It was a mission accomplished for the city of Mission, which received the All-America City Award from the National Civic League over the weekend.
The league announced 10 winners Sunday from among 20 finalists, which also included the city of Edinburg.
The finalists traveled to Denver for the weekend to make presentations before a jury panel to make a case for why their community deserved the All-America City designation. The presentations from each city included skits, music, dancing and testimonials from residents.
For this year’s award, the National Civic League placed an emphasis on creating healthy communities through inclusive civic engagement.
Mission’s 25-minute presentation highlighted their Mission Pawsible Program — an animal shelter — their “Best Blessings” boxes that serve as mini outdoor pantries placed throughout the community, and their tennis program for the visually impaired, the only program of its kind in the Valley.
Carmina Alejandro, a woman whose son participated in the program, spoke of the benefits of the program before the judges, praising it for the huge impact it had on her family.
“I’m thankful to the city for making the impossible possible for my son,” she said.
In a news release issued Monday, Doug Linkhart — the president of the National Civic League — praised the city for its civic engagement.
“We are happy to designate Mission as an All-America City,” Linkhart stated. “They showed us today that they do a great job of engaging the whole city in creating a healthier community.”
In the same statement, Mission Mayor Armando O’Caña praised the 20-member delegation that made the presentation on behalf of the city.
“I am overflowing with civic pride for our entire community,” O’Caña stated. “Our city of Mission delegation poured their heart and soul into this competition and made history — bringing home the first ever All-America City title for our great city.”
The distinction comes at a time of mourning for the city following the death of one of their police officers Thursday night.
Cpl. Jose Luis “Speedy” Espericueta was killed responding to a call of an armed man. The ensuing exchange of gunfire between the suspect and the responding officers resulted in the deaths of both Espericueta and the suspect.
O’Caña said the city dedicated the award to Espericueta, who “was in our thoughts and prayers throughout this competition.”
As a part of the presentation, Mission City Councilwoman Jessica Ortega-Ochoa noted that the city’s crime rate had fallen by 20% last year.
“But even the safest communities experience tragedy,” Ortega Ochoa said.
“Two nights ago, we lost our friend and hero, Cpl. Speedy Espericueta in the line of duty as he was protecting our community,” she said before the panel. “Even though we are here, our hearts are back home with our community. It is more important now more than ever that we honor our city as an All-America City.”
City Manager Randy Perez stated he was grateful for the award and the attention it would bring to the city.
“Winning the All-America City award shines a national spotlight on the incredible work and progress taking place in Mission,” City Manager Randy Perez stated. “We are honored and proud to bring this title home to our city, especially during this difficult time.”
He further stated, “It takes a community and we brought this home in honor of Cpl. Espericueta.”