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2020 Latino Lideres Edition: Danny Alvarez, Jr.

Danny Alvarez, Jr

LTM: Tell me about yourself and what you do for a living.  Danny Alvarez:  My name’s Danny Alvarez, and I am 45 years old. I am a local attorney in town. I currently work for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, and I am a 2020 Judicial Candidate for the 13th Judicial Circuit.

LTM: What part of Florida do you live in – are you from Florida? If not – what brought you to Florida? Where is your family from? Danny Alvarez:   I am a first-generation American. My parents were born in Cuba. They arrived in 1959-61, so that kind of adds to the unique experience of my American story. I was born in Miami but raised in Houston, Texas, from the age of one to about thirteen or fourteen, so I got a lot of that Texan flavor and that Houston culture. I lived there before we moved back to Miami and then graduated from there before I went to the University of Florida. I graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor’s in Communications. I joined the Army as an Infantry Lieutenant. 

I did infantry. I got to jump out of a bunch of airplanes and deployed to Korea and came back to the Airborne School before I got out of the Army. I also proudly served in the Florida National Guard – you know that’s our local force that’s in charge of being a citizen-soldier. I did that for two years, four years of active duty for a total of six years. 

Probably the best part of my life up until now, I had kids. I love being a soldier. I love serving for purpose. That was greater than me, but life takes twists and turns, and I got out of the Army. But before I got a Master’s in Education from Troy State University in Alabama. When I was Alabama and then came here, I had received a promotion from Johnson & Johnson, where I sold pharmaceuticals. I was there for about six years before we wanted a sort of a life-changing experience. We didn’t want to move away. I needed to figure out how we were to stay and what I was going to do when I stayed there. 

I had recently had a child, and I went to law school. I always had a passion for law. It is one of those things where I’m a true believer in our constitution and our system, and I believe that we are all born equally. This is one of those things where the law is equal. My parents lost their country because the rule of law wasn’t enforced. In my mind’s eye, they didn’t execute it equally, and there wasn’t a sense of fairness about that system. When I became part of our legal system, it was always an honor and point of pride, especially for my family. We needed to protect that, and we would defend that. It’s always been a significant thing. I didn’t think I wanted to be a lawyer, and I just kind of ended up there by the strokes of life. I’m super proud because we’ve got a chance to help a whole lot of people after I received my Law Degree from Stetson University. I went and got a second law degree from the University of Miami, which is called an LLM, and it’s a master’s in law. It concentrates on estate planning, as well as the tax of estate planning. I never thought I would do that either. It’s just something that I kind of wanted to challenge myself to do. I received my fourth college degree. I think I’m finished with education. Although I’m always learning, it is one of those things where I just love to learn. I ended up here.

I had a law practice for about eight to nine years up here in West Tampa. I always had it here. I always felt an affinity for West Tampa. It’s the heart of the City of Tampa. I feel like it’s the heart of the community here in Hillsborough County for a big part of the city. It’s just something about the culture and the history here that I just wanted to be a part of and immerse myself somewhere. About two and a half years ago, when the Sheriff of Hillsborough County Chad Chronister was newly appointed, and he asked me to come on board to help him with a few projects. 

One of them was being in communications for the Sheriff’s Office in helping them tell their story. We’ve done that for about two years, and now we’re running for judge.

LTM: So, tell us a little bit about what inspired you to run for judge. Danny Alvarez:  Well. That’s an excellent question. What inspired me to run for judge? I don’t think it’s a typical story. One of the things that are important to me is doing more for others than for yourself. I try to teach all my four children; I love them to death. They are the purpose of my life. I feel like I have a responsibility to make them as good people as possible before we let them out into society. I must live a life by example for them, and I teach them all that all the time. Be better for others’ services. Ahead of self, I’ve made money. I thought I could chase money, and that would make me happy. When I was in the Army, I realized I was the most comfortable I had ever been up to that point.

