State legislator credits public administration program for political career

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The nontraditional student sold his boat to pay tuition when he transferred to a senior college

By Andrew Casas


The public administration program at this college has been the catalyst for success in the political career of Leo Pacheco serving his first term as the representative of District 118 in the Texas House of Representatives.

The former human resource specialist for the district praised this college’s public administration program in an interview Nov. 30.

 He said the program helped with budgeting and economics because there is a cost for new laws.

”The public administration program is well-balanced,” he said. “It has all the elements of business administration, but they make sure you are able to apply it in the public sector and working for the government. It also has human resources, and the public sector has finance so it prepares even for the business element out there in the community.”

Pacheco said some representatives in San Antonio City Council have a public administration degree.

“Even though I was a freshman in my first term and sat in these committees, my experiences in public administration, my degrees, working for the government, and being an adjunct professor in public administration and public policy, I had a different lens of things that I was seeing,” Pacheco said. “When people were trying to pass certain laws that were unjustified, I had the knowledge and a certain mindset of public policy and public administration to see the truth behind them.”

Pacheco said a good public administrator can read between the lines and scope out when people are giving false information.

“I’m always asking myself when I’m talking to lobbyists when they want a new law passed what is their agenda, what are they trying to accomplish and what is their motive?”

Pacheco had a seat on the Higher Education Committee as a freshman in his first term. One of the bills he passed was bringing athletics to Texas A&M University-San Antonio.

“Since being brand new I didn’t know that a public university like Texas A&M-San Antonio was required by state law to sign a bill to bring athletics,” he said. ”The university can’t just decide that they want athletics all of sudden. The state Legislature has to pass it.”

Pacheco said without education he would have not gotten the votes he needed when running for state representative.

Pacheco was elected in 2018 beating Republican John Lujan in the general election in November. He had defeated incumbent Tomas Uresti in the Democratic primary election in March 2018. Pacheco’s term ends in 2020.

Pacheco graduated from this college in 2005 with an associate degree in public administration. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business management in 2008 from TAMUSA and in 2012 a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Texas at San Antonio.

While in college, Pacheco worked full time while raising a family. He said he sold his fishing boat for $2,500 to pay tuition for TAMUSA.

Pacheco credits three professionals from this college for pushing him to get an associate degree. They are Sara Samano, former counselor; Fred Adams, former public administration professor; and Sylvia De Leon, coordinator for the public administration program.

While in his 40s, Pacheco attended an information session for nontraditional students.

“Sara convinced me to register for the public administration program and told me if I didn’t like it to drop out,” Pacheco said. “But after a couple weeks I fell in love with the program. They believed in me and wanted me to continue to further my education.”

Pacheco worked at a private construction company after obtaining a bachelor’s degree then became a human resource specialist at Palo Alto College where he worked as a Title IX Civil Rights investigator.

Pacheco worked as an adjunct at this college and at the University of Texas at San Antonio, instructing students in public administration, management and labor relations.

He served on the district 2017 Citizen’s Bond Advisory Committee and helped secure $23 million for an education training center at Southside Independent School District.

Pacheco stresses to students that they should communicate with their professors and not to be a stranger in class.

 “We have good people in this town and good professors who are willing to help no matter the college or university,” he said. “They all understand the importance of having an education.”

Before Pacheco left to become a state legislator, he was in charge of the district work-study program.

“Right now we have 852 work-studies in the program throughout the five colleges,” he said. “When I took the program over we only had 200 people doing work-study, so we are utilizing getting all the dollars the federal government has. We are probably the number one program in Texas for financial aid.”

Pacheco said when he was 18 and getting into politics. He patterned himself after Frank Tejeda, former member of the Texas House of Representatives.

Pacheco lived in the same neighborhood as Tejeda, and both are graduates of Harlandale High School. When Pacheco was 17, Tejeda was 28 and campaigning.

“Tejeda was one of the first Mexicanos that I saw that could actually win an election for state representatives,” Pacheco said. “He ran for the election, and a lot of us got behind him and supported him.”

After Tejeda became a state representative in 1976, he served six years in the state Senate and was then elected to represent the 28TH Congressional District of Texas in 1992.

 “Education makes a big difference,” Pacheco said. “I don’t believe that I would be here today as state representative if I had not gone back to college.”

For more information regarding Pacheco email him at


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