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Ambassador Tony Garza

Antonio Oscar "Tony" Garza, Jr. (born July 7, 1959, in Brownsville, Texas), an American lawyer and former county judge in Texas, was the United States Ambassador to Mexico from 2002-2009. Garza, the grandson of Mexican immigrants to the United States, graduated from Saint Joseph Academy in Brownsville, the seat of Cameron County on the Gulf of Mexico coast in far south Texas.

Antonio O. Garza, Jr. was named U.S. Ambassador to Mexico by President George W. Bush in the summer of 2002. He presented his credentials to Mexican President Vicente Fox on November 22 of that year and took charge of one of the largest diplomatic missions in the world. At the time, he was the United States’ youngest Chief of Mission serving abroad. Announcing the appointment, President Bush said, “The United States and Mexico share not only a border, but a rich history of common economic and cultural interests. Tony Garza has an in-depth understanding of the relationship between the United States and Mexico and its impact on the people of both nations.” During his tenure, Mr. Garza focused his attentions on American interests abroad, as well as law enforcement and counterterrorism.

Before being sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Mr. Garza served from 1999-2002 as Chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission, a statewide regulatory body charged with overseeing Texas’s then-$60 billion energy sector. With his election to the Commission, he became the first Hispanic Republican elected to statewide office in Texas history. As Chairman of the Commission, Mr. Garza was a strong advocate for the protection and responsible stewardship of Texas’s natural resources and was hailed by the state’s leading newspapers for bringing balance to an otherwise industry-dominated commission. During this time, Mr. Garza also served as vice-chairman on the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, which brings together 39 oil- and gas-producing states. The Commission seeks to promote responsible energy policy and adoption of best practices in the United States. Prior to his election as Railroad Commissioner in 1998, Mr. Garza was a partner in the Austin office of Bracewell & Patterson, L.L.P. (now Bracewell & Giuliani), a Houston-based law firm.

In 1994, George W. Bush, shortly after being elected Governor of Texas, made Mr. Garza his first nominee, naming him Secretary of State and Senior Policy Advisor. During his tenure, Texas was the first state to provide Web-based election results on-line and in real time. Mr. Garza also advocated for the passage of legislation aimed at increasing voter participation and decreasing election fraud. As Governor Bush’s lead liaison on border and Mexico affairs, Mr. Garza worked on issues as diverse as trade, the environment, and public health.

In 1988, Mr. Garza was the first Republican elected to countywide office in traditionally Democratic south Texas. Mr. Garza served six years as Cameron County Judge, the county’s top executive. He aggressively worked to provide water and sanitation services to lower income areas called “colonias” and pursued healthcare partnerships aimed at new immigrants and indigent and marginalized populations. Regarded as a fiscal conservative, Mr. Garza also led Cameron County’s efforts to raise its bond rating with industry leaders. Cameron County was, at that time, one of only two U.S.-Mexico border counties to enjoy an “A” rating. In 1990, the Texas Jaycees named Mr. Garza one of their Five Outstanding Young Texans, noting not only his government service but also his work in the community. As Cameron County Judge, Mr. Garza also worked closely with his Mexican counterparts at the state and federal levels and was instrumental in the permitting and construction of two international bridges linking his community to Mexico. He has also been recognized for his work in the region by the Rio Grande Valley Chamber of Commerce and was named Border Texan of the Year in 2003.

Texas Governor Rick Perry appointed Mr. Garza to his Special Commission on 21st Century Higher Education. Garza was a member of the Board of Directors of the Texas Exes, the alumni association for the University of Texas at Austin. He currently serves on the Advisory Boards of the George H. W. Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, the SMU School of Law, and is a member of the SMU Board of Trustees. In 2004, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, which provides support for young Hispanics to pursue higher education, honored Garza as a member of its Alumni Hall of Fame for demonstrating the power of higher education and mentorship. Garza has delivered commencement addresses at the Universities of Texas at Austin, Edinburg, El Paso, and San Antonio, as well as SMU, SMU Law, Texas A&M and Austin College.

Mr. Garza’s commitment to democracy and free and fair elections has been evident throughout his career. In 2005, the University of Denver recognized this commitment when it presented him with its Distinguished Diplomat Award. Earlier in his career, as a member of then-President George H.W. Bush’s official delegation, Mr. Garza observed federal elections in El Salvador, later leading a delegation to observe voter registration drives in Nicaragua. In 1993, Garza participated in a program to study emerging democracies in Hungary and Poland.

Garza is a past President of Rio Grande Big Brothers/Big Sisters program and served as a director of the Boys and Girls Club, the United Way of Southern Cameron County, and the Brownsville Adult Literacy Council, as well as participating in H.O.S.T., a Brownsville Independent School District Program aimed at mentoring disadvantaged youth. The Rio Grande Council Boy Scouts of America recognized him as Distinguished Citizen of the Year in 1996. Mr. Garza has made security one of the key focal points of his tenure as Ambassador to Mexico and has also served on a number of law enforcement commissions, including the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission. In 2005, the Greater Austin Crime Commission honored Mr. Garza with the Joe Kilgore Award.

Garza cites the Marist Brothers as particularly influential in his life, in particular Brother Joseph Scanlon, Garza’s high school religion teacher, who inspired him to lead a life devoted to serving the public. Brother Joseph’s focus on an individual’s need to live purposefully shaped Garza’s future endeavors, instilling in him the belief that public service is not a career but rather a calling. In 1999, Texas Tech University presented him with its Distinguished Public Servant Award in recognition of his years of service to the people of Texas.

Garza received his Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Texas at Austin in 1980. He received his Doctor of Jurisprudence in 1983 from Southern Methodist University School of Law.[1] He was chosen as one of the Outstanding Young Texas Exes in 1989 and received the SMU School of Law’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2001. In 2007, Garza received the Distinguished Alumni Award at both the University of Texas and SMU. Most recently, he received an Honorary Doctorate from Austin College in May 2008.

Mr. Garza is married to María Asunción Aramburuzabala. A native of Mexico City, she serves as President of Tresalia Capital and also serves on a number of Mexican corporate boards. Aramburuzabala controls the Mexican brewery Grupo Modelo, which produces Corona beer. In 2005 Forbes estimated Aramburuzabala's to be around $1.8 billion, making her Mexico's richest woman.[2]

The couple resides in Mexico City with her two sons.

References

Political offices
Preceded by
Ron Kirk
Secretary of State of Texas
1995 – 1997
Succeeded by
Alberto Gonzales
Preceded by
Carole Keeton Rylander Strayhorn
Texas Railroad Commissioner
19992002
Succeeded by
Victor G. Carrillo
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Jeffrey S. Davidow
U.S. Ambassador to Mexico
20022009
Succeeded by
Carlos Pascual
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