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Local public policy leader reflects on move to America

Dr. Dante Gonzalez served in several key public policy roles
Posted at 8:20 AM, Sep 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-29 12:46:56-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas  — Honoring Hispanic heritage means never forgetting where you came from. That is Dr. Dante Gonzalez's life’s motto.

Gonzalez served as Corpus Christi’s assistant health director, before moving over to the city’s parks and recreation department.

“My heritage is still with Mexico,” Gonzalez says.

He was born in Mexico City and left that home at the age of 12.

“I was ready to start a different chapter. I had just finished sixth grade,” Gonzalez remembers. “When I became a U.S. citizen, it was the same day that I graduated high school. I was here in Corpus Christi getting my citizenship and I drove back to Bloomington, Texas, where my family is, so that I could graduate and walk the stage.”

Gonzalez later walked two more stages: for his bachelor's in science from St. Mary's University in San Antonio and Ph.D. in neuroscience and genetics from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. His next step was to go home to work for the city of Corpus Christi.

In the last seven years there, Gonzalez's roles were assistant director of public health and epidemiologist and public health administrator. He helped guide the city through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“One of the best things I did there was making sure we had every single resource available to us,” said Gonzalez.

That meant a lot of grant writing. The biggest one was awarded from the state at $18 million. Those funds allow the city to have multiple COVID-19 vaccination venues.

“We’re inching more towards a 60/70% vaccination rate,” Gonzalez said. “That’s what we really want.”

These days, he is reshaping his mission of keeping Corpus Christi healthy, with his new title as interim director of the parks and recreation department.

“Go out to a park,” he says. “You don’t need a mask when you’re at a park, right? Be with your family. Play some soccer, go enjoy our basketball courts.”

For Gonzalez, the U.S. means opportunity.

He does not think he would have accomplished as much if he had stayed in Mexico. His hope is to stay in Corpus Christi — the place he now considers home.