Gilberto Hinojosa, Chairman
Born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley, Gilberto attended public schools and received his Bachelor’s Degree from Pan American University (now University of Texas, PAU); the first in his family to graduate from college. He went on and received a doctorate’s of jurisprudence from Georgetown University Law Center in Washington D.C. After law school, Gilberto practiced law as an attorney for Migrant Legal Action Program (MLAP), a national legal services support center in Washington D.C. There he represented migrant farm workers in the courts and with state and national governmental agencies who provided (or failed to provide) services to migrant farm workers. At MLAP he represented farm workers in class actions seeking federal minimum wages, gaining access to farm labor camps, preventing temporary foreign workers from being brought to the United States to break farm worker strikes and making sure that the U.S. Department of Labor Employment Services Division provided farm workers with needed interstate employment services. Gilberto went on to become the Director of the Migrant Farm Worker Program of Colorado Rural Legal Services. In 1981 he returned to Texas where he was the managing attorney for the Brownville office of Texas Rural Legal Aid, Inc.
In 1984, Gilberto was elected to the Board of Trustees of the Brownsville Independent School District, where he served as Vice President of the Board before being appointed Presiding Judge of Cameron County Court at Law No. 2. In 1987 Governor Mark White appointed Judge Hinojosa to the 107th District Court where he served until he was elected Justice of the 13th Court of Appeals, serving 20 South Texas counties from the Rio Grande Valley to Nueces and Matagorda counties, south of Houston. While on the Court of Appeals, Governor Ann Richards appointed Judge Hinojosa to the Texas Board of Criminal Justice where, he helped oversee the Texas prison and parole system and assisted in establishing policies for probation departments throughout the State. During his service on the Board, the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, inspired by the leadership of Governor Ann Richards, developed first of its kind substance abuse prison facilities designed to treat offenders with substance abuse problems.
After completing his term on the 13th Court of Appeals, Judge Hinojosa ran for and was elected Cameron County Judge where he served for 12 years. As Cameron County Judge, Judge Hinojosa transformed county government in Cameron County to make it one of the most effective and efficient in the State of Texas. During his tenure as county judge, he managed a $110 million dollar budget (about 100 times larger than the budget of the Texas Democratic Party) and he left Cameron County with an A+ bond rating and one of the lowest tax rates for a county in the State of Texas and the lowest south of San Antonio, including San Antonio. In 2007 Judge Hinojosa was elected Cameron County Democratic Party Chair where he continues to serve. In 2008 he was elected to the Democratic National Committee and in 2009 Chairman Tim Kaine appointed him to the Executive Committee of the Democratic National Committee. At the time of his appointment, Gilberto was only one of two Latinos appointed by Chairman Kaine to the Executive Committee.
Gilberto Hinojosa practices law in Brownsville, Texas.
Gilberto is married to Cyndi, who is a Licensed Professional Counselor. He has five wonderful children: Gina, Xochitl, Miguel, Diego and Maya and one grandson – “TGM” (The Great Matteo) and one son in law John P. Donisi.
Tarsha Hardy, Vice Chair
Tarsha Hardy’s call to activism arose from her concerns about the declining health of members of her family and community. Raised on Houston’s east side in Clinton Park/ Fidelity Manor, she grew up directly across the street from the Port of Houston and the Houston Ship Channel, two of the largest contributors of pollution in the city. She began educating herself and others on environmental issues to combat air, water and soil contamination in her community. The first member of her family to graduate from college, Tarsha completed a dual Bachelors of Arts in Political Science and Speech Communications from Sam Houston State University, a Masters in Liberal Arts in Public Law and Policy from the University of Saint Thomas and is currently working to complete a Doctorate in Urban Planning and Environmental Policy with an emphasis in Community Development.
Ms. Hardy gained practical knowledge of government and community engagement as a participant in the Texas Legislative Internship Program. She also served as a Legislative Aide for the Honorable Garnet F. Coleman, analyzing the policy interests and needs of constituents in Texas House District 147. As a planner with Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC), she led plans and programs calling for the advancement of environmental stewardship, equity and transparency throughout Harris and the 13 surrounding counties in the Texas Gulf Coast. She drafted H-GAC’s Public Participation Plan and policies supporting Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act regarding Environmental Justice. She facilitated the regional coordination of transportation with health and human services planning as well as air quality improvement and increased mobility in underrepresented communities.
Tarsha has worked with Sierra Club and Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS) to mobilize Texans in fighting against the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline proposal under consideration by the U.S. Department of State. She helped organize residents in the Houston area to petition U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to approve a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). This coalition worked tirelessly to ensure Texans opportunities to voice opposition of the pipeline’s construction throughout the Houston, Beaumont, Port Arthur and East Texas areas.
Tarsha is a member of Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local #13 and currently works for Communications Workers of America Regional Office protecting the rights of workers and their families.
Farrukh Shamsi, Vice Chair for Finance
Farrukh Shamsi of Houston graduated from the University of Houston with an MBA in marketing and management. He also holds a Bachelor of Science from Houston Baptist University in biology and chemistry. He has grown in the ranks of the Democratic Party from precinct chair to State Democratic Executive Committee member for three terms and was elected Vice Chair for Finance at the 2012 State Convention and appointed to the 2012 DNC Platform Committee. His new main, assigned task is fundraising. He feels that reaching out to the Party’s traditional base is important and this along with a new and innovative outreach to other communities who lean Democratic will help keep the Party in a solid financial position. Farrukh is married with four children ranging from elementary school through college. He currently heads a healthcare system that focuses primarily on outpatient substance abuse treatment.
Michael Apodaca, Treasurer
Michael Apodaca is a life long resident of El Paso. He graduated from Austin High School in 1999 and headed to the University of New Mexico for a year and joined College Democrats. This is where Michael’s journey with the Democratic Party began. After leaving UNM, Mike returned to his hometown and attended the University of Texas at El Paso (graduated in 2007 with a B.A. in Political Science) where he became very active in student government and formed the University Democrats. With the formation of the University Democrats at UTEP, his involvement expanded with Texas Young Democrats (TYD) and has been a member of their executive committee since 2002. He reached the pinnacle of leadership in TYD by being elected to serve as President of the organization in 2005. He currently serves as their Treasurer. Since his return to El Paso, he has been a leader with the local and state party serving in numerous roles such as precinct chair, lead numerious convention committees, and elected in 2004 to represent El Paso at the State Democratic Executive Committee where he served for six years and was appointed by then Chairman Richie to be the Chair of the Grassroots Committee in 2008.
René Lara, Secretary
Email Rene Lara
René Lara of El Paso graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with an Economics major, a Master of Public Affairs and a Law degree. He served as a legislative assistant in the Texas Senate for Senator Gonzalo Barrientos when Bob Bullock and Ann Richards held office. Afterwards, René represented the members of the American Federation of Teachers (Texas AFT) at the state capitol. He now serves as Legislative and Political Director of the Texas AFL-CIO, a federation of labor unions that advocate for better wages, benefits and working conditions for Texans and their families.
George Nassar, Parliamentarian
Rick Cofer, Parliamentarian
Rick Cofer is a Democratic activist community volunteer. He is President of the Central Austin Democrats, Chair of the Austin AFL-CIO Central Labor Council COPE, Co-Chair of the City of Austin Zero Waste Advisory Commission and a former elected member of the Democratic National Committee. He has worked for and advised many campaigns at all levels. Rick is a Travis County prosecutor.