Featured: Jesús “Jesse” M. Ozuna of Edinburg, and his girlfriend, Rep. Ana Hernández, D-Houston, appearing before the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court in Edinburg on Tuesday, June 7, 2016. Ozuna, the Chief Administrator for Hidalgo County Commissioner Precinct 4 Joseph Palacios, was honored for his distinguished service to the region and received well-wishes for his new position, effective in July, as Assistant Director of Governmental Affairs for Mayor Sylvester Turner in the City of Houston.
Photograph By LORENA BALLI
Another local man has made good, helping further promote the image and reality that South Texans always have what it takes to excel in any profession, including in the highly-skilled world of legislative affairs for Houston, which is the nation’s fourth largest city. “We want to make sure you understand we really want to wish you well, we really enjoyed the work you have done for us,” Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García told Ozuna, who since 2012 worked himself up the proverbial ladder of success from being a right-of-way agent to helping lead the 115-member staff for Hidalgo County Commissioner Precinct 4 Joseph Palacios of Edinburg.
“Blessed beyond measure” – Jesús “Jesse” M. Ozuna of Edinburg advancing his career upstate in legislative leadership, while following his heart for Rep. Ana Hernández, D-Houston
By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Another local man has made good, helping further promote the image and reality that South Texans always have what it takes to excel in any profession, including in the highly-skilled world of legislative affairs for Houston, which is the nation’s fourth largest city.
On Tuesday, June 7, 2016, Jesús “Jesse” M. Ozuna of Edinburg, and his girlfriend, Rep. Ana Hernández, D-Houston, appeared before the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court in Edinburg, as those elected leaders and many others bid farewell to the soon-to-be former Precinct 4 Chief Administrator.
“We want to make sure you understand we really want to wish you well, we really enjoyed the work you have done for us,” Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García told Ozuna, who since 2012 worked himself up the proverbial ladder of success from being a right-of-way agent for the county to helping lead the 115-member staff for Hidalgo County Commissioner Precinct 4 Joseph Palacios of Edinburg.
Then, addressing the obvious with appreciation for Ozuna’s professionalism and happiness for Ozuna’s personal life, García added, “I know Commissioner Palacios thinks very highly of you, and so do other members of the court – and I can see why you are going to Houston.”
Ozuna, the Chief Administrator for Palacios, was honored for his distinguished service to the region and received well-wishes for his new position, effective in July, as Assistant Director of Governmental Affairs for Mayor Sylvester Turner in the City of Houston.
“We will deeply miss Jesse. He has taken on a new endeavor in his life. He has done some of the most profound progress with respect to order, need, to any expectation that any precinct could expect a chief of staff to do. Today, we want to honor him,” said Palacios, who authored the resolution praising Ozuna.
For a moment, Ozuna was overwhelmed with emotion as he stood at the podium, with Hernández at his side, as he began to express his gratitude to the county leaders and his fellow staff members.
“I fought my boss on this pretty hard because all of you know I really don’t like the attention,” Ozuna revealed, as he struggled to remain composed. “It definitely is bittersweet. I definitely enjoy working for the people of Hidalgo County.”
In asking Ozuna and Hernández to come to the podium, Palacios provided some insights about his trusted right-hand man, and the bright future awaiting Ozuna in Houston.
“He joined us in 2012, first as a right-of-way agent, and he excelled beyond anybody’s expectations. He later became our Chief-of-Staff in the past couple of years,” Palacios said. “We also do have Ana Hernández and her son, Gregory (by a previous marriage), here, coming in from Houston. I do want to say for the record she is the reason why he’s leaving. He will be joining her in Houston.”
Ozuna, whose achievements have come at an early age (he will turn 32 in November), showed his humility and people skills as he spoke of the numerous individuals who have helped shape his life.
“When I first started here at the county, I was blind. People took me under their wing as a ‘young punk kid’ who didn’t really know too much about anything about right-of-way,” Ozuna recalled. “I was blessed with the opportunity to come and now lead the precinct. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to work with.”
He continued to share the credit for his successes.
“The list of friends is too long, but I really want to thank God for the opportunity because I really am blessed beyond measure,” Ozuna added. “I’ve always told people that our titles don’t mean anything. It’s the desire to work and the desire to help people out, which we do every day here at the county.”
