“He (Hightower) really was the kind of leader that depended on a bunch of people. He hired the right kind of people to do the right kind of work, and he was the titular head. A great person to really get the word out to everybody, but he really didn’t get into the weeds of things. He’s great on the campaign. Great just visiting with people. One of our times down in the Valley, we were meeting with postal workers. This is one of my funniest stories about Hightower – and we had given him a dicho that we wanted him to say, we’d written it out. The dicho is ‘Los camarónes que se duermen, se lo lleva la corriente. And it’s basically, ‘the shrimp that fall asleep, the current will take you away.’ So he gets up and he did his speech, and he said, ‘Los cabrones que se duermen, se lo lleva la corriente.’ If you’re speaking Spanish, “cabrones” is not a nice word, it’s a pretty bad word. He said it in his speech. You can hear a little bit of a gasp. Then the Hispanic postal workers got up and screamed and clapped and just thought he was the best thing. Hightower thought this is great. All of us who really knew what was going on thought, ‘Oh my God. He just cussed in front of everybody!’ … I think it had to do with him picking the right people that had a passion for each one of those areas. Look at the marketing department, there was a particular passion for that. If you look at Paul Lewis and he did international work, there was a movement in that regard. There was a movement in regard to pesticides and making sure we took care of the farm workers and also took care of the farmers that were having to use it. I think the farmers thought that they needed to use it all the time, but they were probably hurting themselves as well by using those pesticides.
I think when you put all the right people together in the areas that they all cared about, and then you had leaders like Hightower and Mike who pushed that forward and let everybody do their thing, without too much micromanagement, I think that worked. And that sleepy little department gained enemies because we were moving rocks that had been stationary for a long time. When you move a rock, things happen, things change.”
Nora Linares-Moeller joined TDA in 1984. She served as a travel aide to Hightower and worked on legislative issues, including pesticide regulation. Nora currently directs HousingWorks, dedicated to increasing the supply of affordable housing in Central Texas.