I didn’t know how much money I made. I didn’t know. I didn’t even know what we got paid because that wasn’t important. Important was doing something for the greater good and being part of a team that was helping push forward. When I went back to the Sheriff’s Office, that was reignited. I was part of something extraordinary. I was part of a group of people that literally would give their life for another person. They never even met just to be associated. It reinvigorated the sense of fulfillment that I knew that I had to do more. I could stay at the Sheriff’s Office for the rest of my life, knowing that I was helping in one way or another and helping my community. That would make me very happy, but that’s just not who I am. I need to do more. Using my law degree and combining it with my will to serve. I think it’s the perfect marriage of the two, and that’s why I chose to be a judicial candidate, hopefully, your next judge.

LTM: So, do you aspire on going further than being a judge. Do you have any political ambitions like Mayor, Governor, Senator, or President? Danny Alvarez:  I get asked that question all the time, and I’m very humbled by that question. The reality is that I think that I’m going to serve best with what I know to do. I know the law. I know how to be fair and reasonable, and I’ve lived a full life. Those experiences have allowed me to realize that not everything is black and white. We’re going to apply the law. We can apply justice and fairness and equality to that equation. Then we’re going to come out with the outcome. It’s not always going to be the outcome everybody wants. I get that we can’t predetermine what that outcome is going to be, but do I want to be the Mayor? Do I want to be the governor? That’s very nice, but this is how I want to serve, and I feel like this is how I can make the most significant impact.

LTM: How do you feel about your cultural and being a Latino.  Danny Alvarez:  That is something extraordinary nowadays.

LTM: Tell us about how you feel about being a Latino and being able to now transition into the Judicial Circuit. How would this be an inspiration to other Latinos who were also inspired to go into law and so forth? Danny Alvarez:   I think this is a spectacular question because it breaks down to the core of what our country is all about. I’m an American first. I don’t see myself as this American or as an American first that has a Hispanic heritage, and you can’t divorce that from who I am. The very person that is sitting in front of you is here because he does come from Hispanic heritage. The value that we take from every opportunity is that it was given to us. We are here as guests. My parents were literal refugees. We would not be alive if it weren’t for our legal system in our country. That Hispanic experience gets repeated every single day. 

Today, just today, someone landed in America and is repeating the experience that my parents did. For me, that is the greatest gift I could have been given. The value to respect our laws and appreciate the system and want to make it better and work within it. How do I honor it by being a part of it? How does it make me a better judge when I become a judge? That’s simple; you always want someone that’s behind the bench to have enough real-world experience that they can relate to the very people that they’re trying to make a judgment over. That’s literally what a judge does. If you’ve got someone that has a limited experience base, well, that’s a limited experience base that they can rely on. It happens in this case. Hillsborough County is thirty percent Hispanic. We know that people are going to come in front of judges who are going to be Hispanic. 

It doesn’t, and it shouldn’t matter except for this: The law sees everybody the same. I see everybody the same. If you’re Hispanic and you broke the law or if you’re Hispanic and you broke the contract, that is not going to matter when we’re talking about the rule of law. Understanding how people got there and having a sense of compassion and having a sense of experience for when you’re going to come to your judgment; that’s where it matters. Even understanding someone in their language can’t do anything but help a case so that the ultimate application of justice to its highest degree. I’ve been in court cases where I’ve been sitting in the crowd, and someone is translating for someone else, and the judge is relying on the translator, and the translation hasn’t been perfect. I’ve stood up and said that’s not what they meant. I want to make sure they get the sense of it in this case. That won’t happen, but rest assured whether Hispanic or not, I think this is all too important. The law is blind. Wrong is wrong, and right is right. What this experience brings to me is a sense of respect, the honor for the law, and the sense of responsibility to make sure we get it right.

LTM: And that shows that you’ve had a great example with your family, with your parents, and what your children mean to you in their future. Danny Alvarez:  I believe my purpose on this earth was first to be a father. 

Everything else after that is loosely rank-ordered underneath that. My children mean everything to me. I often say that as public, as a person, I’ve been, which isn’t that public on the big screen. 