In addition to acknowledging the critical help of his supervisors, colleagues and former colleagues, Ozuna singled out former Hidalgo County Judge René Ramírez, who served in that capacity in 2009 when Ramírez was appointed to fill a vacancy that occurred when Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas resigned.
Salinas’ departure came after he had served as county judge for almost three years, from January 2007 until November 2009. Salinas, formerly the Hidalgo County Clerk before being elected county judge, had accepted a key position offered by the White House to serve as a regional administrator for the General Services Administration’s Greater Southwest region.
Ramírez, the founder and President of Pathfinder Public Affairs based in McAllen, was Hidalgo County Judge for more than a year, until current Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García was elected in November 2010.
“My mentor, René (Ramírez) – he taught me a lot that I know. He actually molded me into the professional person that I am today, along with a lot of other people,” Ozuna recalled. “He gave me my first hand up right out of college.”
….“WE ARE OUR BROTHERS’ AND SISTERS’ KEEPER…”
In the resolution he authored, Palacios spoke about Ozuna’s strong personal belief in helping people.
“Jesús’ best practices came in many forms, which made significant contributions in areas that will continue to benefit the residents of Precinct 4 and Hidalgo County that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper, and that we must do all that we can to improve services and the quality of life of our residents,” Palacios stated in the resolution.
Ozuna also defended the good name of public servants working for Hidalgo County.
“I want the public to know there are a lot of hard working people in the county government. I know at times we get slammed and we get dragged through the mud, but people work hard to earn their keep around here,” Ozuna said. “Not all of them, but the majority. I like to speak bluntly, and a lot of time it gets me in trouble, but that is just the way it is. There are a lot of hard-working people around here. So, I just wanted to thank everybody who has helped me along the way. I am very appreciative.”
Ozuna said although he is leaving the Valley, home will always include Edinburg and the Valley.
“It is just a step forward for me, I really hate to go. I will miss all of you, but if you ever need anything in Houston, I’ll be there. I will be down at least once or twice a month – my parents are still here, my family is still here,” he said, then joked and quickly made one thing clear: “Just don’t call me for work.”
Ozuna also expressed gratitude to the Houston mayor for showing confidence in him.
“I just wanted to thank my new boss, Mayor Turner, for giving me a chance. He hasn’t been side-by-side with me, I have met him in the Legislature a couple of times, so hopefully I can do the same work for the City of Houston that I did for the County of Hidalgo. Thank you.”
On Tuesday, April 12, 2016, Turner, a Democrat who previously served as a state representative from 1989 to 2016 for Houston, and who was elected Houston mayor in November 2015, earlier this year announced Ozuna’s key role in that city’s legislative agenda.
Turner selected Bill Kelly to be the City’s Director of Governmental Affairs and Ozuna as Assistant Director of Governmental Affairs, with their responsibilities including legislative issues in Austin and in Washington, D.C.
“The city’s number one issue in the upcoming 2017 Texas legislative session is going to be pensions,” said Turner. “I will need a strong team on the ground working to make sure Houston’s interests are strongly represented. Bill and Jesse have extensive experience working with diverse interest groups, and they understand the important of coordination and communication with our legislative delegation and various stakeholders. I know they will represent Houston well.”
As for his new personal life, Ozuna said, “To my girlfriend, Ana, and her son, Gregory, they are going to take me in, so hopefully, they are ready.”
PALACIOS PRESENTS OZUNA WITH DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD
Ozuna, who joined Hidalgo County on July 16, 2012, in addition to the county resolution, also received from Palacios an impressive Distinguished Service Award which featured a commemorative silver coin for each year of work on behalf of Precinct 4.
Ozuna graduated in 2003 from Edinburg North High School and from Texas A&M University at College Station in 2006 where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Leadership & Development.
Ozuna has held various professional titles from political servant to high school social studies teacher for Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District for three years.
His first position after college graduation was working for Rep. Armando Martínez, D-Weslaco, as a Legislative Aide in 2007 during the 80th Legislative session, and later served as a Director of Constituent Services during the 82nd Legislative Session beginning in 2011.
In 2012, he became a part of Hidalgo County Precinct 4 as a Right-of-Way agent where he excelled and was given the opportunity to serve as Chief Administrator in 2015.
