In 1993, federal agents laid siege on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. The siege lasted 51 days, and international news outlets descended on Waco to cover the story. Many of these news outlets came from Spanish-speaking countries, but these journalists needed no translators.
Alice Rodriguez, prominent member of Waco’s Hispanic community and then-new City Councilwoman, gave daily press conferences in Spanish for the duration of the Branch Davidian conflict. In this difficult time, she noted that “all the council members worked hard and well to help Waco through the tragedy and international attention.”
Alice Rodriguez is a lifelong Wacoan. She has two daughters, four grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. Throughout her life, she has valued education and worked towards making quality education available for everyone in her community.
Alice Rodriguez (Photo from https://www.alicerodriguez.org/)
Before her election to the Waco City Council, Rodriguez worked as a School Completion Liaison with the Waco Independent School District. In this position, Rodriguez helped students who had dropped out of school complete their education.
Rodriguez continues to shape her career around concern for education. The Councilwoman noted that the best way for her to support the school district is to support school board decisions and projects, saying “I do my best to enable the school board to lead on education by maintaining safe and constructive surroundings for our students.”
The city of Waco includes many diverse communities – Baylor University and McLennan Community College, Waco Family Medicine, Café Cappuccino, Waco ISD, and more. These communities make Waco a unique place to live or study, but the combination also creates responsibilities for local government that are not often found in cities without large universities.
The Waco City Council must balance the needs of the local community and college students. This is particularly true of Waco’s District II, which includes Baylor University, several schools, businesses, and many residences. Councilwoman Rodriguez’ family has contributed to the relationship between Waco and Baylor since before she was born. Her family would host Baylor students who stayed in Waco during Thanksgiving and Christmas so they would have a family to spend time with during the break.
Rodriguez has led District II as a City Council member for nearly 30 years, and she remains committed to helping Waco and Baylor thrive.
How does Rodriguez care for Baylor? In describing the relationship between Waco and Baylor, Councilwoman Rodriguez noted that the city government has a “tight” relationship with Baylor, as they are currently working on several construction projects including I-35 by Baylor, housing in District II, and the new basketball arena. Rodriguez also regularly reaches out to Baylor leadership and helps in any way she can. She has had good relationships with all Baylor presidents during her time on the City Council.
The city of Waco first elected Councilwoman Rodriguez to the City Council in 1991 and she has represented District II ever since, with only a temporary retirement between 2019 and 2021. During this time, the Council has elected her Mayor Pro Tem four times, most recently in 2012. In this position, Councilwoman Rodriguez would take over the mayor’s responsibilities should he become incapacitated.
In 2019, Councilwoman Rodriguez believed she would retire from the council permanently. However, the Councilman who had won the District II seat – Hector Sabido – unexpectedly resigned. After extensive interviews with the remaining council members, Rodriguez was appointed to fill in for Sabido until a special election on May 7th earlier this year. Rodriguez also won that election and will remain in the seat for the foreseeable future.
Rodriguez cited input from her fellow Wacoans when talking about her decision to come out of retirement, saying many community members expressed gratitude for her work and asked her to run again.
When I asked her about some challenging times in her tenure on City Council, Rodriguez said that the annexation of the highway 84 area into Waco was most difficult for her personally. The people living in this area were not under any city jurisdiction, meaning they were not paying taxes. As such, they were extremely resistant to the annexation and treated the city council members poorly throughout the annexation process. The city council members stood together on this issue, and in the end the annexation was successful.
Councilwoman Rodriguez is the Vice Chair of the National League of Cities University Communities Council. The NLC is an organization comprised of local leaders from 2,700 cities in the United States which helps city officials navigate the unique challenges in cities that include college and university campuses. This guidance is particularly important for smaller cities like Waco, whose local populations are often easily, though unintentionally, overshadowed by large universities.
President Barack Obama invited Councilwoman Rodriguez and several other NLC members to the White House to discuss policy affecting cities. In relating this experience, the Councilwoman expressed gratitude for the opportunities she has had through the City Council, visiting the White House being one of the most notable. Councilwoman Rodriguez’s involvement in this national organization and invitation to the White House testify to her skills and experience in fostering cooperation between the university and local communities, helping both to thrive and feel at home in Waco.
As Baylor students, we often have difficulty seeing or feeling as though we are part of the Waco community outside of Baylor. Many students find connections to Waco through church or local volunteer organizations, but no matter how involved, the vast majority of Baylor students cannot vote for city council and don’t think to follow local government. With this in mind, why should Baylor students follow local government? I have three reasons.
First, knowing about local issues will help university students relate to Wacoans they meet, contributing to Councilwoman Rodriguez’s goal to foster communication between the two communities.
Second, students may find that local issues affect them more than they know – consider construction, roads, and safety, to name a few.
Finally, Baylor’s goal as an institute of higher education is not merely to provide academic or professional credentials, but to form the whole person. As students graduate, begin their careers, and settle in communities of their own, they will need to know how to engage with their local community and government. Councilwoman Rodriguez fully endorsed this engagement, saying “I grew so much personally and had so many opportunities. Everyone should be involved in local government. Everyone should run for City Council.”