U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego, who represents about 60,000 people in the Lower Valley, recently made a trip to El Paso.
Gallego, D-Texas, sat down with the El Paso Times to talk about his first three months in Congress. He discussed the divisiveness in Washington, D.C., the future of Fort Bliss, agriculture in the Southwest and the challenges of representing 800 miles of U.S.-Mexico border.
Q: How have your first three months in Congress been?
A: It's a great feeling for me to represent this area. It's a fascinating job. It can be a frustrating job. There doesn't seem to be as much of a sense of urgency among some members that I have. It can be partisan and divided. I think we need to focus more on
compromise, on putting out the fire instead of adding fuel to it, but I believe we can. All in all, it's been incredibly rewarding.
Q: How do you handle representing 800 miles of Texas-Mexico border? Are the issues in Alpine the same as East El Paso?
A: I've always had a history of representing a very diverse district. When I was in the (state) Legislature, I represented 18 percent of the land area. Now, it's 23 percent. I'm used to the diversity. I like diversity of thought. I like diversity of opinion and I like diverse communities. So I handle it by trying to get to fundamentally know the communities I represent. For example this week, we're not in session so I'm visiting several different areas. I
think in my first 100 days of office I will have visited all the counties I represent. ... The single most important thing for me is constituent case work so the folks at home are taken care of. I'm going to be the first congressman who represents the 23rd (district) that has represented part of El Paso that actually has an office here because I want to be close to folks. I want to be there when they need me. I want to know the community. I want to be invested in the community. I want to be a participant in the community. So whether there's an issue of social security checks that are late or crossing times at the border, I want the reputation as someone who did great constituent case work and solved the problem.
Q: What are the biggest issues facing the Lower Valley?
A: There's really great potential in the Lower Valley and El Paso. There's so much history there. It's an incredible place. I'd like to see the community continue to develop and showcase its history by working with the Chamber of Commerce. I want to work with the local business community to help increase the area's stature, for example to build more trade and tourism. There are infrastructure needs out there that we need to go look at. For me, there are four things that can really enhance a community and create opportunity. Those are jobs, the proper educational system, transportation with roads, sidewalks and bridges, and public health system so our kids are growing up happy and healthy.
Q: You mention education. Are you aware of the cheating scandals that have rocked the school districts here and cost children the proper education?
A: It's hard not to and it saddens me. There's not a single issue or challenge that faces our society that can't be solved with education. You want to break the cycle of poverty in your family? You get an education. You want to break the cycle of violence or drugs in your family? You get an education. You're stuck in a dead end job and want to get out? You get an education. Education is the basis of every opportunity.
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