Leticia Van de Putte’s Lite Guv Bid Assures One Outcome: She will be heard
Published: March 26, 2014
“I remember growing up in a San Antonio that still had segregation, an era when it wasn’t the ‘good old times,’” she said. “But I also know by the time I got into high school, the civil rights movement had begun and changed a lot of boundaries.”
Heavily influenced by her grandfather, a pharmacist, Van de Putte hoped to emulate her hero and dreamt of one day owning her own pharmacy. Even when people bought a dose of aspirin from him, they looked at her grandfather with such “admiration and respect” she said, coveting the same reverence at early age. After obtaining her degree in the field from the University Texas at Austin in 1979, Van de Putte would come to fulfill her goal, and opened her own pharmacy in the Loma Park area some years later.
In between, Van de Putte married her partner Pete, a small business owner (and, according to LVDP, the “cutest white guy who is a trombone player”), and raised six children. A political career wasn’t anywhere on the horizon for the pharmacist and mother. In fact, her foray into the political sphere was a self-described “accident.”
Early on, her only real political involvement occurred when Pete served as campaign treasurer for current Precinct 2 County Commissioner Paul Elizondo’s successful legislative campaign in 1978, and Van de Putte assisted with mailers and coffee gatherings.
But that didn’t mean she wasn’t engaged. Van de Putte was vocal when it came to issues that needed to be rectified in her community and when she spoke up, someone was there to give her a platform. For instance, when she complained about the lack of restrooms in downtown SA, she was placed on the Centro21 task force; when she noted the slow progress in getting Rodriguez Park refurbished after a major flood, she found herself on the Parks advisory board.
In 1990, a San Antonio state representative seat became vacant and Van de Putte, with a newfound taste for eliciting local change, decided to throw her hat into the ring with low to no anticipation of an actual victory. “No one expected me to win, including my husband and I. But I did and loved it and have found it exceedingly rewarding ever since,” she said.
That accidental political ride lasted Van de Putte until 1999, when she was elected state Senator. During her combined roughly 23 years on the Texas Legislature, Van de Putte’s role as a pharmacist, a business owner, military family member and Latina helped shaped her legislative accomplishments in health care, economic development, veterans affairs and immigration. That ability to “walk the walk” on several issues lent the representative credibility during her early political career.
Her legacy of accomplishments for SA includes securing funding for the downtown University of Texas at San Antonio campus, the UT Health Science Center-San Antonio, some $200 million to fund a children’s cancer research institute, assistance for the Kelly Air Force base redevelopment and allowing sales tax to fund Pre-K4SA.
> Email Mary Tuma