Mercedes moves interim city manager into permanent position

The Mercedes City Commission passed up about 20 city manager applicants, deciding Wednesday to instead make an internal move.

In unanimous decision, the commission appointed Sergio Zavala as city manager. Zavala had been serving as interim city manager since September 2017, when the commission fired then-City Manager Daniel Tijerina after only two months at the helm.

Since then, the city had been accepting applicants for the city manager position, drawing in about 20, including the interest of former South Padre Island City Manager William DiLibero, former Donna City Manager Oscar Ramirez, former San Benito assistant City Manager Arturo “Art” Rodriguez and others.

Instead, they went with Zavala, 60, who served as assistant city manager and planning director before serving as city manager in the interim.

“The entire staff is very pleased with him because of his attitude, his demeanor, his leadership,” said Mayor Henry Hinojosa. “He’s a hard worker. I mean, this guy doesn’t end (his work day) at 5 p.m.”

Zavala worked for the city of Mission for 28 years, most recently as planning director, before retiring. He came out of retirement last year after being approached by Tijerina, who hired him in Mercedes.

Zavala, at first, was not interested in the permanent city manager position but had a change of heart.

“The more I did the job, the more that I liked it,” he said.

The city will pay him $131,248.08 annually plus benefits, Zavala disclosed, calling it “fair” for Mercedes’ size.

In comparison, Weslaco’s city manager, who oversees a larger city with more staff, is paid $180,000 annually.

“Being able to work with Mr. Zavala has been a pleasure,” said Commissioner Ruben “Chano” Guajardo. “His work demeanor means a whole lot to our community.”

The city and Zavala did not enter into a contract.

“The more that I do this job, the easier it gets,” Zavala said.