Take a walk through Representative Helen Giddings office, and you will see plenty of awards on the walls. She has scrapbooks filled with pictures of clippings of her time in Austin. She has decided this will be her last term, after serving for 26 years.
But when NBC 5 political reporter Julie Fine asked her about her biggest accomplishment, she says it was during her early years in the legislature.
But to her, one memory stands out specifically, when we asked her what was her biggest accomplishment
“Biggest accomplishment for me is alcohol free zones around schools. I’m sorry you brought that up, because that one causes me to tear up,” said Giddings.
An issue now close to her heart. It came to her attention that 20 schools in Southern Dallas had alcohol related businesses within 1000 feet of the schools.
“The kids could not get to school because of the beer trucks that were lined up and down the streets, and those little kids came to me and said can you help us, and I was new in Austin and I thought who could be against this,” she added.
Giddings got schooled really quickly on the legislature. Lobbyists fought her bill for alcohol free zones. She fought on, eventually attaching it to an education bill which passed.
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Terry Flowers remembers the time well. He ran St. Phillips School and Community Center then and now. NBC 5 talked to him outside the school.
“I used to call this corner the plaza of poison, because you could buy alcohol, weapons, women,” said Flowers.
Because of the law, he's watched the neighborhood change. There were six alcohol related businesses surrounding the school. Now there are none. One of the old businesses was even converted into a food pantry.
“It’s refreshing, basically giving people a sense that hard work and the continued pounding away at these issues can result in some change,” he added.
Giddings says now was the right time for change for her. But her work is not done. She wants to help women prepare to run for office, as well as leadership position.
“Public service for me is an honor, and it was a gift that they gave to me to allow me to serve them,” said Giddings to the voters.