G.R. ‘Willie’ Gonzalez, a longtime Kingsland resident, is the Hill Country liaison for state Sen. Pete Flores (R-Pleasanton). He stopped by DailyTrib.com offices for a chat with Editor Suzanne Freeman on April 11. Staff photo by Suzanne Freeman
Kingsland resident G.R. “Willie” Gonzalez and state Sen. Pete Flores (R-Pleasanton) met on Jan. 1, 1985, when they entered the Texas Game Warden Academy in Austin as cadets. They studied together for exams from their top bunks in the dorm and, 27 years later, retired at the same time.
The two friends are together again now that Gonzalez has signed on to serve as the senator’s liaison for five of the 20 counties he represents in the newly drawn Texas Senate District 24, which includes Burnet and Llano counties. Gonzalez expects to open an office in the city of Llano sometime in the next few weeks.
“Flores is a man of the people, a senator of the people,” Gonzalez said in an interview with DailyTrib.com. “He wanted someone here who can be in daily touch with the people in the Hill Country area.”
Gonzalez’s credentials for his new job go beyond his years of friendship with Flores. He and his wife, Vicki Lynn Smith Gonzalez, raised their family in Kingsland when he was a game warden in the Highland Lakes. Daughter Kendra Lynn Morris, her husband, John Bryan Morris, and their children, a 6-year-old girl and 8-month-boy, all live in Kingsland as does his son, Raymond, who is a taxidermist and manages two Kingsland ranches. Willie helps his son in the shop part time.
Gonzalez grew up in Laredo. As a game warden, he first worked in Starr County before transferring to Kingsland on April 1, 1993. After 10 years, he was promoted to assistant chief and worked out of Austin headquarters while maintaining his home in Kingsland. He retired on Aug. 31, 2012, with the rank of major. Flores, who was the director of law enforcement and a colonel, retired on the same day.
An outdoorsman, Gonzalez immediately fell in love with Kingsland.
“I love the area. I love the people,” he said. “We were so well received when we moved here in ’93. It’s the heart of Texas.”
His heart was on the water, where he spent much of his time as a game warden.
“I love water safety. It was my specialty,” Gonzalez said. “I also love hunting. I’ve been hunting since I was 5 years old.”
While cadets, Flores and Gonzalez drilled each other on exam questions over a dorm room wall that did not reach the ceiling. They were assigned top bunks, one on each side of the wall, leaving a 2-foot space of air. They couldn’t see each other, but their voices carried easily over the wall.
Information still flows between the two, now over a span of miles as Gonzalez relays to the senator what’s happening on the ground in this corner of his large district. On a map, Senate District 24 is shaped like a multi-sided “Y” with the left fork a flat “panhandle” that runs along Interstate 10. It stretches from southwest of San Antonio, up through Kerrville and Fredericksburg, then east to Killeen and Temple. A small arm reaches out on the right side of the Y to Interstate 35, ending near, but not including, Round Rock.
Gonzalez is Flores’ liaison for Burnet, Llano, Lampasas, Bell, and Coryell counties.
“I don’t prescribe policy or make law,” Gonzalez said. “I address the issues and concerns of the people and see if there is anything we can do to help in any way. I’m going to make sure Senator Flores knows what’s happening in the Hill Country.”
As liaison, Gonzales is available to speak to local clubs and organizations. Individuals may call for help or to ask questions. Until the office is open, Gonzalez shared his mobile phone number as the best way to get in touch with him: 830-265-7010.