Alfredo Gutierrez is the Former Arizona State Senate Majority Leader. He served as President of the Board for Maricopa Community College District. He is a vocal advocate for civil rights and education.
Born and raised in the mining town of Miami, AZ, life was difficult for young Alfredo Gutierrez. Growing up during the late 40’s through the early 60’s, he experienced segregation at school, and witnessed it in his community. When he was in school, the 1954 Brown v. Board Supreme Court ruling marked the beginning for a young man who would become a champion for education and young people.
Alfredo came to Phoenix looking for work. At the time, a mining strike in Miami closed down his employment options, and he needed to make a living. Eligible for the G.I. Bill at the time, Alfredo signed up for school at ASU, but he lacked a kind of direction for his educational journey. Over time however, he eventually grew interest in his studies while also evolving as a civic leader. At the time, Phoenix schools were still de facto segregated, and other conditions existed, as well. At ASU, Gutierrez learned of complaints of sexual abuse from female laundresses contracted by ASU. A student himself, Gutierrez organized walkout and strike of the university in support of those women. While there were threats of the national guard and state troopers intervention, the strike continued until an agreement was reached. Though he helped to broker the agreement, Alfredo Gutierrez was pushed out of the school and left without a degree. Shortly after, Gutierrez joined the Robert Kennedy presidential campaign, and later received a fellowship that allowed him to get much more involved with the community. Under the fellowship, he started organizations like Chicanos Por La Causa and Valle Del Sol in 1969 and 1970, respectively.
Gutierrez was elected to the Arizona State Senate in 1972 and served as a majority leader in 1974. During his legislative years, one of his primary goals was to establish a community college in South Phoenix. Paul Elsner, then Chairman of the Maricopa Community College District, agreed there was a need among minority communities, like those in South Phoenix, to have access to higher education. Unfortunately, they faced roadblocks and political gridlock. Gutierrez introduced multiple bills to provide Elsner with the funds to justify building a school in South Phoenix. Once the funds were in place, there was no excuse for lawmakers to avoid building a community college campus in South Phoenix any longer. After getting approved by the board in 1976, the school broke ground two years later.
After spending 14 years in the leadership of the state, Gutierrez opened a successful consulting firm, Jamieson and Gutierrez, which he sold in 2000. Consistently devoted to community activism, Gutierrez was appointed President of the Maricopa Community Colleges Governing Board in 2014. During his time, he helped introduce a pathways program at many MCCCD schools, including SMCC. Before, students might leave the school with too many credits having not known what courses were necessary to move on to a university. For example, if 60 credits were needed, students oftentimes would reach upwards of 70 credits because they might have taken the wrong classes in order to transfer to a university in their desired field. Gutierrez also pushed forward policies honored at SMCC to allow access for DACA and DREAM Act students. His leadership of this issue ensured that these students were considered eligible for in-state tuition. This was met with resistance by the Arizona Supreme Court but the community colleges continued to fight back under Gutierrez’s leadership.
In the end, here is a man that gave a damn about the community around him. “It’s easier to choose ignorance,” Gutierrez said. “People don’t want to know what’s really going on. Knowing comes with responsibilities to take action.” To any degree, Alfredo Gutierrez has accomplished a lot. He has constantly fought for the rights of the people, whether it be women, the poor, minorities, DACA students, or the greater Phoenix community and the state of Arizona.
~ Student Researchers: Alfonzo Mendez-Diaz & Diego Lorenzana,