(This post is based on an article published by Project Q highlighting the 2017 Pride Parade Marshalls in Atlanta. You can read the entire original article here)
If you have lived in Atlanta for a few years and happen to care about politics and voting rights, you have probably heard about Jerry Gonzalez. If you work within the space, you have likely met Jerry.
Jerry Gonzalez founded and leads the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO) a very influential 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization in the state and a leader in voting registration, voting rights, civic engagement and leadership building focused on the Latinx community as well as the GALEO Community Development Fund, a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization.
This year, Atlanta Pride has selected once again, a Latinx as one of their annual parade Grand Marshals. In 2016, it was Estrella Sanchez and Leo Martinez, in 2015 it was Paulina Hernandez, this time, it is Jerry Gonzalez.
“The Atlanta Pride Committee has a mandate to capture and compliment the wide range of diverse activists among us. We strongly believe that we have done that again this year,” Jaime Fergerson, Pride’s executive director said.
Jerry Gonzalez is a native of Laredo, TX and received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Texas A&M University in 1995. He completed his Master of Public Administration with a Nonprofit Administration emphasis at the Andrew Young School of Public Policy at Georgia State University in 2005. Gonzalez was an active student at Texas A&M with diverse interests including the Society of Mexican American Engineers and Scientists (MAES), the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band (clarinet), and the Corps of Cadets. After graduation, Gonzalez served on the MAES National Board of Directors as a Regional Vice President.
In 1996, Gonzalez moved to Atlanta for a job as Field Support Engineer for Rockwell Automation, which was based in Milwaukee, WI. After transitioning into the nonprofit arena in 2002, Gonzalez worked with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) as a Legislative Policy Analyst, focusing upon immigrants’ rights issues at the Georgia General Assembly and in several local jurisdictions across the Southeast. Through his efforts, DeKalb County became the largest municipality to accept the Mexican Matricula Consular ID card as a form of identification for Mexican nationals in DeKalb County and he worked towards the passage of a new Georgia flag without the confederate battle emblem.
At GALEO, Gonzalez has utilized not only his extensive political experience but also his deep understanding of the struggles of the Latino community in Georgia. During the 2010 Census, Gonzalez strongly advocated for strong participation of the Latino community, which ended up having a 96% increase, representing 28% of the state’s overall growth. In voter engagement efforts, the Latino electorate has grown to well over 150,000 from a mere 10,000 in 2003. In addition, the Latino voter participation rates in most jurisdictions in Georgia during the 2008 election out-performed the national Latino voter participation rates. In 2011, Gonzalez and GALEO actively opposed passage of Georgia’s HB 87, an Arizona-style anti-immigration legislation. After the passage of HB 87, Gonzalez worked with community leaders and lawyers on a lawsuit that sought to halt its implementation and filed an Amicus Brief in support of the litigation to stop HB87. Fortunately, a federal judge did halt the major “show me your papers” provisions of the law.
Due to his efforts at GALEO, Mr. Gonzalez has been recognized by Georgia Trend Magazine as one of Georgia’s 100 Most Influential Georgians for several of years, along with many other honors and awards.
When not traveling throughout Georgia speaking at town hall meetings and advocating for education, civic engagement and fair immigration policies, Gonzalez lives in Atlanta with his life partner and husband of over 20 years, Ray, an established and practicing pediatrician, and their dog, Jenny. Jerry’s hobbies include photography, travel, hiking and considers himself an avid bicyclist.
Jerry raises funds every year for an AIDS vaccine by biking 200 miles with other advocates.