IN PROFILE: RON SIMMONS – STATE REPRESENTATIVE – HD 65
By Alexander Tran, Asia World Contributor
Asia World Media Exclusive Interview
Your state representative is your resource for getting your voice heard at the State Capitol in Austin. A state representative should be industrious, visible, engaged, and accessible. They need to know their districts well, knowing what keeps constituents awake at night, what services are needed and how to help residents thrive. They are your ears and eyes at home, always looking for ways to help their districts, bringing state government to the district level. They educate through town-hall meetings, make appearances at local events, attend public functions, to make connections with their constituents. An undesirable representative is one who is absent, out of touch, and is generally unknown to the public.
These are the preliminary assumptions that I had, when I first met Ron Simmons, Texas State Representative for House District 65 (HD 65) from Denton County. On this day, Simmons is listening intently to both non-voters and voters, regarding what matters to them most. At times, the conversation is easy and flowing — and at other times – a hush fell over the room. Getting to know his constituents is what Simmons does best. He can read a “difficult conversation.” Difficult conversations stemming from differing perceptions, frustrations, or strong feelings. In watching Simmons interactions, it is clear that his purpose is to listen, seek first to understand, offer mutual respect, make it safe to talk, and then find resources to support district success.
When I first met Simmons, I had a foregone conclusion that the current State Representative (HD 65) and also the founding partner of Retirement Advisors of America, with over $2.5 billion in assets under management, employing 45 people in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex with clients in all 50 states, was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. It was only after our interview that I began to reflect on my preconceived notions of Simmons, on the definition of a “self-made man.” We are not discussing the “rags to riches” story here, but rather my thought of Simmons was that – here was a man that attained far greater success — than his original circumstances would have indicated was possible.
Simmons wasn’t born into affluence, or under lucky auspices. Depending on one’s views, he might have been born with a wooden ladle, to parents who were public school teachers. His mother taught kindergarten and first grade while his father was a high school band director. Simmons’ childhood is “American as apple pie.” He was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana but spent most of his youth in Junction City, Arkansas. He went on to attend Southern Arkansas University and Dallas Baptist University where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. He worked for Murphy Oil Corporation in El Dorado, Arkansas during the day — and at the same time – he was taking college classes in the evening.
Simmons married Lisa Dickson in 1980 and their first child, Justin, was born in 1981. Their second child, Daniel, was born in early 1985 and shortly thereafter the family moved to the DFW Metroplex where he worked for North Dallas Bank and Trust Company. In 1990, Simmons became a founding partner of Retirement Advisors of America, a wealth management firm and continues to serve as the Chairman, today.
THE ROAD TO HD 65
Before Simmons’ political ascent to the Texas House of Representatives, he was running his company, Retirement Advisors of America, where he spearheaded and was tasked with delivering more value to investors, cutting cost while maintaining growth. Compromising with senior executives, in order to grow the company, was his forte. It was during this time that Simmons realized that “when you start a business you learn very quickly how much government is involved in our daily lives. While some government oversight and involvement are necessary we need to make sure that there is not “over reach” where government is too involved, or our regulatory system is not excessively burdensome. We are fortunate that, for the most part, Texas is a business-friendly state and if you have a good business plan, work hard and are persistent, you can build a successful business in Texas.” Simmons wanted to make sure Texas stays as a “business-friendly state” and shall we say, the rest is history.
SIMMONS’ PLAYBOOK: “IT IS AN HONOR TO SERVE YOU THIS WAY”
The transactions between an elected official and his constituents aren’t set in stone. There are higher highs and lower lows, with peaks and valleys, and always mirrored in missed opportunities and challenges. It is within this ideology framework that Simmons has fine-tuned the art of building relationships, along with maintaining and cultivating his growing constituent base. In ensuring transparency and accountability, Simmons maintains a Facebook page “@RonSimmonsForTexas” as well as a Twitter account “@RonSimmonsTexas” that detailed his thoughts and support in a wide-ranging host of issues from the Texas Special Olympics, to a town-hall meeting combating human trafficking in Texas, to advocacy efforts on “KIDS ARE OUR FUTURE.” In keeping to his election promise, where Simmons stays connected to his constituents’ pulse, concerns, and hopes — here are the recaps of some of Simmons’ work — on behalf of the voices that sent him to the Texas State Capitol.
