From Hot Metal To Top Job
Starting as a linotype operator in a hot metal shop, Richard Gonzales moved steadily upward to become director of the Kansas Division of Printing.
As a kid growing up in Topeka, Kan., Richard Gonzales got some sage advice from his father.
"My dad told me to learn a trade," recalls Gonzales, director of the Division of Printing for the Kansas Department of Administration. In those days, he says, the city's Hispanic citizens had limited options, and his father naturally wanted the best for him. So Gonzales did some thinking.
"I was in high school and they had a printing class, and I took it—and I really liked it," he says. His teacher, a "Mr. Gilbert," became the young Gonzales' mentor, helping him get his first job in printing, at a small hot metal operation called Ray's Printing.
"The hot metal was an exciting time," Gonzales recalls. "It was fun."
But it was also a dying art.
"I could kind of see the writing on the wall," Gonzales says, "so I went back to school."
Graduating from Pittsburg State University with a printing management degree, Gonzales then earned his masters in vocational education. His wife Sharon, pregnant with their first child, got her nursing degree at the same time, making this a busy period for both of them.
In 1974, Gonzales was hired as an administrative assistant in the Division of Printing. He advanced steadily through the ranks, and in 1988 he was appointed State Printer by the governor. Ironically, his old high school teacher had tried unsuccessfully for the position a few years before, when it had been an elected office.
Since 1988, Gonzales has served three governors from both parties. His main task, he says, has been keeping the operation competitive. Agencies can get bids from the private sector, and if the Division of Printing can't beat those prices, it loses that work.