Mission appoints local pharmacist to city council

MISSION — The council unanimously appointed a local pharmacist Monday to replace Place 4 councilman Gus Martinez, who accepted a position as the new city attorney.

The council officially accepted Martinez’s resignation during Monday’s city council meeting, just before they named Alberto “Beto” Vela as his replacement.

Vela is the owner of TLC Pharmacy & Medical Equipment of Mission and is a land developer.

“He’s been in business and (an) investor here in the community for quite some time,” Place 2 Councilman Ruben Plata said about Vela. “He seems to be a very professional gentleman; I think he’ll do a good job serving in the city in that capacity.”

Plata, who made the motion to appoint Vela, chose Vela over other candidates because he believed he would be neutral and was very knowledgeable, he said.

Vela will finish out the rest of Martinez’s term on the Place 4 seat, which was originally occupied by now-Mayor Armando O’Caña.

O’Caña was re-elected as the Place 4 council member in May 2016, but in 2018 resigned to run for mayor. O’Caña and Martinez ran in a concurrent election and both won their seats.

However, Martinez then applied for the city attorney position following the departure of City Attorney Abiel Flores earlier this year.

The council previously approved a measure to hire Martinez for the job by a 3- 1 vote, with Martinez abstaining. O’Caña voted against it because he felt Martinez had made a commitment to finish out the term.

But Martinez said he would continue to serve the residents of Mission, just in a different capacity.

“I look forward to serving this city in, what I think will be, an equally serious capacity,” Martinez said during the meeting. “I look forward to working with the council, whom I consider friends and hopefully we can really do some good work from here on out.”

The vote to appoint Vela was unanimous, and Plata said a big factor in choosing him was that Vela said he would only serve until the end of the term and not seek re-election.

“The incumbent always has a competitive advantage,” Plata said, adding that he felt it would be unfair for those who wanted to run for the Place 4 seat in May 2020 if Vela ran.

O’Caña, however, said it was his constitutional right to run for the office if he wanted to.

“I’m not going to tell an individual not to run for government — if they qualify and they’re eligible,” O’Caña said.

The mayor said he was fully supportive of the appointment and believed Vela’s education, experience as a businessman, and background as a developer would be an asset to the council.

Vela was not present at the meeting and has yet to officially accept the position.