From the office of: State Senator José Rodríguez, District 29

January 20, 2011
Contact: Emily Amps Mora
(512) 463-0129

José Rodríguez Sworn in as State Senator
New member ready to tackle issues affecting El Paso families

Austin, TX — On Tuesday, as the 82nd Texas Legislative Session convened, José Rodríguez was sworn in as the newest member of the Texas State Senate. Rodríguez was elected to serve the people of El Paso's Senate District 29 in November 2010.

"I am honored and humbled to be the newest Senator from El Paso," said Senator Rodríguez. "I look forward to working hard in Austin on behalf of the people of Senate District 29."

During the 140-day legislative session, Rodríguez will focus on issues important to Senate District 29, including border security, public and higher education, healthcare accessibility and transportation.

"With a $27 billion budget shortfall, we face a unique set of challenges during my first legislative session," continued Rodríguez. "I will do my best to ensure that when we do have to make tough budget decisions that schools, children and hardworking families don't pay the price."

During the swearing-in ceremony Rodríguez was joined on the Senate floor by his wife Carmen, his daughter, Laura Gallegos, her husband and two sons.

Rodríguez represents Senate District 29, which includes the fast growing City of El Paso, as well as Anthony, Horizon City, Socorro, and Vinton. The district includes Fort Bliss, one of the largest and fastest growing military installations in the United States, as well as the University of Texas at El Paso, which boasts enrollment of over 22,000 students and Texas' newest medical school, the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine.

Prior to being elected to the Texas Senate, Rodríguez served as the El Paso County Attorney for 17 years. 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.

Today, in addition to being sworn in, Senator Rodríguez introduced his Capitol and district staff.

Capitol Staff

Richard (Rick) Sookiasian, a native of El Paso, will serve as Rodríguez's Chief of Staff. Sookiasian brings with him an extensive policy and state budgetary knowledge from working in governmental, legislative and community relations for over 25 years. Beginning in 2000, Sookiasian served as the Executive Director of the Texas House of Representative's Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC). After four years in that role, he accepted the position of Chief Operating Officer of the Board of Hispanic Caucus Chairs.

In late 2006, Sookiasian established his own government and public relations firm in Austin to utilize all of the governmental, legislative and organizational skills he had acquired from his broad based background. During that time, he successfully represented a number of diverse groups before the Texas Legislature and state agencies on such areas as manufacturing, economic development, public health, and technology.

Sushma Jasti Smith will lead Rodríguez's legislative efforts as the Legislative Director and General Counsel. Smith brings a wealth of knowledge of Senate policy and procedures from her time as General Counsel to former State Senator Eliot Shapleigh. Prior to her position with Senator Shapleigh, Smith worked as a Legislative Fellow for State Representative 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.

Emily Amps Mora will serve as the Communications Director and Legislative Analyst. This will be the 3rd legislative session for Amps Mora, who worked as the Chief of Staff for former State Representatives Chris Turner (81st Session) and Paula Pierson (80th Session) where she focused on policy areas including criminal justice, public education and veterans' issues. Prior to working in the legislature, Amps Mora worked in campaign politics for over a decade.

Amps Mora earned a B.A. and M.A. in Political Science (Public Policy/Administration) from the University of Texas at Arlington.

Legislative Analyst Andrew (Drew) Dupuy also comes to the Senate from the Texas House, previously working for former State Representative Valinda Bolton and State Representative Mike Villarreal. Dupuy brings a strong knowledge of transportation, zoning/land & water use issues and higher education policy.

Dupuy is currently pursuing a Master of Public Affairs degree at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and completed his B.A. in Political Science at Brown University.

Rosa Alfaro will serve as Rodriguez's Capitol Office Manager. Like Smith, Alfaro worked for former Senator Eliot Shapleigh. Prior to working for the people of Senate District 29, Alfaro worked as a bill analyst in the Senate Research Center and for the American Cancer Society.

She is a 2006 graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and hails from El Paso.

District Staff

Corinne Chacon will run the El Paso district office as Rodríguez's District Director. 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 who attended St. Mary's University in San Antonio and the Art Institute of Pittsburg was raised in El Paso and brings a broad knowledge of the district.

Patricia Luna is charged with constituent outreach and casework as the Constituent and District Services Director. Educated in El Paso, Mexico, France, Italy and Spain, Luna has worked extensively on El Paso border issues, including as an assistant to the former mayor of El Paso as the Director of Bi-national Affairs and working for the U.S. Mexico Border Health Association.

Luna received a B.A. in Sociology and a M.A. in Latin American Studies from the National Autonomous University of Mexico.