I liked Hank Gilbert from the moment we first met at a Health Care Reform rally a little over a year ago. Hank is the kind of Texan that you think of when you hear someone say, "He's a Texan"; tall, broad-shouldered, pearl white stetson, honest, straight-talking , and unafraid to call a spade a dirty shovel! We've all heard the story, from back in the day, of "one riot-one ranger". Well, Hank is that sort of Texan.
As I got to know Hank a bit from sharing platforms and podiums with him, talking with him, and hearing him speak at gatherings, and reading about him out on the campaign trail, my like grew to respect. Here's a man that, at the age of ten, began taking on a man's size work load on the family ranch. Now, some of you "modern" Texans may not know what that means, but let me tell you as a person who, along with his cousins, all preteens, rose out of bed before dawn to take to the fields of Southern Illinois until sunset, in the heat of August, to walk behind a mule-drawn baler and wagon to wrestle, lug, lift cuss and shove "square bales" of hay for our uncle , I know how such work shapes a fellow and prepares him for life. I don't know how much Hank got paid back then, but my cousins and I were grateful for some picture-show money and a bottle of pop.
Hank recently revealed that, under the neglect of current ag-commissioner, Republican, Todd Staples, inspections of the state's gasoline pumps have been allowed to dwindle from annual inspections to only once every four years, resulting in 20%-40% of Texas gasoline pumps overcharging hard-working Texans already paying outrageous pump prices. At that press conference, he cited a specific gas-station in Tyler with out-dated inspection stickers on its pumps.
Yesterday, while Hank was holding a follow-up press-conference across the street from that very station, a state inspector showed up to conduct an inspection. It was caught by a TV station's news cameras. KETK-TV attempted to get a statement from Staples, who characteristically exercised his right to willful arrogance, and did not deign to respond to their request. Just another example of Hank getting it right, while Staples was getting it all wrong. Most politicians will climb a tree to tell a lie rather than stand flat-footed and tell the truth, Well, from Hank, you're going to get the truth, no matter how much it smarts!
If Hank Gilbert's name sounds familiar, you may remember him as a leader in the fight against Texas Republican Governor, Rick Perry's, attempt to inflict the so-called, Trans Texas Corridor on unwary Texans. This was a plan that would have taken the family homes, ranches and farms from Texans (some were in the same family since before statehood) in order to build a gigantic toll road from Mexico to northern states, with the concession for that toll road going to a Spanish company. Mexican trucks would have gotten a cursory "wave-through" inspection at the border with the effect of putting American truck drivers out of business. Lading and loading would have shifted from American ports to Mexico, again putting American docks and dock workers out of business. Hank fought and won that battle, and as seen yesterday, he continues to fight and win for Texans. As the head of our Department of Agriculture, Hank Gilbert will continue to fight and win for working families and seniors.
The Texas Department of Agriculture oversees a large department with extensive and disparate responsibilities including licensing, regulation, crops, livestock, the coming broad band revolution, school lunch program, pesticide regulations, and feral hog abatement programs just to name a few.