George PuentesCEO, Don Pancho Authentic Mexican Food
It has all the makings of an American story: Family tortilla factory grows to be one of the top Hispanic-owned businesses in the country. Brother-owner-CEO grows with the company, rising through leadership positions in his community and giving time and expertise toward nonprofits and civic boards. He offers employees education and guidance in starting up their own companies. It’s the story of George Puentes. And it seems tailor-made for a run at politics.
Oh, and did we mention he likes to speak his mind? “I’m not afraid of a whole lot of things and I’m not the kind of guy who can keep his mouth shut for too long,” Puentes says. Still, Puentes is coy about his political future. He did serve as a city council member in Salem in the mid-1990s, but he has no designs on another office just yet. “I’m approached a lot about it,” he says. Don’t rule it out, though. “We’re in a leadership drought. It’s worth considering,” he says. “If I’d go for anything, it would be for Congress.” Puentes has been a Bush supporter and steady, if modest, contributor to the Republican Party.
Meanwhile, Puentes, who is 59, is grooming people to take over Don Pancho. “I’m asking them to stay on top of what the food industry is doing and to keep getting better at their jobs. I kind of push people. That’s my job.” Until, that is, he begins work on the next chapter in the Puentes story.
— Oakley Brooks
Photo by Stuart Mullenberg