Edinburg’s new city manager: All hands on deck

EDINBURG — The new city manager’s vision remains the same, but his priorities have shifted as he prepares to take on a new role amid a national crisis.

Ron Garza, former executive director of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council, will officially begin working next week, but he’s already very much involved, he said Tuesday.

Garza has been in daily conference calls with interim City Manager Richard Hinojosa, Hidalgo County officials and the rest of the city’s leadership team as they work their way through the rapidly-evolving coronavirus pandemic.

And while there have been no positive cases confirmed in the Rio Grande Valley, contingency plans are already in motion.

On Tuesday, Garza joined Edinburg Mayor Richard Molina as he issued a local disaster declaration, keeping in line with Hidalgo County and a long list of South Texas cities.

“Do not go out if you don’t need to,” Molina told residents shortly after signing the document. “We want to stop this virus. We want to protect our residents, and we want to make sure our healthcare system is not overwhelmed.”

Garza echoed those sentiments and reassured the public that city services would not be disrupted, despite the declaration.

“Luckily, the operations of the city — those critical services like P.D., solid waste, fire — those will continue to be seamless,” he said. “No changes there.”

And as far as the change in leadership: “Quite honestly, this might be one of the easiest times to do it because (safety) is number one right now,” Garza said. “It’s really business as usual. They’ll just be reporting to somebody else for now. And we’ll start making improvements along the way.”

Garza said his previous position has prepared him to lead Edinburg through the uncertainty.

“I know elected officials and administrators from all across the region, so this has been really an asset to be able to keep in touch with all of the resources and make sure that we’re not left out of any opportunities or anything like that,” he said.

In the meantime, he is reviewing business continuity plans and keeping an open and positive mind.

“I think at the end of the day, addressing this issue is actually going to make us much more efficient in the long run,” he said. “It’s going to reframe the way we do general business. And I think one of the benefits is, we’re going to find some efficiencies that we didn’t even know we had.”

Still, there’s no denying that the new virus disrupted his plans for the city.

“Like I said, I was really focused on (capitalizing on) a lot of the opportunities,” he said. “Now we have one impending challenge that we need to make sure we address correctly, but we’ll get past it.