The Honorable Leticia Van De Putte
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
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?
a proud, proud member of Troop #344.
How did being a Girl Scout prepare you to be the leader you
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
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!