Name: Jose Rodriguez
Profession: President and CEO, El Concilio-Council for the Spanish Speaking
“My name is Jose Rodriguez, and my vision for California is a forward moving, progressive state with opportunity for advancement and a better quality of life for all its residents.”
Rodriguez, the son of farmworkers, grew up in a small community outside Marysville. He was a college student when he first started volunteering at El Concilio-Council for the Spanish Speaking in 1988. He would earn a law degree at Humphreys College School of law, but instead of going to a high-powered firm, he committed himself to El Concilio. He not only admired the organization's work but was inspired by the successful programs of other Latino community-based organizations: "If they can do it, why can't we?"
He quickly rose to president/CEO of El Concilio in 1994. Under Rodriguez's leadership, the Stockton-based nonprofit organization (founded in 1968) has expanded its programs and now serves at least 25,000 people annually in the Central Valley. The wide range of programs include English language classes, immigration services, mental health services and workforce development.
Rodriguez says government needs to find more effective ways to serve and engage people. At El Concilio, he and his team see and help folks from all walks of life - people dealing with different and difficult challenges and issues. But, a common barrier is mentioned most often: “How does California government work when it's so complicated?”
Despite those frustrations, Rodriguez firmly believes people should make their voices heard, so they can have a say in lawmakers and legislation. For example, El Concilio registered hundreds of new voters for the 2008 election year and also organized a residents' effort to contact congressional representatives about President Obama's health care reform bill.
Though Rodriguez says California is at a crossroads about what type of future it wants to provide its people, he is optimistic. He says that California still draws people with ambition and energy: “Because of that energy and that outlook, there still is hope.”
“This is the golden state,” he says. “We have a golden future.”