In Simmons’ own words — “A more educated voter leads to better elected officials which leads to better government.”
- ON RESTRICTING FREE AND OPEN RECORD REQUEST BY NON-TEXAS RESIDENTS
Ron Simmons: “I think all sessions held by entities such as school board, city council, legislature, North Texas Council of Governments, Regional Transportation Authority etc. all be streamed live on the internet and maintained to be viewed for a reasonable period. Many open records requests come from entities or people outside of Texas and have no involvement in Texas government or business, they are simply politically motivated, therefore I would restrict the free access to open record request by non-Texas residents and make sure there were no loop holes to circumvent the law.”
- ON TEXAS BORDER SECURITY
Ron Simmons: “The Border Patrol and Texas DPS are doing a great job in a very tough situation. These men and women should be congratulated and never scorned. Open borders are not an option. We need total immigration reform that simultaneously provides much better border security and streamlines the process for entering our country legally.
Immigration is a federal issue as our federal government and not the State of Texas controls our international borders. However, as a public safety issues the State of Texas invest millions of dollars to help protect our citizens from the drug cartels that smuggle drugs across our southern border. These same criminal organizations are deeply involved in human trafficking which our Department of Public Safety fights against every single day.”
- ON TEXAS PUBLIC EDUCATION
Ron Simmons: “Only 32% of education funding is invested in teacher compensation. This is a problem. Technology should provide for the “administration” of our schools with less people so that we can invest those monies in teachers and principals – the keys to any good school. We have a 20th century education system in a 21st century society. We must better utilize technology for educational cost efficiency purposes with services such as virtual classrooms, reduction in printed textbooks (and thereby cost) in favor of materials available through an SBOE approved online curriculum. Also, the legislature should define what the Texas constitution requires as an “efficient public education” – if we don’t we will never solve the finance question because we are “fighting the windmills.” While I have not yet completed my analysis, I do not believe that property tax funding is the best mechanism. I believe some type of consumption-based (sales) tax system would be best or possibly a hybrid system of the two.”
- ON A QUALITY EDUCATION
Ron Simmons: “ In a state as diverse geographically and population density wise as Texas there can be multiple definitions of ‘quality education.’ However, I think the simplest way to explain it is that we should have an education system that positions our students for the next step in their life when leaving high school – whether that be going on to college, trade school, or into the workforce.”
- ON COLLEGE AFFORDABILITY
Ron Simmons: “Deregulated tuition has not worked as we had hoped where competition would bring about lower prices. Because of the high demand to attend our top state schools they have used deregulated tuition as a means to raise tuition, the opposite of what was intended. In order to lower cost for Texans we need to make sure our universities are operating efficiently cost wise and that most of the efforts of the school is educating our students in the classroom as opposed to many of the ancillary projects on which our colleges seem to be focused.”
- ON THE PROPOSED BULLET TRAIN BETWEEN DALLAS AND HOUSTON
Ron Simmons: “I am supportive of private enterprise (absolutely no state funds) investing in an infrastructure project that they believe is worth the risk of their investment – this provides the greatest chance for success. I am not sure where you get the use of public funds. If the bullet train is viable from a private enterprise standpoint then it will benefit the economy with jobs, economic development around its stations and also have some reduction in traffic on our I-45 between Dallas and Houston. Eminent domain is an age-old problem and one that is best worked out by treating land owners fairly. If you study the history of our state road system – eminent domain is always controversial when a big project is proposed.”