People ask, “Do you care what other people think about you?” I care only about what my children think about me, and if I was a failure in their eyes or if I was a liar in their eyes. If I let them down, that would probably crush me. So, children and family, to me, is the structure from which I rely on. It’s where I get my motivation from. It is my motivation to do better. I want to turn over a better life for my children than what I got. That’s what my grandfather did for me, and what my father did for me. I remember my father worked two jobs during the Christmas break at Marshall’s so we could afford clothes. He would use his discount and extra money to buy discounted clothes so we could have something to wear the following year. That’s the kind of sacrifice I grew up watching, and while we have moved the bar, my children are the children of a father who is a lawyer. I still need them to understand the value of everything from hard work to sacrifice and loving their country and God and then loving others before themselves. 

That is vital to me.

LTM: That’s awesome, so let’s get to the real hardcore question what is your favorite Latino food? Danny Alvarez:  Listen, I’m a picadillo guy. I love an excellent picadillo, but I’m very, very picky if it doesn’t have raisins in the process of starting behind the goal. 

Picadillo and then I need some platanitos maduros. Although I have got to tell you, I’m really into Colombian rotisserie chicken, red beans and white rice. Eating that piece of beautiful rotisserie chicken to die for.

LTM: That’s awesome. So, in your life, who has been your inspiration in living or that has been your foundation, your rock? Danny Alvarez:  Without a doubt, I don’t even think about that without a doubt that my life’s inspiration has been my grandfather, Raul Garcia. My grandfather had a sixth-grade education. He only operated by his gut in doing what was right. He wasn’t always right. He was a man. It was okay that he was fallible, just like everybody else but he knew that he loved his family, he loved our country, and those are the only two rocks that he needed, and he was our rock. I’ll tell you when he passed away, there was a massive hole in our family. I could tell you that each one of his grandchildren and each one of his children would say to you the same thing. He was an inspiration in his simplicity. He just saw life so simple. The right was right; wrong was wrong. You did what was right, and you stood up for those that didn’t have a voice. He would do that all the time even to his peril, so I learned a lot from that guy. I miss him immensely. He was such a big inspiration to me that I know that he’s watching, and just by running for judge, he thinks it’s incredible, and for that, I hope he’s smiling.

LTM: And I know he is. Okay, so what advice would you give to young leaders as yourself that are up and coming and working hard in the Hispanic community? Danny Alvarez:   Be authentic. It’s all right to be authentic to yourself. Don’t try to be anybody else. Find your passion and live your passion. Block out the noise. There’s so much noise in our day to day that leaders forget that they’re there to lead, but before you become a leader, you must be a good follower. Get an experience base. Understand what life is about. Your day’s going to come, but until then, support those that are ahead of you. 

Then it becomes your responsibility to turn around and help those that are coming behind you. I am not here sitting having this interview because I just suddenly showed up and did it all by myself. I am the accumulation of experiences of people giving me a hand, lifting me, and I promised the entirety of my life that I would be that guy to be there for somebody else, even if I don’t know you. If I can help you, I can, and I will because that’s what people and strangers did for me. They helped me, and I feel that what needs to be done if you want to be a good leader and be a good follower. Be authentic and genuine to yourself. Stick to your values, and never forget where you came from. Help somebody else along the way.

LTM: That’s right.  So, where can people go to help support your campaign, and what can people do to help you and get to where you need to be? Danny Alvarez:  First register to vote. If you want to help the campaign, raise your vote. Vote in August when the primaries are coming and then if we have a run in November election again. That is very vital. You know we’d understand turnout is essential. Right now, the campaign is very early in the campaign website is, Right now, it is necessary to spread the message. Tell everybody about me. Tell everyone about the word and help us get out there. If there’s someone I can go and say hi to and talk to, such as a group, let me know. 

We’re very accessible. We’ve got a great group of volunteers that are helping us get the message out, and then when it’s time, we’ll have door knocking. 

Volunteers are needed for that, and then we’ll have to get signs out, so every little bit helps. Talking and telling your friends that you know Danny Alvarez, and he is the guy you are supporting.  

LTM: Awesome! Thank you, Danny, so much. We appreciate and honor this time with you, and we look forward to seeing you as a judge. Danny Alvarez:  Thank you very much and thank you for the time. Thank you for the honor of this experience, and we’ll see you on the victory lane.

Thank you!

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