The county resolution by Palacios, read into the public record by Lizbeth González and unanimously approved by the rest of the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court, follows:
WHEREAS, after graduating in 2003 from Edinburg
WHEREAS, Mr. Jesús M. Ozuna was born on November 26, 1984 and raised in Edinburg by his parents, Eionicio and Yolanda Ozuna. Jesús is the youngest of the two siblings – Yvette, married to Roel Alonzo, and they have two children, Valerie and Noah, along with another blessing on the way; and
WHEREAS, After graduating in 2003 from Edinburg North High School, Jesús enrolled at Texas A&M University at College Station, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Leadership and Development in 2006; and
WHEREAS, His first position after college graduation was working for Rep. Armando Martínez as a legislative aide during the 80th Legislative Session, and later served as (Martínez) Director of Constituent Services during the 82nd Legislative Session; and
WHEREAS, Jesús’ position was to help every individual regardless of their walk of life or economic status; and
WHEREAS, As of September 2008, Jesús was a high school social studies teacher for the Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District. For the next three years, he molded the minds of children with not only education, but with respect to moral fiber, discipline, and objectivity, which led his students reaching their full potential; and
WHEREAS, With his knowledge and experience, in 2012 his journey then led him to become part of Hidalgo County Precinct 4 as a right-of-way agent, where he excelled, and was given the opportunity to serve as Chief Administrator in 2015; and
WHEREAS, As Chief Administrator, Jesús served in that position with respect to order, integrity, and honor while directly managing 115 Precinct 4 employees who worked to enhance all services and embrace the needs of our community; and
WHEREAS, Jesús was also instrumental in working with various department heads and elected officials to ensure that Hidalgo County was moving forward in the most efficient, progressive and steadfast manner possible; and
WHEREAS, Jesús’ best practices came in many forms, which made significant contributions in areas that will continue to benefit the residents of Precinct 4 and Hidalgo County that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper, and that we must do all that we can to improve services and the quality of life of our residents; and
WHEREAS, As a member of the Boys and Girls Club Board of Directors, member of the Star Gala Board of Directors and the Edinburg Rising Star, to name a few, demonstrated his vision to continuously take part of the future generation’s education; and
WHEREAS, As of July 2016, Jesús will begin a new chapter in his professional passage as a new Assistant Director of Governmental Affairs for Mayor Sylvester Turner for the City of Houston, Texas;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court hereby honors Jesús M. Ozuna for his distinguished public service to the County and Precinct 4 since July 16, 2012.
REP. HERNÁNDEZ IS ANOTHER SYMBOL OF SUCCESS
Standing proudly by Ozuna’s side at the podium facing the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court, Hernández, the veteran state legislator, said nothing, allowing all the attention to focus on Ozuna.
But, according to a brief biography about her from her official legislative website, Hernández is a symbol of success on her own merits.
Highlights of her key background, according to her biography, follow:
Hernández was elected in a special election in December 2005 to represent District 143 in the Texas House of Representatives. District 143 covers part of Houston, Channelview and the cities of Galena Park and Jacinto City. She serves on the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence and on the House Committee on Pensions. She is currently serving her fifth full term.
Hernández was born in Reynosa, Mexico and raised in Pasadena, Texas. She comes from a very close-knit and hardworking family, and is the younger of two daughters. She enjoys spending time with her young son, Gregory Eli.
Hernández graduated from Sam Rayburn High School in Pasadena when she was 16 years old, and received her Bachelor of Science in Political Science and Psychology from the University of Houston.
During her undergraduate studies, Hernández participated in a Peace Corps internship program in South Africa where she worked with local community leaders as they rebuilt their educational system post-apartheid.
She went on to receive her Doctor of Jurisprudence from the University of Texas School of Law in May of 2004.
In addition to representing District 143 in the Texas House of Representatives, she also practices law at Carrigan, McCloskey & Roberson, L.L.P.
Hernández believes in serving her community and has volunteered and served on the boards of various professional, civic and charitable organizations.
She has received numerous awards and honors including the Texas Association of Bilingual Educator’s “Community Advocacy Award” and recognition as a 2014 and 2015 “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers Magazine and a “2014 Distinguished Alumnus” by Sam Rayburn High School.
She has also been honored as a champion for women’s health by both Planned Parenthood and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
Additionally, Hernández has been included in Hispanic Business magazine’s “Most Influential List” and named as one of “20 Latino Democrats to Watch” by the Houston Chronicle.
Lorena Balli, Precinct 4 Commissioner Joseph Palacios, and Lizbeth González contributed to this article.