- SIMMONS: MOST SIGNIFICANT ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Ron Simmons: “My proudest achievements have been helping constituents with challenges they have had with different state agencies and obtaining a positive resolution. Especially those constituents with disabilities or who have children with disabilities. Helping them through the bureaucratic maze of state government is sometimes challenging but fulfilling when my office is able to help reach a good conclusion.”
- SIMMONS: PROUDEST MOMENTS — FROM A LEGISLATIVE STANDPOINT
- “Authored and passed legislation to make sure Autism treatment is covered under insurance and Applied Behavioral Therapist are licensed.”
- “Authored and passed legislation to make sure road projects are selected for funding based on the highest need of the most constituents as opposed to political power or persuasion.”
- “Authored and passed legislation to end “one punch” voting so that voters educate themselves more on the candidate and not just a political party.”
SIMMONS’ PURPLE PROJECT: PRIMER TO GETTING BILLS PASSED AND TO GETTING THINGS DONE
The Texas House of Representatives (lower chamber of the Texas State Legislature), alongside with the Texas State Senate (upper chamber of the Texas State Legislature), forms the legislative branch of the Texas state government while working together with the Governor of Texas – to establish a state budget, as well as creating additional needed legislation.
Legislative authority and responsibilities of the Texas House of Representatives include passing bills on public policy matters, setting levels for state spending, tax policy, and voting to uphold or override gubernatorial vetoes.
A Gallup poll in 2017 with a random sample of national adults, indicated that “fifty-four percent of Americans want political leaders” to work together to “get things done.” When Simmons was elected in 2013, he parlayed his experience in running Retirement Advisors of America to navigating the Texas State Capitol landscape, in producing results for his constituents. In the world of finance, it can be said that a company is able to flourish only if its Board is able to create value for shareholders. In the world of politics, it can be said that an elected official is re-electable only if he is able to deliver results to his constituents.
To this end, Simmons stated that when society creates a label onto the American government — such as Republicans are “Red” and Democrats are “Blue” — this can result in a battle between warring tribes behind closed doors. To get things done, both parties and members of the Texas House must work together, as a collective enterprise, closing the gap on differences and focusing instead on commonalities, and reducing conflict and turning potential chaos into cooperation.
It was this firm belief, that led Simmons to start the “Purple Project,” as when the color of “Red” and “Blue” are mixed, the resulting color is “Purple.” Simmons indicated that “the partisan bickering” can be counterproductive and prevents opposing factions from working across the aisle. Hence, he started “Purple Thursdays” in 2013, “where legislators wore purple on Thursdays to remind us that when we work together as elected officials, Texans are better served.” Simmons’ track record in uniting parties, to work for the common good is evident in the prolific number of bills where he either Authored, Co-Authored, Sponsored, and/or Co-Sponsored.
Today, the idea that government should be open, focused and responsive before it can lead to productive change has never been more needed.
THE INCUMBENT: PATRIOTIC ENDEAVORS
The Texas House of Representatives is composed of 150 members, each elected for a two-year term. Since taking office in January 2013, Simmons has sent over 8,000 pieces of correspondence to constituents in response to questions and concerns. He and his staff read each and every communication received, and respond personally to each note, letter, email, fax, phone call, or private message through social media. Each inquiry gets a well-researched and honest response, no matter the issue. It is clear Simmons takes his duties and responsibilities of serving through district and state representation, very seriously.
I asked Simmons why he felt he was qualified to represent HD 65 again, at which point he responded that not only has he lived in Texas for over 32 years, but out of those 15 years in Texas has been spent living in Lewisville and Carrollton (combined), the current district which he is now representing. He quipped that “I am most optimistic about the diversified community we have in House District 65 and how we live, work, play and worship together in a harmonious manner. We need to keep this up and continually look for ways to love and serve our fellow man.”
