By CHERIL VERNON
Texas conservative Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Pauken spoke to the Anderson County-Palestine Texas Tea Party/Citizens for the Constitution during a stop in Palestine Tuesday about his plan to form a grassroots campaign for governor, touching upon the need for more vocational education for students, border issues and term limits for state officials.
“We’ve got to put a team back together, put together a principled approach and take the fight to the left,” Pauken said during his speech.
A native Texan, Vietnam veteran and former Reagan agency head, Pauken first became involved in politics during the Goldwater for President Campaign in 1964. A year later, he was elected national chairman of the College Republicans during the rise of the anti-Vietnam protest movement. Enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1967, he served as a military intelligence officer in Vietnam.
He also is a former Texas GOP Chairman and served as the Chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission from 2008 to 2012. He was awarded the Reagan Medal of Honor for Meritorious Service while serving as the director of the ACTION agency under Reagan’s administration.
“What about our children and grandchildren? That’s why so many of us are still involved. We have got to figure out how to turn this around,” Pauken said. “I’m so frustrated because I was part of the Reagan revolution. We are always putting the left on the defensive and it seems like our guys are always reacting. It’s all about elections and being a career politician, saying the right things and buzz words than taking the fight to the left and taking action to deal with problems. Talk is cheap.”
Pauken used the example of the Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program he helped implement during his time under the Reagan administration. The program, led by Vietnam veterans, helped change the attitude the general public had toward the veterans by putting a plan into action.
“When I returned from Vietnam in 1969, I vowed to come back to Texas and help veterans,” Pauken said. “We had to do something about the false mythology out there.”
Later as Chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission, he championed the cause of increased opportunities for vocational education, rebuilding the U.S. manufacturing base, and helping returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan make a successful transition to civilian life through such initiatives as the Texas Veterans Leadership Program.
Touching a great deal on education during his speech, Pauken is for giving back schools local control and offering more vocational opportunities to reach students.
“Kids have different talents and interests. For some, college education is appropriate for them,” Pauken said. “But what are you going to do with the 50 percent of the kids who aren’t? Meanwhile, we have a shortage of skilled workers — as employers kept telling me around the state.”
According to Pauken, the average age of a welder is 55 and the average age of a plumber is 56, for example.
“We are losing a lot of kids who are ending up being dropouts or ‘throw-aways’ because the teachers are having to teach to the test — TAAS, the TAKS, the STAAR,” Pauken said. “We have gotten away from the basis of education. We used to believe as conservatives in local control of education. But now we have a one-size-fits all education.”
Pauken supported the recent House Bill 5 that has worked for providing multiple pathways for students.
“We need to recognize that kids have different needs and different talents,” he said. “We can still teach the basics, but send them in a math/science direction if they are college-oriented, or humanities and fine arts if they want to go that direction, but also (provide) a career-oriented program...which will allow them to get industry-certified credentials or a license by the time they graduate from high school. There are good paying jobs out there.”
For example, Pauken said a student with a two-year instrumentation degree from Texas State Technical College in Waco can go into the petro-chemical industry and make $68,000 a year.
On the border issue, Pauken said he believes Texas can take care of the problem itself.
“We have the technology. There are a lot of things we can do technology-wise to address the border situation at home. If you execute it right, they will not even cross the border,” Pauken said, noting that the technology, along with an intelligence unit — not compromised by big drug money — working along with the National Guard could implement improvements to alleviate the border problem.
“If you put the right people in place, you can do it. You have to be pro-active.,” Pauken said.
Pauken calls himself an outsider to the Austin political life.
“In Austin, it’s more about insiders and big money. It’s frustrating,” Pauken said. “It’s more about sound bytes and talking points than it is about sound solutions based on conservative principles.”
Pauken also would like to see term limits for state officials.
“You serve two four-year terms and you go home,” Pauken said. “We need to change this top-down elitist system that lusts for power and office. We need to put a team back together to lead our state.”
A former venture-capital executive, Pauken is a small business owner and the author of “The Thirty Years War: The Politics of the Sixties Generation.” His most recent book is “Bringing American Home: How America Lost Her Way and How We Can Find Our Way Back.”
Pauken and his wife, Ida, have seven children and 14 grandchildren.
For more information about his campaign, visit http://www.tompaukenfortexas.com/