CITY OF McALLEN LEADERS SHARE THEIR STORIES ABOUT McALLEN, AND THEIR TRIUMPHS & GOALS

Mayor Jim Darling
Mayor Darling graduated high school in Rochester, New York, went into the Air Force, completed two tours in Vietnam, flew 133 missions in C47s, and acquired a psychology degree before graduating from law school at Baylor.

He held various jobs from high school on before becoming an attorney working in a lumber yard, a dock for a carbon paper factory, as a mason’s helper, at a VA facility, and was part of a roofing crew. He served as McAllen Assistant City Attorney, McAllen City Attorney, attorney for Fulbright & Jaworski in Houston, and for Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, then McAllen City Commissioner and McAllen Mayor.

Mayor Darling would like to make sure the city is providing quality jobs to match the quality education students are receiving.

He would also like to provide our community with a great quality of life.

“We’re really concentrating on ‘Let’s Ramp It Up!’ with SpaceX coming,” Mayor Darling said.

Another focus would be changing the GED rules on job applications. “If they’re qualified, hire them and then help them get that GED,” Darling emphasized.

Another important focus is helping the City Commissioners become more involved on boards and working on projects from the ground up.

“We had two successful bond issues in my first five years and now we have a performing arts center, new roads, and we’re solving drainage problems,” the Mayor said. “We annexed more property so now McAllen is 27 miles long and has zoning for multi-family housing. To me the future is building the future – quality of life, education and opportunity to turn that education into meaningful employment.”

Javier Villalobos, District 1
Commissioner Villalobos graduated from Southwest Texas State (now Texas State) University with a business degree concentrating in accounting, and then completed law school.

After law school, Villalobos began private general practice concentrating on governmental work and representing such clients as schools and cities.

He has continued improvements in traffic operations and improvements in revitalizing the older parts of town.

Villalobos will work to modify the McAllen Economic Development Corporation and work more with small businesses.

He continued to help finish the completion of the Auburn St. connection from Main St. to 10th Street. “Finishing that road was one of the best things that could have happened to this area,” said Villalobos. He would like to be involved in instituting a good, tight budget.

“I do believe we have a good working commission whose members are all doing what is best for our city,” said Villalobos.

Joaquin J.J. Zamora, District 2
Commissioner Zamora graduated from McAllen High School and attended the University of Texas where he was a Longhorn band member. He then received his law degree from Texas Tech University School of Law.

Zamora became a licensed attorney for the State of Texas and for 21 of his 22 years practicing law, has worked in the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s office.

He would like to ensure the completion of the parking garage at the McAllen Police Department, and making sure McAllen is on time and schedule with completing the drainage projects.

“We want to make sure our citizens have minimal fear about their homes flooding,” said Zamora.

Commissioner Zamora would also like to continue working with our legislators, congressmen, and U.S. Senators on having the Anzalduas Bridge funded, and continue seeking out additional entertainment opportunities, either festivals, events, or concerts to further the quality of life in McAllen.

“We’ve held additional town hall meetings, been connected to our district and I feel the constituents feel they are talking to a neighbor, not necessarily a City Commissioner.” Zamora said.

Omar Quintanilla, District 3
Commissioner Quintanilla graduated from Mission High School, then from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio with a degree in business, majoring in finance.

Working with Frost Bank since graduation, this year will mark his 22nd year with the Bank, currently Senior Vice-President/Relationship Manager of Commercial Accounts. He has served as Chairman of the Community Development Board for three of the six years serviced and was also on the Library Advisory Board with a turn as president. Quintanilla is a member of the Leadership McAllen Class 20.

He would like to continue to make the city more transparent and help more with the beautification of the city, like the project at Ware Road and Vine.

One of his goals is to continue vetting various project in the hopes of making McAllen more competitive to increase our tax base, with the goal of keeping our taxes low.

Another of Quintanilla’s interests is to improve Las Palmas Community Center and its surrounding area. “Working on the budget has been one of the things I’ve contributed to the most; being a part of overseeing and managing a third of a billion dollars on an annual basis,” Quintanilla said.

Tania Ramirez, District 4
Born and raised in the Valley, Tania graduated from Sharyland High School. She attended St. Mary’s University and Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio and obtained a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a minor in Spanish.

After college she moved to Lansing, Michigan.  During law school, Ramirez did her Externship at the Washtenaw County Public Defender’s Office, representing indigent defendants, primarily minorities in the State of Michigan.  She graduated top of her class from Western Michigan University Cooley Law School in September 2015. 

After returning home to the Valley she joined the Hidalgo County Criminal District Attorney’s Office in 2016 and served as an Assistant District Attorney in the Intake, Misdemeanor, and Felony Departments.  After about two and half years in public service, she ventured out on her own and opened the Tania Ramirez Law Group specializing in criminal, family, immigration, and personal injury law. 

Now as sitting commissioner for District 4, Ramirez has been focusing on improving the quality of life for South McAllen. Some of her projects include improving street lighting, sidewalks, and parks. 

“Refresh 50-50 is an initiative by the city I was able to extend to my district. This is a program where a business owner can upgrade their property and split their cost with the city,” Ramirez explained.

Victor Sebastian “Seby” Haddad, District 5
Commissioner Haddad graduated from McAllen ISD and then from St. Edwards University in Austin where he obtained his computer information systems (CIS) degree.

He started his career in New York City working in television and audio production, he moved back to McAllen and has been with Lone Star National Bank ever since. Having an entrepreneurial spirit, Haddad also has a long history of being a small business owner in McAllen, owning bars and restaurants, and subdivision developments, and being part of a local small tech start-up, GrainChain Inc.

One of his main goals is to expand the promotion of small business and continued growth of the city.

“We’re going to maintain the vitality of the city and continue to attract new businesses to McAllen,” Haddad said.

He would like to ensure McAllen’s ability to compete for new opportunities, considering the USMCA (United Sates-Mexico-Canada Agreement).

“We need to always look at what our infrastructure needs are going to be in five to ten years,” Haddad said. “If we establish that infrastructure, we will enable our growth.”

“The city must also pay attention to animal control issues and plan how to mitigate the region’s long-standing problems.”

Haddad also mentioned that the city must streamline and improve the application process for businesses.

Veronica Whitacre, District 6
Commissioner Whitacre was born and reared in McAllen, attended Our Lady of Sorrows School, then McHi. She received her first degree in Sociology at the University of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio, and her second degree in Elementary Education 1st-8th, at Pan American University (now UTRGV).

After being Executive Director of Comfort House, she worked for IDEA Schools until taking her current position as Executive Director of Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) of Hidalgo County.

Whitacre would like to continue to work on the transparency, communication, and information technology for our constituents and would like to partner with Habitat for Humanity and Keep McAllen Beautiful to choose 15 to 25 houses in her district to help clean and upgrade.

Another of Whitacre’s goals is to continue work on the drainage and other citywide projects that are currently in the works.

She is pleased that all the district sidewalks and potholes have been improved. Trash cans are now alongside benches and there are canopies, call boxes, and water fountains along the 2nd Street trail. La Vista Park, Farmer’s Park, the dog park and Travis tennis courts have all been upgraded.

“I have Book Nooks in my district’s parks where partners give me used and new books every six to eight weeks,” Whitacre said. “Those books go!”