“¡ Animo al cuadro, mi gente !”
As the sun set over cucumber fields in the panhandle town of Muleshoe, and a day’s work brought feelings of exhaustion, those words were shared as a source of encouragement that Ricardo Rodriguez Jr.’s father would yell in the field as they worked to fill their order and finish the day. The phrase, which translates to “let’s get motivated, my people!” is how his father would encourage them.
Decades later, on Monday, Rodriguez — flanked by his parents, his sister, his wife and two children — choked back tears as he announced that he would not seek a third term as district attorney, and in doing so recalled his father’s words fondly and fittingly.
The announcement closes a chapter of 16 years of elected public service for Rodriguez that included serving as the 92nd state District Judge and on the Edinburg City Council.
“This calling has never been about ego, selfishness or desire to have power,” Rodriguez said, referring to his elected posts.
Instead, he said it’s been about public service, but that calling came with a sacrifice.
“That is my family,” Rodriguez said.
His children, who are all now finding their place in life as adults, have only known Rodriguez’s life in public service and his family has had to navigate his public life, a sacrifice they made that Rodriguez says he does not take lightly.
During the pandemic, which caused so much hardship and death in Hidalgo County, Rodriguez said the world-changing event caused him to reflect and recalculate.
“Life is too short to miss out on special moments with those you love the most,” he said.
This truth prompted him to make the decision to step back from public office and dedicate time to his family.
He mentioned his son, who Rodriguez said is finishing his last year of law school and plans on returning to Hidalgo County. The father and son may practice law together, which Rodriguez said would be a great gift.
He also recalled why he ran for district attorney in the first place on a platform of improvements he said he felt needed to be made.
Rodriguez believes he transformed the office into one with values of integrity, respect and justice for all while holding his office to the highest standards.
“We are not about favoritism and we are not about politics,” Rodriguez said, explaining his goal has always been fair justice.
He also made it a point to thank the staff of the DA’s office, who he called his “DA family.”
“The office is only as good as its employees,” he said. “I am proud of the work that we have done and that we continue to do.”
Rodriguez said that work included strengthening law enforcement partnerships, implementing the best practices in evidence, the creation of the Crime Victim Unit and also alternative sentencing programs and courts for juveniles, veterans and those suffering from mental illness.
And he plans to continue this work through the duration of his current term, which ends in December 2022.
However, Rodriguez did say he wouldn’t rule out running for elected office again, but that won’t happen until he has satisfied his responsibility to his family.
“And yes, I’m being selfish for the first time in 16 years,” he said. “I choose my family first.”
The announcement also followed speculation throughout the community that Rodriguez was considering a congressional run, interest that he confirmed to The Monitor on Oct. 28. He decided against those plans, however, in favor of stepping away from public office and spending more time with his family.