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“God forbid that the day will come when we will see women turned loose upon the nation, a set of raving tearing politicians, standing elbow to elbow with the rabble and toughs; unsexing themselves to the detriment of the home and of all social and domestic relations.” Anonymous Texas woman, quoted in the San Antonio Express, 1894 In the spring of 2007, Diana Maldonado figured she was ready to take her next leap. A former teen mom who’d grown up poor in the border town of Eagle Pass, she’d already made a lifelong habit of exceeding expectations. “Eagle Pass was really a wonderful place to grow up,” she says. “But in that community, you weren’t expected to go to college. Nobody knew how to give kids a blueprint for that. But from the third grade on, I just knew. Somehow I would.” Somehow she did. While raising two young children, Maldonado worked her way through St. Edward’s University in Austin, graduating magna cum laude. She became an award-winning efficiency expert during 23 years in the state comptroller’s office in Austin and won election in 2003 to the school board in traditionally conservative Round Rock, ultimately becoming the first Latina president of that board. Along the way, she demonstrated that underneath her ebullient personalityMaldonado seems to break into a broad grin every few minutes, and lets loose with a merry, trilling laugh almost as oftenwas a force to be reckoned with, possessed of “an old-fashioned ‘can-do’ work ethic, personal grit, and an ability to reach across traditional political barriers to build alliances and get practical things done as the local Williamson County Sun has effused. Even though the Round Rock schools had transformed into a statewide model for educational improvements during her tenure, Maldonado couldn’t stomach the thought of a third term. “After countless school board meetings, staying up late, trying to find solutions that at bottom were problems stemming from the state levelpoor policies and a lack of fundingI was How Annie’s List is revolutionizing Texas politics. by BOB MOSER photos by CHRIS CARSON 10 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JANUARY 23, 2009