The path to Poughkeepsie from Tyler was a 30-year journey for an easygoing East Texan turned upstate New York state senator.
“Growing up in Tyler gave me opportunities to try many different things,” he said in a recent interview.
Lydia Gipson, the senator’s mother, said she doesn’t agree with her son’s politics, but opposing political persuasions don’t dampen a mother’s pride.
“I’m a Republican, and he’s a Democrat. We don’t talk politics,” she said. “But he believes in what he is doing and is passionate about it, and that is what matters to me.”
Gipson has been a hard worker since a young age, Mrs. Gipson said. He started a landscaping company and worked odd jobs as a teen, she said.
His first career choice was land surveying, which he began studying at Tyler Junior College. But he still was trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. His mother prompted him to try theater.
He was drawn to lighting and set design.
After graduating college at Texas Tech and receiving his master’s of fine arts from Penn State, Gipson worked for numerous theater groups before landing a job with Viacom in New York City.
“The rest is, as they say, ‘history,’” he said. “The theater department at TJC really launched my career and got me to New York in the first place.”
“He came in and said, ‘Hey I can do this. How can I help,’ and he’s always been that kind of guy,” he said.
Crawford said he can see how Gipson, the “epitome of the easy going Texan,” could rise from representing his home town to a senate district. He said Gipson is a good man with a good heart and lives by the honor code rooted in his East Texas upbringing and Eagle Scout training.
Gipson said his career climb was based on an ingrained interest in doing something exciting, fulfilling and challenging, something he could apply his perspective to.
“If you would have said five years ago that I was going to be a state senator, I would have said, ‘You’re crazy,’” he said. “But I think that ability to apply my passion and put my ideas to work fit into politics.”
Party affiliation is something Gipson said he is not comfortable with. He said the Republican and Democratic parties don’t represent most people completely, but he is most aligned with Democrats, particularly on social and environmental policy. He said having an open mind and doing what’s right should be the hallmark for a politician.
Gipson said he became intrigued by government after becoming involved in local matters and because he, friends and family were having difficulty reaching the next step of the socioeconomic ladder. He said New Yorkers and Americans should have better opportunities than the generation before them and that he began to see that dream slipping away.
Now he legislates in Albany to change the way government operates.
Gipson has proposed the “Vampire Voting Bill,” outlawing voting on most legislation between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. The law would place no restrictions on debate or voting on rules or procedures, generally considered housekeeping items. He said restricting late-night votes would make the process more open to the public and politicians more accountable.
“There’s still a lot of Texan in me, deep in my heart, and it has a lot to do with how I think,” he said. “Hard work and being around the people who instilled that in me started in Tyler.”