Frank Madla: A Man for All Seasons!
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
November 27, 2006
All I could think of when I got the sad news of Senator Frank Madla's tragic death last week was what a great friend and mentor he has been for nearly thirty years. As an uninspired student of government coming out of St. Gerard High School, I attended St. Philip's College along with a number of my high school friends. It was a fairly social sort of thing and not just educational.
But when I sauntered into Frank Madla's government class, he opened me to the kind of world we might be able to live in if only the elected officials cared enough. His energy and excitement about justice for a long-forgotten community was as real as his arguments for change were compelling. To that he always added his trademark Madla humor.
I came to understand that Frank was from a Polish family from the Bandera area. One of the principal Churches in Bandera, St. Stanislaus, bears the name of Poland's patron saint and reflects the Polish roots established in Bandera by families that surely included the Madla family. Like so many Texans he had a shared lineage with Mexican roots as well.
Though I believe in the Madla link with Bandera, he was raised in nearby Helotes. It was his early upbringing in then rural Helotes that he never forgot. His hobby photography radiated with the beauty of nature and conveyed a deep appreciation he had for his rustic roots in his West Texas and Bexar County Senatorial District.
Although Frank never took himself too seriously, he was a serious legislator. Of his work in Austin, I most remember him for his work on the Texas House Public Education and Public Health Committees. These two committees do not have powerful, monied lobbies but they greatly impact people. And it was always people that Frank Madla sought to serve.
In the Legislature there are three different types of members: the retired, the rich and the crusaders. Frank was from the latter group. He didn't worry about putting his wealth together before serving. He let his heart lead himself first.
Frank Madla had the temerity to suggest that Palo Alto College could actually be a success even when some of our community's powers-that-be thought otherwise. Within a few years of its opening, it was literally bursting at the seams with students. On at least one occasion Frank restored funding to the Institute of Texas Cultures and always stood guard over the State Hospital Complex: The State Hospital, State School and the Chest Hospital. These institutions not only addressed critical health needs of Bexar County and South Texas, they provided vital employment opportunities to a community that had no idea Toyota would some day locate here. Frank lead the way on Toyota and the effort to bring Texas A & M to the Southside as well.
His was a time when Mitchell Lake, a horrible open cesspool and the old Rilling Road Sewage Treatment Plant spewed forth their poisonous odor over an entire community, killing off growth in the process. Junk yards and landfills accentuated the poor image so most growth went North. With his family land in Helotes, Frank lived South and never forgot his political roots. He was true to those he served to the end.
Former Lieutenant Governor Bill Hobby once said that he measured a man by how much he did for those who were in no position to pay him back. We can never pay back Frank Madla for his tireless devotion to our community and State. However, we can continue to build our community for all its people and allow Frank Madla's life to be a source of inspiration and guidance for many years to come.
May he rest in peace!