Nine candidates in the running for Mission city council

MISSION — Voters here will decide several races this May as nine candidates will be on the ballots in two local elections.

One of the more anticipated races is for the office of mayor, in which incumbent Norbeto “Beto” Salinas will face fellow City Councilmember Armando O’Caña and business owner Jaime Gutierrez.

Salinas said he didn’t want to run again but felt there was much left undone.

“The reason we’ve been able to grow so much and able to be the city that we have right now is because I’ve been there so many years, and we’ve been able to get it done,” Salinas said. “Sometimes it’s in the best interest to stay there as long as you can.”

Among those ongoing projects are the Madero Bridge project and a $49 million road improvement project, Salinas said.

O’Caña previously criticized the project’s delays. Salinas, however, said the project was never delayed, and that the reason work on it hadn’t begun was due to an agreement with the City of McAllen to wait.

“The Madero project was a project that we took over and then worked out a deal with McAllen to build Anzalduas, and one of the agreements was that we would not do anything with Madero until later,” Salinas said, explaining that the cities didn’t want competition between the two bridges and would only move on the Madero project if they thought the bridge was necessary.

“We have to get the approval from the Anzalduas board so the Anzalduas board, including myself, decided to go ahead and move on it,” he said.

Gutierrez is a familiar challenger for the mayor’s post, as he ran unsuccessfully against Salinas in 2014 and then against O’Caña in 2016.

Originally from California, Gutierrez has lived in Mission since the mid-90s.

“I have the passion to serve our people,” Gutierrez said, “and I believe in giving back to our community.”

In vying to be the next mayor, Gutierrez said he hopes to push the city to be more global by opening up to other cultures and other cities.

“We’re living in a crucial time for our city,” he said. “We cannot afford to lose four more years because we cannot afford to go into the future thinking the same way. Our city is ready to grow at a faster pace, and I know that with my leadership and my vision, we can achieve it.”

O’Caña won re-election in 2016 but is now giving up his seat to join Gutierrez in challenging Salinas for mayor. A special election to replace O’Caña is scheduled for May 5.

Three men have filed to run for O’Caña’s seat, among them being Hidalgo city manager, Julian Gonzalez.

Gonzalez said he’s lived in Mission the entirety of his adult life and previously served on the city council.

“I have a very good understanding of how local government works and operates; I’m involved in the budget process and knowing every aspect of local government budgeting,” Gonzalez said. “I feel that I can contribute a lot to the community where I live.”

One of his opponents is John Guerra, an OB-GYN, who said he is running on a platform of integrity, transparency and diversity. He previously ran against Salinas in 2014. After his loss, he was appointed to the city’s Planning and Zoning Committee, which he’s served on for the last three-and-a-half years.

“Yes, there’s been some new subdivisions that have developed, but Mission doesn’t seem to be growing as fast and as profitable as the other cities here in Rio Grande Valley,” Guerra said. He felt that the next step from the committee was to serve on the city council and “speak up for the citizens of Mission.”

Also throwing his hat into the ring is Gustavo Martinez, an attorney who is running for office for the first time.

Martinez said he wants the city to prosper and feels its growth has lagged.

“That long of a regime doesn’t lead to anything progressive,” he said of the long tenures of some on the city council. “If you stay in office that long, what you’re really doing is just securing your own special interests. You’re not really looking after the city.”

Though it’s his first run for office, he has previously served on the Parks and Recreation Board and on the board for the Mission school district’s Education Foundation.

He stressed that he didn’t think the city was progressing as it should and needed to compete with its neighboring cities.

“I know taxes are low; I know that we’ve got five fire stations and we’ve got over a hundred cops,” he said. “But we can do more, we certainly can.”

City Councilmember for Place 3, Noralinda “Norie” Gonzalez Garza, is running unopposed while Jessica Ortega-Ochoa, councilmember for Place 1, is being challenged by Henry Rodriguez, owner of Tatan’s Barber Shop.