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Bryan Hughes in the Texas Legislature

Taking Up the Torch of Leadership

The House of Representatives Chamber in the historic Texas State Capitol is enlivened by activity and nostalgic energy as legislators take their seats to vote on important issues and spectators gather in the gallery to witness history in the making. The voting results will appear on an electronic board, sharing the spotlight with the original flag from the 1836 battle that brought Texas independence. Prominently displayed behind the House speaker’s desk, the San Jacinto Battle flag serves as a constant reminder of thes truggles and the victories of history makers such as Gen. Sam Houston, who led the decisive battle. Stephen F. Austin, the Father of Texas, and Mirabeau B. Lamar, the Father of Texas Education, also served in the war.

UT Tyler alumnus Bryan Hughes is among state representatives entering the House Chamber on this mid-April morning during the 80th session of the Texas Legislature. Having taken up the torch of leadership handed down by the state’s founding fathers, they will consider a number of issues before the day’s end, from public education to taxes to transportation to electric service to health insurance to family violence.

A fifth-generation Texan, Hughes is serving his third term as representative for District 5, comprised of Camp, Harrison, Upshur and Wood counties. The Wood County native and 1992 UT Tyler graduate has been commended in his district for his legislative work.

“Hughes has been a fighter for East Texas and, most specifically, his district,’’ an editorial in the Marshall News Messenger stated. The article also cited the 38-year-old for his “non-partisan attitude” and “courage to speak the truth.”

An editorial in the Winnsboro News stated, “Since he took office, Rep. Hughes has kept the people of his district fully informed of his legislative actions. He has traveled frequently throughout his district, meeting with the people he represents. When he has made a controversial vote, he has explained to the people why he voted as he did. And when he believed he made a mistake, he has admitted it.’’

Heavy Agenda
The 10 a.m. assembly in the House Chamber is one of many activities on Hughes’ agenda for the day. He started out early, attending a breakfast/roundtable discussion, a subcommittee hearing and a speaking engagement before the House assembly. When the House adjourns, he will work late into the evening, taking part in committee hearings, conference calls and other legislative activities. Yet, this is not his longest workday during the 140-day legislative session. It is not uncommon for a debate on the House floor to continue beyond midnight as legislators consider issues that could affect Texans for generations to come.

At the close of the biennial legislative session, the Mineola lawyer returns home and continues to serve his district in addition to practicing civil litigation. Between regular legislative sessions, he also returns to Austin periodically for committee and caucus meetings and special sessions.

He has served as vice chairman of the Rural Caucus, a group of legislative leaders addressing the needs of rural communities and making sure rural interests are represented in the Legislature, and a member of the Economic Development Committee, which works to retain existing and bring new jobs to Texas. Hughes also has served as vice chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and a member of Elections, House Administration and Rules and Resolutions committees.

Work consumes a great amount of his time, but the mild-mannered Hughes does not complain.

“It’s a tremendous blessing from the Lord to get to serve in the Texas Legislature,’’ he said. “I enjoy meeting people; I still enjoy knocking on doors in my district and talking to people. The people who live in those four counties are my constituents, they’re the boss. I work for them, so I enjoy talking to them, asking them what’s important to them. Staying connected with them is really important. And it’s such an honor to get to cast those votes in the Legislature because I realize that what we do affects the future of Texas. It affects over 20 million people, so I take it very seriously.’’

Hughes was elected in 2002, in his first attempt at running for public office, and he has been continuously re-elected. But he is modest about being chosen to serve.

“It’s amazing that in America anyone can run for office and be involved and participate and actually see changes take place, positive changes. It really is an ‘only in America,’ ‘only in Texas’ kind of thing for someone like me to get to do this job,’’ said the Texas-proud legislator, adding “Texas is to America what America, the land of opportunity, is to the rest of the world. Texas really is the purest concentration of the American spirit.’’

First-Generation Graduate
Bryan HughesHe was born in Quitman in 1969 to Mike and Joanna Hughes and grew up in Mineola. The second oldest of four sons said his parents taught him by example to be a person of faith and a hard worker. “Growing up, I was just always encouraged by my mother and grandmother to seek the Lord for my life and to be what the Lord wanted me to be. And my father is a hardworking guy. He grew up in a farming family so he was used to working hard, and he spent his career working for the railroad, which is pretty hard work. He has been a big influence in my life.’’

