THE MONITOR: The Monitor's Board of Contributors - 2015-2016
For the past few months, we've put a call out on Opinion pages for writers who are interested in writing for us regularly via our Board of Contributors. Today, we are pleased to announce the 20 who have been selected to serve on this inaugural board, listed below.
All come from different industries and vocations and have varied interests and hobbies. In our first group meeting on Wednesday, the discussion was lively and their questions were rich and thought provoking. Our goal is to present opinion columns from them that you might not always agree with, but we hope you will be engaged by.
As Monitor Editor Carlos Sanchez told them: "A good newspaper aspires to be the soul of the community and the Opinion page is the soul of the newspaper."
We had over 50 people request to be on this first board. Sadly we could not accommodate all but hope that if you were not selected this first go around that you will be interested when we put another request out next year.
We are confident this batch of writers will provoke much discussion and affect change where change is needed in our region. We hope you will enjoy their pieces, including two offered here today from a local lawyer and a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico. And we trust that you will remain engaged on the Opinion page by continuing to write letters to the editor expressing your approval, agreement or disagreement.
As publisher Stephan Wingert told them: "This is taking the next step in engaging our community."
John Ball is originally from Tucson, Arizona, and graduated from McAllen Memorial High School in 1995. He attended Texas A&M University and earned a degree in political science. He graduated from St. Mary's University School of Law and is the sole practitioner focusing on criminal defense and family law in his firm. He is married to Christy Caric and they have two children, Camila and Jake. He also currently serves as a trustee of the McAllen Independent School District Board.
Louise Butler is a retired teacher, college professor and writer. She has spoken at dozens of science teacher conventions, including the Global Summit on Science and Science Education. She has combined her work in science and economics to produce curriculum for energy and mining industries, as well as Harvard University's Center for Astrophysics and the University of Missouri-Rolla's Center for Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. She is co-author of a science textbook for Glencoe/McGraw-Hill. Louise says she will go anywhere she gets to wear a hard hat.
David Calvillo is a McAllen lawyer specializing in civil trials. He is a certified public accountant and a credentialed mediator. He also is co-founder of the global organization Real Men Pray The Rosary Inc., headquartered in McAllen, and a devout Catholic Christian who loves to spread the Good News.
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar is a Democrat from Laredo who is currently serving his sixth term in Congress on the prestigious House Appropriations Committee, which is tasked with overseeing the federal budget. He also serves on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security and House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs. In addition, he is vice chairman of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. He was first elected to Congress in 2005 after serving as a Texas state representative for 14 years. He also served as Texas Secretary on State. With a total of five advanced degrees, he is the "Most Degreed Member" currently serving in the U.S. House. Two schools in Laredo are named for him and he has been honored as Laredoan of the Year, Distinguished Citizen of the Year and Humanitarian of the Year. He was elected Mr. South Texas 2008 for his significant contributions to the economic growth of Laredo and South Texas. He is an expert in immigration affairs and has been respected for his ability to co-author immigration legislation with lawmakers from across the aisle. He currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Center for U.S. and Mexican Law at the University of Houston Law Center.
Dr. Mary E. De Ferreire is a clinical psychologist and has owned her private practice in McAllen for the past 15 years. Since 2003, she has been president of the South Texas Psychological Association three times. In 2004, she was featured in a Hogg Foundation sponsored PBS documentary on the plight of mentally ill Texas children. She was awarded the "2007 Mujer Region Award" by the National Hispana Leadership Institution, which recognizes "lifetime achievement for service to the Hispanic community with justice, integrity, commitment and the deepest pride in her culture." Her practice also serves as a psychological training center for doctoral- and master's-level students. She has been a featured speaker on several local TV new channels as an expert on school violence and the provision of mental health services to emotionally disturbed children/adolescents, and the effect of traumas on returning U.S. war veterans. She has lectured about psychological issues at the invitations of numerous educational, health, and mental health facilities throughout Mexico, Central America, and South America.
Rosanna Elizondo is a veteran educator with Mercedes schools and holds a master of education degree from Lamar University. She has a background in public relations and journalism. She was born and reared in Weslaco where she currently lives with her husband and children.
