Man in Black

How blending in has allowed State Rep. Todd Hunter to stand out

By: Stephanie Kusy
Photos by: Paul Marshall

 

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You won’t ever find State Rep. Todd Hunter dressed in a flashy suit. It is a rare occasion to see him in a suit at all. Typically, Hunter wears black from head to toe – and, according to him, for very good reason.

“To me, the color black does not make you stand out,” Hunter says. “It makes you part of the crowd. It makes you blend in. My view is to be part of the grassroots part of the community.”

Though recorded in 1971, Johnny Cash’s “Man in Black,” which reflects themes of poverty, injustice, abuse, corruption and general opposition of the status quo, epitomizes many of the beliefs Hunter embodies today. His grassroots approach to politics has garnered much support and respect from the community he serves.

The 2015 legislative session proved successful for Hunter and those living in the Coastal Bend. His biggest accomplishment centered on windstorm reform, an issue he’s advocated for the past decade. Hunter says because of the bill that passed this year, residents of the Coastal Bend can expect an increase in private insurers offering windstorm coverage, a decrease in rates and an improved funding structure for response to major hurricane damage.

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“It has taken us 12 years to fix the law, change the law and improve the law,” Hunter says. “It is not going to be an overnight accomplishment. Over the next year-and-a-half to two years, you will start seeing changes where it is affordable and it is not discriminatory anymore.”

Hunter also authored and co-authored a series of bills related to seawater desalination projects. The bills will allow for treating seawater and streamlining regulatory processes with environmental protections in mind. Currently, many desalination plants exist in Texas, but none to make drinkable water from the ocean.

The Texas State Aquarium benefited from the legislative session, as well. Hunter advocated for the $9 million funding boost the aquarium received from the state to build a new 65,000-square-foot exhibit known as “Caribbean Journey.”

Hunter took a closer look at human rights issues in 2015, too. January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and Hunter intends to create stricter laws in Texas. As a joint-author of yet another bill, HB 10 created new laws to make it easier to prosecute human trafficking and forced prostitution, as well as providing additional resources to victims.

“We started with a good, impactful law,” he says. “Over the next year to year-and-a-half, we will work to improve the law. My goal is to get rid of [human trafficking] in the state of Texas and to make sure we have laws where you cannot do that in Texas.”

Hunter is not a Texas native, but he got here as fast as he could. Born in Bartlesville, Okla., in 1953, he earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas in 1975. Studying law at Southern Methodist University brought him to Texas. He established roots in Corpus Christi in 1978 and has practiced law here ever since. He is currently the senior partner of Hunter, Barker and Fancher, P.C.

Hunter has a long history at the Capitol, which has earned him respect from other representatives. He was first elected to public office in 1988, but retired from public service in 1997 so he could help raise his three young children with his wife, Alexis. “I made a decision to go home and practice law and raise the kids,” he says. “You can always run for office, but you can’t always be home. When they got older, I ran again.”

His three children, Todd Jr., Michael and Christina, all returned to the Coastal Bend after graduating from college to pursue esteemed careers in law, insurance and architecture. Hunter’s wife owns Alexis Hunter Interiors, a unique furniture and accessories store in town.

In 2014, Hunter was elected to serve his eighth term in the Texas House of Representatives. He represents District 32, encompassing part of Nueces County. He shows no signs of slowing down, either. “I got too many things in the hopper,” he says. “The job isn’t done.” Hunter says he will seek reelection in 2016.

While he intends to expand upon the issues mentioned from the previous legislative session, Hunter will promote the Coastal Bend in a set of hearings to explore the possibility of expanding the cruise ship industry to South Texas. “Sometimes if you don’t stand up for your community or make sure your community is known, they forget you,” he says. “The bigger cities should not get everything.”
Hunter surprisingly doesn’t have a mentor he’s always admired. “The education I get is from people in general,” he says. “I have never really had one person. My family and friends impact me. I have always been in grassroots retail politics where you get to know your community.”

A united, supportive community gives him the strength to get things done during legislative sessions. “Trabajando juntos hacemos las cosas,” he says, sounding as if he’s fluent in Spanish. “Working together we get things done,” he then says smiling proud of his South Texas heritage.

When not at the Capitol, Hunter enjoys leisurely driving around the Coastal Bend and taking in the sights and sounds of his city. An avid walker, he participates in several 5Ks around the area. Rarely front and center, he makes numerous appearances at events, often dressed in black. If you didn’t recognize his face, he probably looks like just another member of the community, listening to others share feedback about what’s happening in and around the city. And that’s the way he would like to keep it.

For more information, you can obtain Representative Hunter’s contact information at www.house.state.tx.us.

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