Nelson: Collaboration, cooperation the real story behind Texas Tech vet school

Everyone loves a winner. As the legislative session concludes, it looks like Texas and Amarillo will have a winner in the Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine (TTUSVM).

Why is this win important? Legislative approval of the TTUSVM is arguably the most impactful initiative for Amarillo in decades, and it will have ripple effects felt statewide. It increases the safety of our food supply and keeps our food industry competitive in world markets. It will open economic doors for more research and ag industry growth in our region. It expands education opportunities for students statewide. But this win is important for another reason. Simply put, it is important because we worked together. In a world suffering a drought of political consensus and lacking cooperation in the face of any controversy, our region dusted off its determination and displayed how to work together.

Start with local citizens who stepped up to work together on a steering committee led by Jason Herrick. With the generosity of local families and businesses, they raised millions toward the steep target of $90 million needed to construct the school. The Amarillo Economic Development Corporation closed the gap financially at a crucial time to keep the project alive as the legislature began work on the base budget last summer. (Kudos to the visionary citizens of Amarillo who created the AEDC three decades ago to fund historic projects like TTUSVM.) By working together, in less than a year’s time, we raised the funds needed to build and furnish the school.

Despite the facts supporting the need for a second vet school in Texas and the $90 million raised, the political odds were against the TTUSVM. Our work together turned from a year of fundraising to a year of political conversations so that every legislator had the facts to make an informed vote. Cue the influence of the West Texas political delegation. The Amarillo team of Sen. Kel Seliger, Rep. John Smithee, and Rep. Four Price worked together with the Lubbock delegation of Sen. Charles Perry, Rep. John Frullo and Rep. Dustin Burrows to unify other legislators behind the project. Their efforts in Austin were boosted by the strategic support of Amarillo Matters, a political action committee who supports positive opportunities for Amarillo. Amarillo Matters received meaningful financial gifts from the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce PAC and other citizens across the state. The work done together at the Capitol for the TTUSVM made us proud.

Amarillo’s organization and participation opened the door for statewide voices from industry, including Texas Veterinary Medical Association, Texas Cattle Feeders Association, Texas Association of Dairymen, and Texas Farm Bureau. They spoke openly about the need for more vet student spots in Texas and invested time to discuss their needs with state leaders. Rural Texas worked together behind the leadership of the Panhandle Regional Planning Commission, the South Plains Association of Governments, the Permian Basin Regional Planning Commission and the Councils of Governments from the Rio Grande and the Concho Valley to unify the message of this statewide need. We had support from Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope and many other Texas mayors and county judges, as well as the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce.

Two Amarillo all-stars carried our ball at important moments. Former Mayor Jerry Hodge put his hand to the plow with a generous gift and the courage to ask tough questions in the midst of a leadership change at Texas Tech University. Former Amarillo resident T. Boone Pickens showed early support by hosting strategic planning and fundraising events, and his influence over the last month greatly impacted our efforts in Austin. We needed their help, and they saw the benefit of working together for a project that will benefit our state for years to come.

This win is important because we exercised our work-together muscles to get it. These muscles may be getting flabby in some parts of our nation but not in Texas. We modeled creating solutions for our needs instead of divisions along political parties. In the face of a challenge, people must work together to fight problems, not fight each other. This win shows we can do it, Texas. We tuned our voices to the melody of our need and sang for all we were worth. Our state had a need and our state responded: together.

Before we celebrate, there’s one more voice we need to hear: the proverbial full-figured female will join the chorus when the governor puts his support behind the project and signs the budget bill into law granting the funding for the TTUSVM. In that moment, focus can shift to curriculum design and accreditation as we celebrate the legislative win. While everybody loves a winner, in this case, Texas, it will be everyone’s win.

Ginger Nelson was elected to a second term as mayor of Amarillo in May.