The Honorable Antonio Garza is former U.S. ambassador to Mexico, a former Texas secretary of state, former chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission and former Cameron County Judge. He currently works as counsel in the Mexico City office of White & Case LLP, a global law firm with 39 offices in 26 countries. He also ischairman of Vianovo Ventures, a management consultancy with a focus on cross-border business development. Drawing on decades of high-profile, political, legal, and business experience, he serves as a strategic counselor to CEOs, investors and entrepreneurs. He is acknowledged as one of the top experts on U.S.-Mexico relations and on the business and political environments of both nations. He also serves as a director of Basic Energy Services Inc., an oil and gas well services company, Kansas City Southern, a rail-based transportation company, and MoneyGram, a global money transfer company. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of Southern Methodist University, the Development Board of The University of Texas at Austin and is a past member of the Dean's Council at the Harvard School of Public Health. He is a director of the Americas Society, member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a recipient of the "Aguila Azteca" or Aztec Eagle, the Mexican government's highest honor bestowed upon a foreign national
Elizabeth Jamsa Gearhart raised a family of three and had a 20-year career in communications in the Chicago area before moving to McAllen in 1996 and starting a new career in end-of-life care. She worked for five years for Comfort House in McAllen and four years for Sunshine Haven in Brownsville. For eight years, beginning in 2002, she collaborated with two friends — Mary Cloud and Yolanda Morado — to provide a home and family for Victor Alvarez, a 16-year-old boy who had spinal muscular atrophy and required round-the-clock care. Alvarez became an artist, a columnist for The Monitor and a Bill Gates Millennium Scholar. He died in 2010. She is the author of "VICTORious Life, Conquering a Wayward Body with a Winning Spirit" and currently is working on a second book.
James Harrington is a veteran civil rights leader and founder Texas Civil Rights Project based in Austin. He was born in Lansing, Michigan, and received his law degree in 1973 from the University of Detroit. After law school, he came to South Texas where he worked for 10 years as director of the South Texas Project in the Rio Grande Valley. His legal work involved asserting the rights of farm laborers and poor people in Valley, especially in colonias, where he handled litigation involving police brutality, discrimination and farm worker organizing. In 1983, he became Legal Director of the Texas Civil Liberties Union in Austin, where he litigated cases involving privacy as a fundamental right, free speech, and equal rights for farm laborers to worker's compensation and unemployment benefits. In 1990, he founded the Texas Civil Rights Project, a statewide non-profit foundation that promotes social, racial, and economic justice and civil liberty, through the legal system and public education, for low income and poor persons. The project now has a staff of 40 with offices in Austin, El Paso, San Juan, Houston and Odessa. Last month he announced he was retiring this year from the Texas Civil Rights Project but graciously offered to continue writing for The Monitor on its Board of Contributors.
Brandon Hausenfluck is a fourth-generation Valleyite. He graduated from McAllen Memorial High School in 1993. He then attended Texas A&M University where he earned a degree in journalism. While at A&M he wrote for the university's newspaper, The Battalion. After college he entered the residential building industry and worked in many positions before coming self employed. He lives in the McAllen/Edinburg area with his wife, two-year-old son and their four dogs.
State Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa proudly represents the people of District 20. He was born in McAllen, the eldest of eight children. He attended Mission ISD schools and was a farm worker during his teen years. He led the Mission Eagles football team as their quarterback and after graduating he volunteered to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam. He earned a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Texas-Pan American and a law degree from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
He was first elected into office in 1981, serving in the Texas House until 1990 and from 1997 to 2002. In the House he helped passed landmark legislation, such as the establishment of the Regional Academic Health Center, which promotes physician training on the Texas/Mexico Border, and sponsored the Texas Fair Defense Act, reforming procedures for providing court-appointed defense counsel to indigent defendants. In 2002, he was elected to the Texas Senate where he currently serves as President Pro Tempore. He is vice-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, a member of the Senate Natural Resources & Economic Development Committee, Criminal Justice Committee, and the Agriculture, Water and Rural Affairs Committee. He is also a member of the Legislative Budget Board and Sunset Advisory Commission.
During the 2013 Legislature, he authored historic legislation that will merge UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville and create a free standing medical school in South Texas, which will be the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley. In 2013, he was named for the third time as "Top Ten Best Legislators" by Texas Monthly magazine. When not in Austin, he runs his McAllen law office.