Hughes graduated from Mineola High School in 1987 and worked his way through college. The first in his family to receive a four-year degree, he graduated cum laude from UT Tyler with a bachelor of business administration degree in economics.

He said his experiences at UT Tyler were rich.

“Getting that direct contact with those professors at UT Tyler that you don’t always get at larger schools, getting them actually teaching in the classroom and getting to spend time with them, learn from them and ask questions, there’s just no way to put a price on it,’’ Hughes said. “For example, I learned so much from Dr. Tim Kane, my economics professor, about free market economics, how the free market system works and how important it is. That had a huge affect on what I believe as far as what the government’s role is. Dr. Roger Conaway, my business communications professor, was a big influence on me as well.’’

The education he received at UT Tyler opened doors of opportunity for him, said Hughes, whose major concerns as a legislator include strengthening education to ensure quality learning opportunities for Texas students.

“I like to think of education, especially higher education, as a backstage pass. Education enables you to go places where, without it, you cannot go,’’ Hughes said. “There was a time in America when you could get your high school diploma, get a good job, make a good living. Those jobs still exist but there are not nearly as many of them, because we’re competing with people all over the world,’’ he said.

“We hear a lot about the global economy, and maybe it’s become kind of a cliché, but it’s true. We’re competing with India and China and we’ve got to have a higher education system that gives us the professionals and the workers we need. And UT Tyler does that in every school, from education to health care to business to arts and sciences to engineering. I’m very thankful I was able to study there,’’ said Hughes, who is a member of the UT Tyler Alumni Association board of directors and served as a commencement speaker during December 2006 ceremonies.

Running for Office
After earning a law degree from Baylor University in 1995, Hughes was chosen by U.S. District Judge William M. Steger of Tyler to serve as his briefing attorney, a position he held until 1997. Hughes practiced private law in Marshall and then in Henderson before returning to Mineola in 2001 to open his law office. Hughes also decided that year to run for state representative.

“I was always interested in running for office and thought I might do that at some point in time. In 2001, the circumstances came together. Some people talked to me about running and so I prayed about it, talked to my family and friends about it and decided to run,’’ said Hughes, who is single.

“We thought it was very important to run a positive race and to not be critical of our opponent, so I spent a lot of time knocking on doors, introducing myself as a candidate and asking people what was important to them,’’ Hughes said of his campaign. “I’d ask for their support, ask if I could put a sign in their yard. And we had a lot of volunteers helping us – friends from my church and people from all over, knocking on doors, putting signs up and wearing campaign T-shirts. A lot of people were working really hard and praying.’’

There are no term limits in the House so Hughes plans to continue serving “as long as the people of my district continue to send me here. And if they decide at some point down the road not to send me back, I want to be open to whatever the Lord has for me to do next,’’ he said.

“But I really do enjoy the Texas House. I have served in the Legislature for more than four years and still, every time I walk up to the State Capitol, I really cannot believe I’ve been given the opportunity to work here and represent my district and state,’’ Hughes said. “It’s such an honor for a guy like me to get to do this.’

‘Outstanding Alum’
A 1992 graduate, State Rep. Bryan Hughes said his educational experiences at UT Tyler were “priceless’’ because of the outstanding instruction he received from faculty including Dr. Tim Kane in economics and Dr. Roger Conaway in business communication.

The three professors recently shared their thoughts about Hughes:

“Now and then students who are many cuts above the rest etch themselves in your memory. Bryan Hughes is one of those people. He is truly one of UT Tyler’s stars. He symbolizes the bright, energetic, achievement oriented student this university is capable of nurturing. Bryan always exuded confidence, a focus on excellence and the ambition to go the extra mile. I take great pleasure in saluting this outstanding alum. He gives me great confidence we will witness accelerating success in his life and the occasion to honor him again.’’ -- Dr. Fischer, retired professor of finance.

“I cannot think of a better ‘representative’ of UT Tyler graduates than Bryan Hughes. He exemplifies those qualities I most admire in a person -- competence, character, strength of conviction, a remarkable sense of humor and a solid faith that enables one to successfully deal with whatever life has in store. He evidences the confidence and poise of one who knows they are in the ‘right’ place to exercise the talent Our Maker gave him.’’ -- Dr. Kane, professor of economics.

“Bryan Hughes is very bright and serves as an example of the significant influence a professor can have on a student. It is very important for professors to believe in their students and work with them, keeping in mind that each one has the potential to become a Bryan Hughes and make very unique contributions to society.’’ -- Dr. Conaway, professor of speech communication.

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