By: Rebecca S. Jones
© African-American News & Issues
Recently, State Senator Rodney Ellis with 26 years of service in the Texas senate won the Democratic nomination for Precinct 1 Commissioner. This victory is one that will afford him the opportunity to occupy the office in January of 2017.
Senator Ellis will resume the role of Precinct 1 Commissioner left vacant by the late Commissioner El Franco Lee, who served in that capacity for over three decades. Commissioner Lee passed away in January.
The distinguished Senator was born and raised in the historical Sunnyside edition of Houston. He attended and was educated in the Houston public school system. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Texas Southern University, his Master of Public Administration degree from Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and he obtained his Doctor of Law degree from the University of Texas Law School. In regards to other educational aspirations, Ellis also studied at Xavier University and the London School of Economics.
At any early age, Ellis developed a passion for public service. Accordingly, he became the Chief of Staff to the late United States Congressman Mickey Leland on the Houston City Council. Afterwards, he utilized his wisdom and knowledge attained through his fundamental years of learning in the Texas Senate. In 1990, he was elected to serve and has effectively represented the residents of the state of Texas ever since.
During his tenure in the State Senate he, “earned praise as a leader on economic development, education, civil rights, budget, responsible environmental policy, tax cuts for the middle class, criminal justice, and workforce development policy.” Within 26 years of service the Senator has passed, “more than 630 pieces of legislation and is recognized nationally for his leadership on increasing greater access to college for high-achieving Texas students, championing criminal justice reforms to protect the innocent and hold the guilty accountable, and fighting to provide quality affordable health care to the most vulnerable Texans, amongst many other issues.” Additionally, he subscribes to a belief that, “the role of government is to ensure that all citizens have the opportunity and ability to build a better future for themselves.” At African-American News & Issues we consider Senator Rodney Ellis a true success story. Hence we were recently privileged to interview with the tentative Commissioner. Insight into our interview is detailed below.
AANI: With nearly 30 years of impeccable service in the Texas senate, we know that you are encompassed with a great deal of experience in regards to political government. However, within your current aspiration for public office, I am sure that you were confronted with many challenges. Amongst those, are there any in particular that you would like to share or elaborate on?
Senator Rodney Ellis: I’m proud of my 26 years of service in the Texas Senate. I was able to accomplish a lot despite being a proud Democrat in a Republican state. But something shifted in recent years, and we’re now living in a time of political gridlock that’s grinding progress to a halt in D.C. and Austin. Right now the biggest fights – on the issues that matter most for Democrats and people’s everyday lives – are at the local level.
AANI: In reference to the preceding question is there any insight that you would like to share about the methods in which you used to overcome these challenges?
Senator Rodney Ellis: More and more, local government is taking the initiative, doing the hard work, and implementing the policies to enact positive change. Today, the best and most effective way to solve the challenges facing our community – from criminal justice reforms to ensuring area seniors’ quality of life – is through strong leadership at the local level, and I know I can best serve the people of Harris County by fighting for progress on the Harris County Commissioners Court. In order to get there, there is no substitute for grassroots campaigning and one-on-one discussions about my vision for Harris County and how to move it forward.
AANI: With assuming the position of the late Commissioner Lee who served over 30 years in Precinct 1; are there any additional goals, missions or objectives in particular that you have identified that you would like our readers to know that perhaps is not already in place?
Senator Rodney Ellis: Commissioner’s Court has direct influence over our right to vote, our justice system, our economic opportunities, our access to health care, and our quality of life. I want to promote a more fair and equal Harris County where the values and needs of the people are served by the elected leadership. Economic and social inequalities are creating a deep divide in Harris County where the working- and middle-class are footing the bill for an unfair, regressive local tax system without seeing the benefits. Health care access is threatened by an overburdened system and out-of-touch state leaders who put partisanship over the greater good. Our county jail is overcrowded and filled with people who are there for no other reason than being poor.
As commissioner, I will apply my legislative experience, make use of Harris County’s influence at the legislature, and work with constituents to generate the political will to achieve the necessary reforms. I will manage the Precinct 1 budget in such a way to bring greater infrastructure improvements to the communities that need it most and give constituents a formalized way to prioritize those improvements. I will expand programs that provide the seniors in Precinct 1 a better quality of life and lift up our youth.
I will fight for better economic opportunities by fighting to increase the minimum wage and shutting down a rigged system of unfair corporate tax loopholes. I’ll go to the mat to increase access to quality healthcare for all families. I will protect our right to vote from partisan attacks and ensure our local elections are administered fairly. I’ll keep fighting to fix our broken criminal justice system and ensure that everyone from every community is treated equally and fairly under the law, and that our neighborhoods are safe. And I will fight to bring more transparency to county government.
AANI: Lastly, would you like to thank anyone in particular for assisting you with the pivotal point that you have reached within your career?
Senator Rodney Ellis: I could not have gotten where I am without the support and love of my family, friends, colleagues, and staff. Each has played an integral role in my career in public service, and I owe them all a debt of gratitude. Senator is happily married to Licia Green-Ellis and together they have four children.
Over the years, Senator Ellis has been the recipient of a plethora of awards. A few of them include: National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Champion of Justice, 2010; AARP Legislative Achievement Award, 2009; Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas James Madison Award, 2009; honored by National Women’s Political Caucus for a lifetime of service, 2007; University of Texas Distinguished Alumnus Award, 2005; Frederick Douglass; Equal Justice Award in Washington D.C., 2004; Houston Metropolitan Award, 2002; Texas Monthly Magazine “Ten Best Legislators” Awards, 2001; Small Business United of Texas; Christopher Scott Award for Legislative Leadership, 1999 and Texas Child Care Organization – Legislator of the Year Award, 1997, just to list a few.
Throughout his career he has also been a member and affiliate of various organizations and associations. A few of his membership are: member of American Red Cross, Houston Bar Association, Houston Lawyers Association, National Association of Securities Dealers, University of Texas Law School Foundation Board and (Chair) Innocence Project, Incorporated of New York. Senator Ellis has served on the Board of Directors of LBJ Foundation, Utley Foundation, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Center for Policy Alternatives and has been a board member of the Alliance for Digital Equality. Since 1979, he has maintained his membership with the: American Bar Association, National Bar Association and Texas Bar Association.
Furthermore, Senator Ellis has been Founder, Chair and member of the Texas Legislative Internship Program (TLIP). “Since TLIP’s inception, it has become the largest legislative internship program in the state, providing more than 650 young people the opportunity to develop hands-on skills while making a difference in Texas politics and public policy.” This is a project that the Senator is proud of. Also, Caucuses/Non-Legislative Committees on his resume are: Energy Council (Member), National Commission on Energy Policy (Co-Chair), Commission to Engage African-Americans on Energy, Climate Change and the Environment, National Commission on Energy Policy, Council on Foreign Relations and Director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
African-American News & Issues thanks Senator Ellis for his commitment to the State of Texas. We also wish him much success on the new journey that he is embarking upon this coming January as Commissioner for Precinct 1. Whereby, we are certain that he will continue to serve the people just as he always has in times past.
Paid for by Rodney Ellis Campaign Committee.