Leticia Van de Putte
State Senator for District 26, Texas Legislature
Leadership in Public Service
I've been a state Senator since 1999, and was first elected to the Texas House in 1990. My job is to work with the other Senators, the House of Representatives, and the Governor to pass laws in our state and help people in my district with government services. My leadership role is given to me by the people who elected me. I'm very proud to represent San Antonio in the Senate, where there are only 31 members, each with lots of responsibilities. I have been proud to have leadership roles in my community even before I was elected, serving on local boards and commissions, including the Airport Advisory Board, and the parks, and the downtown redevelopment board. I also have another job — I work for Davila Pharmacy for most of my income (being a Texas legislator actually pays very little — we do it to serve our communities). And I was proud in my professional life to be president of the Bexar County Pharmacy Association.
As a Legislature member, I was so blessed to have been elected by my peers to be president of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators and the National Conference of State Legislatures, serving as president of the latter in 2006-07. On the political side, I had an incredible experience as chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus from June 2003 to June 2011, and was very honored to co-chair the National Democratic Convention that nominated Barack Obama for President of the United States.
What can you tell us about your Girl Scout experience?
I started off as a Brownie at age 5 or 6, and our troop was together through our senior year of high school. I was a Girl Scout, and my daughters were Girl Scouts from elementary until high school. Personally, Girl Scouts has been great for our family.
Do you remember your Girl Scout Troop Number?
I am a proud, proud member of Troop #344.
How did being a Girl Scout prepare you to be the leader you are today?
Girls Scouts is all about building character, and the internal strength of girls. It is not just about their self-esteem, but also about acquiring skills that are good for the girl herself and good for the community. Girl Scouts teaches young women that they can work together to achieve a project or goal. For me, particularly in the high school ages, it was about learning that there is a greater responsibility to the community you live it — that if you've been blessed to have a secure home and a good education, even if you are very, very young, you can give back to the community. I think for Girl Scouts it was that mixture of acquiring skill sets that sometimes weren't taught to little girls back in the '50s and '60s, and strengthening them, and that give-back. I think the characteristics that I look for in leaders are ones that sense that they do have a responsibility to the people that live in their community, or state, or country, and that it's not just about one individual, but it's working as a team, and that's what I do in the Legislature.
Are there any lessons you learned in Girl Scouts that you still live by?
Plan. Make a plan. If it's an outing for a camping trip, learning how to scuba dive, doing a project — plan, plan, plan. Plan for when things don't go right, plan for the contingencies. Practice, so that you get proficient at what you're trying to achieve. And then have fun.
Do you have a special story/memory of being a Girl Scout?
I never realized growing up in the '50s and '60s that Girls Scouts was the only place, at least in San Antonio, that embedded diversity. It wasn't a struggle. So in our troop, there was Theresa Ryan, an Irish Catholic girl. There were the Terrys, an African-American family whose dad was in the Air Force. There were little Jewish girls. And there was Leticia San Miguel (my maiden name) and her cousin Gloria and Sylvia Rodriguez, who were of Mexican heritage. These were all girls in the same troop. We had different religions, different races, and different ethnicities, but Girl Scouts was never segregated. In the '50s and '60s, it was all together before anybody made a real big deal out of it. It was one of the few organizations in which it didn't matter who your mommy and daddy were. It was, "are you a girl and do you want to participate?" That's why my mother encouraged me and made sure I was in Girl Scouting. Now, there were certain troops that went by school or neighborhood, so if they were segregated, it was by neighborhood. But the neighborhood I grew up in was a neighborhood in transition, with all sorts of families. The lesson I learned at a very young age was that you didn't look at people differently because they were another religion, color, or background. That was a valuable lesson.
For me, the little treasure in Girl Scouts wasn't just selling cookies, which was fun, but the skill sets I learned like how to light a campfire with one match, how to be a ham radio operator, my scuba certificate. Morse code! It was a place girls could learn technology. And you could do things that were classified as "boy things."
With the 100th Girl Scout Anniversary upon us, what would you tell a young girl today about the value of being a Girl Scout.
It is a fun and rewarding experience that will help you be a stronger girl and a better adult.
What’s your favorite Girl Scout cookie?
It used to be the Do-si-dos (Peanut Butter Sandwiches). Now I've gotten an affinity for the Samoas. I know it's heresy not to say Thin Mints, but Pete Van de Putte (my husband) and all my kids eat enough of those.
Last year, one of my San Antonio girls was on one of the cookie boxes! And my dear friend Anna Maria Chávez is now the national CEO for Girl Scouts!