With primary races already underway for the 26th congressional seat, local businesswoman Veronica Birkenstock is the first Republican to challenge incumbent Michael Burgess.
For more than 20 years, Birkenstock has run her company Practical Employee Solutions and has been involved with congressional lobbying and organizing grassroots efforts. She contributed to and campaigned heavily for president Donald Trump and was even selected for his Department of Labor landing committee, though she said she had to step down because she had an established business relationship with him.
Practical Employee Solutions is a work-placement business for temporary foreign workers using the H-2B visa. The company’s story began in the mid-’80s when Birkenstock was a human relations director in a hotel in South Carolina. Housekeeping was so understaffed that management and kitchen staff were asked to help clean rooms, Birkenstock said. They simply couldn’t find people to take the temporary room service jobs during peak season.
Birkenstock arranged for foreign workers to come in, and the season was saved. Other hotels asked for help with the same problems, and eventually, making these arrangements grew into a full-time job, then its own company in 1996. The company has since expanded to serve several industries.
“It was crazy. We could not keep up with the growth. It was unbelievable,” she said. “You found a solution that’s going to save the industry, and it did for those who have a seasonal need or a peak-growth need.”
While placing foreign nationals in jobs may seem counter to the “America first” mantra, employers are legally required to actively seek out Americans to fill the jobs in question before offering them to foreign workers. Birkenstock said she views the program as a potential solution to illegal immigration by giving a path to legal employment.
“H-2B is actually the solution to the illegal problem. It can be done,” she said. “I’ve been doing it since 1996. It will work.”
After founding a company that regularly dealt with the departments of labor, state and homeland security, Birkenstock said she began regularly petitioning congress for more favorable federal regulations. She now says she spends two weeks out of the month in Washington D.C.
Birkenstock said she is running because she is dissatisfied with Congress’ inaction, specifically its inability to pass healthcare reform and apparent lack of a plan to do so despite seven years of preparation time. She also said current District 26 rep. Michael Burgess has been particularly difficult to work with over the years, and she decided to run specifically after an ugly encounter with him in December.
Birkenstock’s business relationship with Trump began when Trump hotel chains used her services to fill seasonal vacancies. She said that his “drain the swamp” message and passion for doing what is best for the U.S. resonated with her.
Burgess was first elected in 2002, never getting less than 60 percent of the vote in the general election. Four candidates have declared they will run against him as Democrats. Denton County Republican Party chair Lisa Hendrickson said she expects more Republican candidates to declare they will run against him and Birkenstock in the primary shortly.