Voters will have to wait until November to decide who will sit on the Rio Grande City commission as city leaders agreed Wednesday to follow state guidelines, which call for the postponement of the May elections to prevent further spread of COVID-19.
Up for re-election are Mayor Joel Villarreal, and Commissioners Rey Martinez and Dave “Chachi” Jones in places 2 and 4, respectively.
Villarreal is facing two challengers for the mayor’s seat — Rosbell “Ross” Barrera, a retired Army colonel who now serves as the Starr County Republican Party chair; and Jay Peña, an attorney and business owner who unsuccessfully ran against Villarreal twice, are both vying for the mayoral post.
Rey Ramirez, the athletic director for the Rio Grande City school district, is running for re-election against Alvaro Iglesias, an insurance agent.
Jones, a bail bondsman, is being challenged by Alberto Escobedo, owner of Esco Spa and Salon.
Earlier this week, the Roma City Council also voted to postpone their special election in May, which was scheduled so that citizens could decide on proposed charter amendments.
The Roma City Council unanimously agreed during a special meeting Monday to push the election from its May date due to concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.
“ As we can see, the recommendation of the governor’s office, as well as the secretary of state, that all local elections — municipal and school district, water districts, etc. — be postponed until November or to a future date,” Mayor Roberto A. Salinas told the city council during Monday’s meeting.
“ The reasons are obvious,” Salinas said. “Right now, state officials as well as our local officials, city officials, are preoccupied with the response to the COVID-19 outbreak.”
The charter amendments set to be decided during their special election included requiring only a simple majority vote by the council — instead of a super-majority vote — to hire and fire the city manager.
Another possible change would allow a former mayor or council member to hold a “compensated appointive office” or be employed by the city after one year of the expiration of the term for which they were elected or appointed
Additionally, another amendment would provide that special city council meetings shall be held at the call of the mayor or two of the council members.
Postponement of the election was not met with any public resistance from the council members, even though the initial decision in February of when to schedule the election was a divisive one.
During that February meeting, councilmember Clyde Guerra voted to have the election in November but was out-voted by councilmembers Jose G. Cantu, Joel Hinojosa and Gilberto Ramirez who opted to have it in May.
Salinas, the mayor, was absent from that meeting but had previously stated he preferred to hold the election in November.
Following Monday’s vote, Salinas addressed the public to stress the dangers of the coronavirus.
“We cannot stress enough how serious the matter is,” Salinas said during Monday’s meeting. “This virus is extremely contagious and all these measures that we are taking are intended to try to prevent an outbreak here in our community.”