A profoundly patriotic Texan, Simmons believes that “we are truly living in a time of the ‘Texas Miracle,’ as Texas offers its citizens a low tax environment, sensible regulation, and reasonable cost of living.” Also optimistic in America’s growth, he asserted that “America is that ‘shining city on a hill’ that President Reagan talked about. And while we have our differences in politics, religion, and other areas we have time and time again, come together as Americans. I think this will continue to be the case.”
It is not only that Simmons is well grounded when it comes to family values, being married to his wife, Lisa for 38 years, and raising three adult children who are all contributing to society. He is spirited when serving his constituents, proud of his district, dedicated to Texas’ advancement, and a defender of America. His life’s work — building a business from scratch — that is putting $20 million annually back into the North Texas economy — is a record that cannot be disputed.
Simmons articulated that one of his most gratifying accomplishments over the last three legislative sessions was voting for and in some cases authoring legislation that exhibits his “common sense conservative principles which includes pushing for reform in education funding to eliminate ‘Robin Hood,’ to increase funding to better secure our border to protect our citizens from drug cartels, providing additional funding for core government services such as water projects and roads – both without taxes, protecting victims’ rights, passing a state budget that has grown at a rate less than the population plus inflation, and improving the election process by requiring voters to focus on the candidate as opposed to just the “party” through the elimination of one-punch voting.”
Simmons earns an annual salary of $7,200 per year, which equates to $600.00 per month, and is the equivalent of $19.726 per day (based on 365 calendar days) – while representing HD 65 community and serving his constituents. The ultimate object of his ideals was that “service is its own reward” and “paying it forward” was what drew Simmons into the political fray in 2012.
It really, really is “very expensive” to run for State Representative in a suburban, or urban area, such as House District 65. A contested race for the Texas House will usually cost between $250,000 to $500,000. What is not included in the monetary budget is the thousands of hours of labor that volunteers must spend to either block walk, work at the polls either during early voting and/or on election day, putting up yard signs, making calls, preparing e-mails, following up, keeping voters updated with Facebook messages — and at Simmons’ website “www.ronsimmons.com” — publishing the latest news regarding legislation and work on behalf of his constituents at the Texas State Capitol, in Austin.
Simmons appreciates the contributions in his bid for re-election, along with the loans from him and his wife, Lisa, in kickstarting his campaign. At “www.ronsimmons.com” his personal website for all things relating to his work as State Representative (HD 65) – one can find scrolling images of him and his family, with a call to “Take Action,” “Meet Ron,” “On The Issues,” “Contribute” — and with tabs showcasing “Issues” he tackled, “Endorsements” from many organizations and associations — Texans can also “Contact” Simmons’ office by sending a message, “Volunteer” to learn about the electoral process, or simply “Donate” to help defray the cost of the campaign.
Simmons mentioned there are several ways to help him in his bid for re-election.
1) Donate by going to www.ronsimmons.com
2) Volunteer to block walk or work at the polls during early voting and/or election day
3) Put a yard sign in your yard to let your friends and neighbors know you support his candidacy
4) Call, e-mail, text, Facebook message your friends and neighbors and reminding them to vote beginning on Monday, October 22nd, 2018
SIMMONS’ GUIDING PRINCIPLES
Simmons is grateful that he is able “to live the dream by the grace of God” with the people and opportunities, placed in his path. Serving others has always been a part of his family, from his parents as school teachers serving families through education, to his and Lisa’s involvement in the autism community and church. A proven leader in policy areas such as transportation, disability rights, first amendment protection and tax reduction. Simmons’ success in HD 65 is mirrored in his humble beginnings, and in his personal intention of being the best husband, a stern but loving father, grandfather, and an entrepreneur. A student becoming a teacher — applying these “lifelong experiences” — to his position as State Representative for HD 65 – shepherding important bills, supporting, servicing and championing for his district.
* Disclaimer:The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Asia World Media. Examples of analysis performed within this article are only examples. They should not be utilized in real-world analytic products as they are based only on very limited and dated open source information. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of Asia World Media and its organization.