EDINBURG — The November city council races here are starting to take shape, with former Edinburg Police Chief David White now in the running for Place 4 against Mayor Pro Tem David Torres.
Place 3 — the seat Edinburg Councilman Homer Jasso Jr. will vacate in November — has drawn at least four candidates: Deanna “Coach” Dominguez, Juan “Johnny” Garcia, Carlos Jasso and Marc Roque.
White, however, is the only one who has so far challenged Torres, the sole incumbent on the ballot. But there is plenty of time for others to join the race.
White’s announcement is especially noteworthy because Edinburg City Manager Juan Guerra recently demoted him from chief to lieutenant based on unscientific studies.
His demotion was one of Guerra’s first moves as city manager. In November 2018, about a month into the post, Guerra determined White’s performance was “unsatisfactory” based on public safety rankings found on websites such as wallethub.com.
“It’s not for what I did; it’s for what I won’t do,” White said in no specific terms about his demotion. “I won’t put a black eye on my integrity. That’s the one thing I can take with me — my whole life doing the right thing — even if it hurts me.”
At the time, White was in his seventh year as chief of police. He began working for the department as a patrolman and SWAT member in 1991 and worked his way up to lieutenant and then chief.
“I’ve been with the city for 27 years now. I’ve seen the good and the bad in our city,” he said. “Our residents deserve a candidate who is dedicated to protecting their best interest, free of any political motives.”
Public office was not something White ever thought he would pursue, he said Thursday. But “right now our city is missing some credibility, independence and integrity.”
White earned an accounting degree from the University of Texas-Pan American (now UTRGV) in 2002, and as the current lieutenant of the Special Services Division, he is responsible for overseeing the department’s finances, including budgeting and procurement services.
“I’m toward the end of my career, and this is maybe the next step to give back to my community in a different role,” he said.
If elected, White would be forced to step down from his post, which he said he is prepared to do, given that he is already eligible to retire.
JUAN “JOHNNY” GARCIA
Garcia, a funeral director, embalmer and managing partner at Ceballos-Diaz Funeral Home in Edinburg, is seeking the Place 3 seat.
“I’m trying to bring a positive image to the city and help with the fiscal responsibility and spending,” he said Thursday.
Garcia is no stranger to politics, having run an unsuccessful campaign against Torres for the Edinburg school district in 2006.
“I’m not running against anyone in particular,” Garcia said about his second bid at office. “This is just about what I can bring to the table.”
Among that, is a keen eye on spending. He disagreed with the council’s purchase of several billboard signs that feature their faces in what amounts to a “Welcome to Edinburg” message.
“To me that’s a lot of money that is being spent that can be spent somewhere else,” he said. “I don’t think it’s about us, but more for the citizens and taxpayers that are paying this money.”
Garcia said he has strong ties to the community, having served on two of Edinburg’s boards: parks and recreation and chamber of commerce. He also volunteered as a basketball and softball coach for the Edinburg Boys & Girls Club.
“I’ve always been involved with the community,” the ordained minister said.
Garcia holds two associate degrees: one in theology from the International Apostolic Bible College in California and one in mortuary science from the Commonwealth Institute in Houston.
He is also a first responder with the Texas Disaster Team, and responded to the mass church shooting that left 27 dead in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in November 2017.
“I helped with the funeral services for nine of the victims — all from the same family,” he said. “I went to go help because I saw that the need was there. It’s better to serve than to be served.”
Carlos Jasso is not related to Jasso Jr., the current Place 3 council member, but he does want his seat.
“Given my background and experience in government, I think it’s a perfect fit for me,” he said Thursday.
Jasso began his career in public service circa 2004, when he interned for former U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa. He graduated two years later from the University of Texas-Pan American with a bachelor’s in economics and a minor in management, eventually parlaying that experience into various positions within Hidalgo County government, including its Precinct 2 office, Community Service Agency, Urban County and Precinct 4.
Jasso, who ran an unsuccessful bid for the school board in 2016, worked as a CSA accountant for about four years, where he oversaw budgets and assisted low-income resident with their utility bills.
He then moved on to Urban County to work as a program coordinator, managing Community Development Block Grants from the U.S. Department of Housing. During his tenure there, he forged partnerships with 18 different municipalities across the county and helped them obtain funding for libraries, drainage projects, public lighting and even computers for the Boys and Girls Club.
“I have a passion to serve,” he said. “I’m here to be that voice with experience.”
Jasso also worked as an accountant for Precinct 2 under former commissioner Hector “Tito” Palacios and current commissioner Eddie Cantu. And in March, he left his post as sanitation director for Precinct 4 Commissioner Ellie Torres, whose husband is Edinburg’s mayor pro-tem, to begin his own consulting firm. As sanitation director, he supervised 18 employees and worked closely with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
“I get along with people, and I want to make sure we can come together in unity for the betterment of the city,” he said. “Given the circumstances that the city of Edinburg is (in), it’s created a lack of public trust, and that’s the biggest challenge that we currently face.”
Roque appears to be a political newcomer, describing himself as a “young adult” and somewhat of an underdog.
“It is true that my campaign is going to be a “long-shot” one, but it doesn’t hurt to try,” he wrote in a Facebook post announcing his candidacy. “I’m running, because I want to have a seat on the table and express my thoughts, opinions and concerns on how we can make Edinburg a better place to live.”
Attempts to reach Roque for comment were unsuccessful.
Still, he swore off private interest and political consultants and vowed to run a clean campaign.
“I will not accept donations from people or companies who want me to do favors for them if I am elected,” he wrote. “I will not pay people to knock on doors or make phone calls for me. I want people to join my campaign who believe in my platform and my ideas, not on the size of my wallet.”
The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce ambassador said his bid was not an attempt to obtain a title or gain recognition, instead, he said, “I just want to better serve my city and its people.”