When Montgomery County Commissioner Tommy Vallejos was first elected to the commission in 2010, he said his race was not an issue.
The statement he gave at the time was featured in a press release from Latinos For Tennessee this week, part of a series of news releases from the conservative political action group celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. Vallejos serves as the group’s board chairman and also is a pastor.
“My race or ethnicity never came up, nor was an issue,” said Vallejos after winning his county commission seat. “Still I am proud to be the first Latino to be elected as a county commissioner in Montgomery County. I believe the likelihood of more Hispanic men and women being elected to office is possible because we are are all Americans and should dream and dream big. So many politicians are using Latinos as political piñatas. I never allowed that to be a determining factor in my decision to run for office.”
The press release also included a short video featuring Vallejos produced by the 917 Society, a Nashville area nonprofit that promotes the U.S. Constitution.
In the video, Vallejos talks about growing up in New Mexico surrounded by gang violence.
“My out was to join the military,” he recalled, describing a time during his service when he realized the impact of the U.S. Constitution.
He said he came to understand that the Constitution “impacted me not based on my color, my upbringing or my economic status, but that all of us have a part of that freedom.”
After first being elected to the Montgomery County commission, Vallejos said that while he was proud of being Latino, he also was “as American as you can get.”
“We must all be Americans and stand as Americans,” he said.
Hispanic Heritage Month was started by President Ronald Reagan and runs from Sept. 15-Oct. 15. It was an extension of Hispanic Heritage Week started by President Lyndon Johnson.