What to expect from our newly elected Mayor and City Commissioners.
Three newly elected officials have taken their positions for the first time. What can we expect from them? Let’s take a look.
McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos
Mayor Villalobos, with 23 years experience working as City Attorney for small cities, decided to run for mayor when Mayor Jim Darling announced his retirement.
“I knew what to expect and what to do, so I feel comfortable after serving as City Commissioner for District 1,” Villalobos said.
With a long agenda of priorities he would like to accomplish, he has jumped in feet first.
“The city will work on keeping taxes low, a high priority for many of our citizens, though we have no control over how the appraisal district assesses property.”
Anxious to rejuvenate the downtown area, Villalobos will propose an increase in the budget for the downtown area and be more aggressive in breathing new life to the area, checking into architectural criteria, and finding more room for parking.
Drainage is another item on his list as well as continuing to work with government officials to handle the immigration situation currently overwhelming the area.
A major goal is to be more proactive in taking more control of development versus waiting for development to demand infrastructure. Also, on his order of business is to push for more progress in mixing commercial and residential zones.
“Today in McAllen, we’re old fashioned in keeping commercial and residential apart,” said Villalobos. “Younger people are more interested in the mixed areas of the two where they can leave home and walk to stores, restaurants, and grab a cup of coffee without having to drive everywhere.”
A plus he sees happening is the news media stepping up and talking about McAllen being a safe place to live.
“Several matters start here, I wish they didn’t, but then they end up in the north. I think we’re pretty safe.”
Grateful to McAllen Chamber Members, he believes it’s the best chamber around.
“We’re glad to assist and fund our Chamber because we know how effective and efficient it is and we’re going to keep on doing it.”
He has found that to do a good job for the city, you must put in the time.
“So, I am,” he smiled. “Do I regret it? Not at all.”
City Commissioner District 1
Tony Aguirre has been on the Public Utilities Board for the last 27 years and has a deep attachment to the well-being of McAllen.
“I’ve always been in development and have done a development or two every year for the last 15 years in Mission, Edinburg, Pharr, and McAllen,” Aguirre said. “I love to see a piece of land I have developed become a park with a neighborhood. I just love it!”
Seeing the change in elected officials coming up, wanting to keep fluency in city government, and after having COVID-19 last year, Aguirre decided to run for District 1.
“I know I can do a good job as a City Commissioner. I enjoy public service,” he said.
With his background in public works, Aguirre shares one of his goals with the Mayor – infrastructure.
“There are drainage projects that need to be completed and a few more that need to be added. Our drainage problem is driven by exterior problems in our county. Gravity causes water to flow from west to the east, not to the river. The cities west of us have to deal with drainage problems in order not to interfere with our drainage into the floodway system.”
Another goal for Aguirre, besides finishing the Bicentennial street, and widening Freddie Gonzales, Taylor, and Bentsen Roads, is our availability for all citizens – young, middle aged and seniors – to have avenues of interest that create a good quality of life such as the performing arts.
“We have done a lot, but I think we could do even more,” he emphasized. “I’m a small businessman. I believe we should enhance private businesses’ ability to do business and we must be here to help development. I will be working for McAllen to be a friendlier city to the development community.”
Though the first few months have been difficult, Aguirre is enthused about the prospects of this city he cares so deeply about.
Pepe Cabeza de Vaca,
City Commissioner District 6
Pepe Cabeza de Vaca has always been involved in McAllen in a variety of ways.
Starting in the business community more than 20 years ago, Cabeza de Vaca entered the nonprofit world sitting on boards of different organizations, all within the City of McAllen. He also originated the local magazine, Socialife, in 2004 believing others should know of the vibrant life of the Valley.
“That gave me a knack and pulse of the city,” Cabeza de Vaca said.
Taking on positions with county commissioners made Cabeza de Vaca realize he wanted to get more involved and decided to run for Commissioner.
Infrastructure, like the others, is part of his top priority with drainage being the most important.
“We need to make sure the water gets out to guarantee mobility of our citizens and keep the vectors, mosquitos, snakes, etc., from causing potential problems,” he said.
Part of his vision is to make the drainage systems linear parks for people to walk along, lining them with native plants for easy maintenance and making a more sustainable community.
Next, he would like to work on the park system, creating a component of inclusiveness in every park in his district and the entire city.
Watching a young boy sit in a wheelchair while he watched his siblings play with no place for him struck a nerve in Cabeza de Vaca.
“I think it is part of our job to make sure every single citizen can use our parks,” he said.
Safety is a major goal of Cabeza de Vaca.
“The Mayor and Commissioners are happy that in our first few weeks of being elected, we struck a deal with our first responders – the police force and firefighters – and all parties are happy. We want them to look out for all the citizens of McAllen.”
Looking thoughtful, he finished the interview.
“Everything we do in the City of McAllen will impact the life of the people. We will strive for the best city possible. That’s our job.”