Monday, May 27, 2013

The Meaning of Memorial Day

When you ask someone about what Memorial Day means to them you are likely to hear some common themes about sacrifice, courage, bravery, and honor. What we don’t always consider is the deeply personal stories that live behind these sentiments.

This year, I have enjoyed the privilege of hearing some of the personal stories that have shaped Memorial Day for several members of the Texas Department of Agriculture family.

I invite you to take a look at the videos below to hear these stories and my own thoughts.

Please, in your own way, take some time today to honor those men and women who paid the ultimate price for all of our freedom. We will not forget their service. God bless their families, God bless Texas and God bless the United States of America. 

Jessica Escobar
Assistant General Counsel and Public Information Officer,
Texas Department of Agriculture

Michael West
Coordinator for Rural Economic Development Financial Programs,
Texas Department of Agriculture

Earl Lundquist
E-Communications Specialist,
Texas Department of Agriculture

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Dalhart Welcomes Former FFA State President as New Mayor

A hearty congratulation goes out to new Dalhart Mayor Kurtis Thomas. It was standing room only Tuesday night at the Dalhart City Council as Kurtis took the reins from Mayor Kevin Caddell, who after serving as mayor for the past eight years decided not to run for re-election. What’s more impressive is Kurtis won 60 percent of the vote in a heated three-way race. That’s an accomplishment anyone who has ever even considered running for public office can appreciate.

Kurtis, originally from Pasadena, Texas, served as Texas FFA State President from 2001-
2002. During that time he traveled more than 60,000 miles across Texas speaking to high school students, large companies and organizations about agricultural diversity.

Following his year of service to FFA, Kurtis went on to attend Texas A&M University where he was selected for the Agricultural and Natural Resource Policy Internship Program in Washington, D.C. He graduated A&M Summa Cum Laude and has gone on to serve as on the Dalhart city council, the Bi-County Livestock Show Board of Directors and continues to volunteer with local 4-H and FFA programs.     

Public service is a privilege. Though still a young man, Kurtis has dedicated himself to that privilege and I am confident he will be guided by the values and principles he learned from FFA as he serves the people of Dalhart.

It’s inspiring to see how FFA is really shaping the young leaders in our state. Kurtis, just like Casey Hogan, who I recently congratulated for joining the Stephenville City Council, are not shying away from the call to public service but embracing the challenges and joys of working with local governments to create policies that will keep bringing jobs and prosperity to our great state. It can be hard work, but well worth the effort.

Best wishes to you, Kurtis as you make your mark in Dalhart. I am sure this is just the beginning of much more success.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

FFA Growing New Leaders

There really is something special about that blue and gold jacket. I often say the future of Texas is bright with FFA members leading the way and this week I am especially proud to see a fellow FFA member welcomed into the world of public service.

Hats off to Casey Hogan, 30, for winning election to the Stephenville City Council, Place 1. On Tuesday, Casey was sworn in to serve a two-year term. This was his first-ever official run for political office, but through his experience as Student Body President at Tarleton State University and Texas FFA Vice President 2001-2002, Casey is no stranger to leadership.

I had a very similar start as a public servant, first as Texas FFA Vice President and then as a member of the Palestine City Council. The common thread here is not so much the titles and the elected offices, but the foundation of leadership, character and citizenship we both learned during our time in FFA.

Congratulations also go to people like past state FFA President Marcus Hill of Fort Worth, whose mentorship and encouragement was an inspiration to Casey during his high school days. “Pass it on” is something most former FFA members do very well.

To this day, I remember the 12 words of the FFA motto, “Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve.” These words have helped me serve the great people of Texas and I hope Casey Hogan will use them as he begins his work for the people of Stephenville. Congratulations again Casey, I am proud of your work and excited as you start this new journey.

It is not bragging if it’s true, and it’s true that FFA members represent the cream of the crop in Texas.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Honoring Texas Mothers

You know when Mother’s Day is near because the ads start filling up our mailboxes and inboxes with specials on flowers, candy, perfumes, cards and other items to show our moms how much we care. I can’t help but think the greatest gift we can give to our mother’s is living a life that respects the traditions, compassion, morals and convictions she worked so hard to give to us.

Like the great Dr. James Dobson says, “Children are not casual guests in our home. They have been loaned to us temporarily for the purpose of loving them and instilling a foundation of values on which their future lives will be built.”

I promise you my mother never treated me casually. She worked every day to instill in me the values of hard work, dedication and a can-do attitude. Never treated as a guest, I knew early-on that I had a responsibility to serve God, my family and my community. Now, with the privilege to serve the people of Texas, I can still hear my mother’s voice reminding me to be
guided by those principles that she sewed in me all those years ago.  

I received lots of love, but with that love came rules, discipline, chores and the expectation that I would strive to help my family, my friends and my community. This weekend, honor your mother with more than just a gift; show your devotion by the way you live life, and apply the wisdom she has taught you over her lifetime. I pass along a very happy Mother’s Day to all of those women who go by the first name, Mom.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

El Paso is Committed to Water Conservation

In an ongoing effort toward solving Texas ‘critical water crisis, today I joined with El Paso Mayor John Cook and challenged  El Pasoans to step up their daily water conservation efforts by utilizing the Texas Water Smart program. This afternoon, Mayor Cook declared his support for continued conservation and announced that El Paso will join the Texas Water Smart coalition.

It’s important to remember, we cannot restrict and ration our way to growth. Citizen-led conservation efforts are our best alternative to mandated restrictions that can hurt our economy. Our recent historical drought and booming population point to an unavoidable conclusion; it’s time all Texans take a serious look at individual water use habits and find common-sense ways to conserve. With Texas Water Smart, a few drops saved, when multiplied by 26 million citizens, adds up to big savings.

Texas Water Smart, launched last spring, is a public-private partnership of nearly 300 businesses, associations, research organizations and state and local officials. Through a highly successful consumer education program, Texas Water Smart has raised awareness about water conservation by encouraging homeowners and businesses to adopt daily habits to curb wasteful water usage.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor report shows El Paso continues to deal with severe drought conditions. As an arid city El Paso has experience in dealing with these conditions and the community has embraced conservation as a way of life for more than 20 years. By adopting conservation programs such as “Less is the New More,” the city of El Paso saved more than a half-billion gallons of water in 2012 than in 2011. Texas Water Smart, in partnership with El Paso’s existing water plan that utilizes conservation and the development of new water resources, will help serve residents growing water needs for years to come.

For helpful tips on water conservation, you can click on