Manuel Alvarez had to leave his home country as a teen but worked hard to overcome many challenges.
RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) -
Imagine being told as a teen you must leave your family and go live in a foreign country. That's exactly what happened to a local lawmaker in Goochland County, who says the road to his current position hasn't been easy.
Manuel Alvarez, Jr. was only 14 when he left his native country of Cuba on June 30, 1968. That's a date he says he'll never forget.
"I was escaping a communist country," he says. "I think anybody who has children would understand how difficult it is to put a child on an airplane and send them to a foreign country. [My parents] knew that was the only way that we would be successful."
Alvarez's entire family eventually escaped Cuba and settled in Richmond, then Goochland County.
One of five children, Alvarez graduated from college and then went on to work for Altria for more than two decades. After Alvarez retired from Altria, his work wasn't over. On November 8, 2011, he was elected to the board of supervisors in Goochland County. He now represents District 2.
During an interview, 8News Anchor Ava-joye Burnett asked Alvarez, "Do you remember what it was like when you first stepped in then and [realized] you're one of the Board of Supervisors?"
"It was pretty scary," Alvarez responded. "First meeting sitting out there and having this room almost full... it's pretty scary."
Alvarez says one of his main focuses now is to bring more internet access to his district - especially for students.
"You look at what they can accomplish in the schools... it's terrific," he says "When they go home, they're handicapped because they don't have the internet availability that they need to do their homework."
Alvarez was recently elected the Chairman of the Board. He's also on the committee of the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission. The commission focuses on transportation needs in the metro region.