispanic.
Those numbers suggest that CBC is doing its job helping South Texans find a better and more productive future.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.