Mission councilman changes mind about running; announces candidacy

Mission City Councilman Alberto “Beto” Vela has announced his intentions to seek election to continue serving on the council in the position he was appointed to last year.

Vela, 44, is a local pharmacist and owner of TLC Pharmacy & Medical Equipment and Apple Pharmacy, which has locations in McAllen and Mission.

“It has been an honor to represent my hometown community in this capacity, and I feel that I have much more to contribute to the growth, progress, and development of Mission,” Vela stated in a news release. “Though I have served as councilman for less than a year, being a public servant is a responsibility that I have taken very seriously.”

He was appointed to the Place 4 position in May 2019 by the city council to replace outgoing Councilman Gus Martinez, who was hired as the city attorney.

However, it was current Mayor Armando O’Caña who was initially elected for the position’s 2016-20 term.

O’Caña was re-elected to the seat in 2016 but in 2018 he successfully ran for mayor, ousting long-term Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas.

During that 2018 election, there was also a special election to replace O’Caña during which Martinez was elected.

Martinez, however, resigned from the council to become the city attorney following the departure of City Attorney Abiel Flores in early 2019.

Vela was sworn in on May 29 at city hall.

In the moments following the ceremony, he said he was not interested in running for the position in 2020.

“I’m only going to do it for this year just to kind of help them bridge and then let them get someone (else),” Vela said, explaining he had a lot of responsibilities.

“I got the nine stores, I got a lot of real estate, stuff that I do,” Vela said, adding that tending to his family is one of the things he needed to focus on.

“I just want to do it as a test run but a test for 10 years later when I’m retired,” he said, “because I still work about 60 hours a week.”

When asked why he decided to run after all, Vela said Friday that many people reached out to him asking him to run and, though he was reluctant, felt he could provide a middle-ground perspective on the council.

“I got a lot of calls from a lot of people that I don’t really talk to but apparently they see that … they just like my side of thinking,” he said.

“I wanted to just help the community, I’ve been here all of my life,” he said.

In regard to how his duties on the council affected his other responsibilities, Vela acknowledged the council was very demanding.

He noted he had a son with special needs but said his top priority was ensuring his responsibilities to his family would not be affected.

“I still do my part at home,” he said.

While his businesses do need him, Vela said he’s always on the move and likes to keep busy.

Councilman Ruben Plata said last year that he voted in favor of appointing Vela because Vela had assured he would only serve until the end of the term and not seek election to stay on.

“The incumbent always has a competitive advantage,” Plata said at the time, 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.

However on Friday, Plata said he was glad that Vela had changed his mind and was running.

“He can really contribute to the benefit of our community,” Plata said. “He’s a good asset for our city.”

He added that Vela was transparent and said he was supporting him 100%.

Plata also credited Vela for plans to convert Lions Park to the city’s first all-inclusive park, referring to Vela as the catalyst for the efforts to make the park accessible to people with disabilities.

Vela, himself, said the park was an example of the types of things he could contribute as part of the council — issues that might not necessarily be at the forefront of the minds of the other council members.

“It is important and it is centrally located and just to show that we are trying to move and be more inclusive and let everybody have a voice including all people with disabilities,” Vela said. “And that’s just a different angle that maybe some politicians have never thought of.

“I’m still very new to this and I don’t know the exact goings on but I try to do my best, and you know that I always have the citizen’s interest in mind, first and foremost.”