To The Editor,
After reading the letter to the editor that Council Member Nadine Smith recently wrote, one is led to believe that all the City Council does is attend meetings and take action on agenda items. Having served as a Council Member myself, I understand first hand that there is more that is involved. Most people, however, will not know or understand what I am referring to, unless they have been directly involved in city government.
In city government, City Council members routinely receive phone calls and emails from citizens, often times complaining about a problem or requesting assistance about a matter with the Town. If you serve, you expect these calls and emails. It is part of public service and serving the community. However, some City Council members do more than simply attend the monthly meetings and reply to those calls and emails. They take the initiative because they care about our community.
It is in this vein that I want to put the spotlight on Mayor Susie Houston – and rightfully so – because often times you will not find what I am about to share with you at a City Council meeting, in the newspaper, or in social media.
Before I describe the leadership of Mayor Houston, I want to give you a background of my relationship with her. When Rita Garcia ran against Susie Houston for Mayor, I publicly supported and campaigned for Rita. After Susie won, I had the pleasure of serving in the City Council with her. It was during my time as an elected official that I learned first-hand about the type of commitment and dedication that Houston brought to the position of Mayor.
In addition to presiding at meetings, the position of Mayor in most communities is an active one. It is not limited to attending City Council meetings or being present at community events. Read on social media, for example, how active the Brownsville Mayor is in his community. Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez regularly welcomes visiting dignitaries, testifies before committees, and serves as the top advocate before state and federal elected officials. The Rancho Viejo Mayor does the same. The SPI Mayor is no different. The same can be said for most Mayors.
It is also important to note that when state legislators want to know the position of the City on an issue, they don’t attend a City Council meeting, they pick up the phone and personally call the Mayor, or they meet with the Mayor. In the City government circles, this protocol is common.
Over 3 years ago, the City Council adopted a Resolution urging State Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. and then-State Representative Rene Oliveira to support legislation establishing a 2-mile boundary between Laguna Vista and Brownsville. With this Resolution, the City Council made its position publicly known on a land control issue.
But there was additional work that was done, outside of City Council meetings, to ensure our state legislators were fully aware of the City’s position on issues important to our community. After this Resolution was adopted, Mayor Houston met on a Saturday morning with Senator Lucio at Julia’s in Los Fresnos to formally advise him of this action and to address any questions he may have. She then traveled to Brownsville that same day to meet with then-Representative Oliveira for lunch to urge him to do the same. Mayor Houston was not required to meet with these state legislators. However, she took the initiative that Saturday morning because she felt it was important to our community.
Mayor Houston flew to Austin, on several occasions, to testify about this legislation. She needed to be present in the Capitol circles to reiterate the City’s position and to address any questions the legislators may have. On one specific, one-day trip, Mayor Houston ended up returning late on a Tuesday night, missing her granddaughter’s graduation.
Three months later, after one of the bills was approved by the House and Senate, and it was being referred to the Governor’s Office, then-Representative Oliveira called Mayor Houston on a Sunday morning to urge her to mobilize support for this bill at the Governor’s Offic,e as the word was out of the efforts to try to “kill” this bill. She spent all day at home calling people she knew for support throughout the Valley and up to the Corpus Christi area. I am aware of these efforts because she called me to do the same. A couple weeks later, the Governor Greg Abbott signed this bill into law.
Governor Abbott knew who Mayor Houston was because she, along with two other local Mayors, months earlier had joined him, his wife, and his mother-in-law at some of his re-election campaign events that he had in the Valley. Again, Mayor Houston did not need to attend these campaign events. But she felt it was important to establish a relationship with the Governor.
Over 2 years ago, elected officials from small cities attended a reception on a Thursday night in Weslaco to hear a presentation from the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) President Guy Bailey. At this meeting, the UTRGV Medical School Dean Dr. John H. Krouse accompanied the UTRGV President to this meeting. Mayor Houston attended this meeting because she wanted to know more about what UTRGV could do for our community. At this meeting, she told the President and the Medical School Dean about the vacant health clinic that was available at The Village (across City Hall/Roloff Park). Later, the Town Council took action to use CDC funds as incentives to UTRGV to open this much-needed clinic in Laguna Vista. UTRGV would not have known about the existence of this vacant health clinic had Mayor Houston not attended this meeting. The Town Council supported funding to bring this clinic to Laguna Vista, but it was Mayor Houston that planted the seed at that Thursday meeting.
The City Council supported these two projects, and their support was much needed and necessary.
But one has to wonder would this bill had become a law if the Mayor had not held those Saturday mornings meetings, had not testified, had not made those calls on a Sunday morning, had not attended those re-election campaign events? Would the health clinic be open now if the Mayor had not planted the seed at the meeting in Weslaco and made UTRGV aware of the opportunity to open one in Laguna Vista?
These initiatives I just described took place outside the confines of a regular meeting. I had to share them with you because they reveal the leadership of Mayor Susie Houston and how her efforts, along with the City Council’s support, resulted in their success.