Bill Lang is an extremely active Winter Texan from the Chicago area. He and his wife have been wintering in Alamo since 2003 and spend six months out of the year in the Valley. He is an avid bicyclist and has traveled the RGV extensively, along with many other places. Sadly, he has terminal cancer, which he says is due to chemical exposure, namely Agent Orange, from his service in Vietnam and Cambodia in 1969 and 1970. He is a cycling enthusiast who serves on the Hidalgo County Metropolitan Planning Organization, Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Board representing Winter Texans. He departed for cooler climates earlier this week, but still promises to write over the summer
Jay Leal is senior vice president and chief information officer at Inter National Bank. He has worked in the technology field for over 20 years. He received a bachelors degree from the University of Texas at Austin where he studied journalism and public relations. He is the immediate past-president of the McAllen South Rotary Club and a graduate of Leadership McAllen Class XXIX. He lives in McAllen with his wife Kristina and 3-year-old son, Luke.
Nathaniel Mata is a sophomore at the University of Texas-Pan American where he is the social media editor and a sports reporter for the student newspaper, The Pan American. He blogs on technology and also has written an opinion column for the student publication, as well. This summer he plans to launch a sports podcast. He's tech-savvy and represents the next generation of journalists.
Dr. M. Ray Perryman is founder and president of The Perryman Group, an economic and financial analysis firm headquartered in Waco. He is widely regarded as one of the world's most influential and innovative economists. He has published thousands of academic and trade articles and presentations span a wide variety of topics, gaining him international respect and acclaim. He has authored several books, including "Survive & Conquer," an account of the Texas economy during the turbulent 1980s, and "The Measurement of Monetary Policy." He has been named the Nation's Outstanding Young Economist and Social Scientist; Outstanding Young Person in the World in the Field of Economics and Business; one of the Ten Outstanding Young Persons in the World, and the Outstanding Texas Leader of 1990. He has been presented citations for his efforts from the U.S. Congress and Texas Legislature. He has been honored by The Democracy Foundation for his role in promoting capitalism in mainland China; the Asia and World Institute for his efforts to encourage international academic exchange, and the Systems Research Foundation for his contributions to the field of economic modeling. He is a Fellow of the International Institute for Advanced Studies and has received the Institute's prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award.
Efrén C. Olivares is a senior staff attorney at the South Texas Civil Rights Project in Alamo, where he handles human and civil rights cases ranging from disability rights to wage theft and immigrant rights cases. He is a graduate of Valley View High School in Pharr, the University of Pennsylvania and Yale Law School. He is a native of Nuevo Leon, Mexico, and migrated to the Valley as a teenager in the mid-1990s.
Davis Rankin is a local radio talk show host who has an afternoon weekday talk show on KURV, 710AM. He also writes reports on McAllen City Commission meetings for FUTURO McAllen. He is a well-known political junky who is respected for his institutional knowledge of Valley politics
Ned Sheats was reared in a small Ohio town that's the size of LaJoya. He grew up and received much of his education in small West Virginia cities and ended finally finished in the Los Angeles metro area. He is a certified electronic technician (BC) — that's Before Computers. He has worked for several small businesses, owned his own small business and held a management position for 28 years with Panasonic. His community involvement began in California with the sheriff's department in San Diego County and continued here and into retirement with his service on the City of Mission Planning & Zoning Commission. His goal here is to use his diverse background to assist his new home state, county and city by offering alternatives to the way it's done now and to push the Rio Grande Valley toward more universally acceptable political, educational and fiscal goals and standards. He thanks The Monitor for allowing him this privilege.
Eddie Zamora Jr. is a self-described "blue-collar businessman," a minister and part-time politician. He has successfully prevailed in heavily contested Republican primary elections and holds the record for this highest percentage of votes — at 43 percent — and money raised ($129,000) for a Republican candidate and nominee for Congress in the 111-year history of Texas congressional district 15. He and his wife, Soraya, make their home in Edinburg.
Dr. Philip Zwerling has lived in the Valley for eight years. He currently works as an associate professor of creative writing at the University of Texas-Pan American, which is soon to be University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Previously, he served as minister of Unitarian Universalist congregations in Boston, Los Angeles and Tucson. He has a masters degree from Harvard University and earned his doctorate from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has written a couple of books and is currently working on a new publication. His opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect those of UTPA, UT-RGV or other groups that he is/was affiliated.