Starr County Commissioner Eloy Garza appeared destined to cruise to re-election come November following an uncontested Democratic Primary win in March and given that no one filed to run for the office on the Republican ticket.
But this week, a local insurance agent decided to give Garza some competition by filing to run against him as a write-in candidate in the November general election.
Marissa Silva Sepulveda, the owner of Starr Insurance Agency in Sullivan City and a former employee for the county’s appraisal district, filed this week to run against Garza’s whose served as commissioner for precinct 3 for more than three decades.
Silva Sepulveda did not return requests for an interview as of press time.
Garza was first elected to the commission in 1985 and appeared confident he would be re-elected.
“I’ve been elected 10 times already,” Garza said.
“You can go back 100 years, no commissioner had left anything that would belong to the county,” he said.
“Nowadays, he said, there are several establishments and buildings in his precinct that belong to the county.
He also pointed out they have a rural health clinic that’s free for the community.
Garza recently received heavy criticism for voting against a proposed contract for then-Local Health Authority Dr. Jose Vazquez.
The contract, which would have raised Vazquez’s monthly pay from $500 to $10,000.
The proposal was voted down by a 4 to 1 with Starr County Judge Eloy Vera the sole vote in favor of the contract.
But in the aftermath, Garza took the brunt of the blame, mainly for being the one to suggest that the county, instead, replace Vazquez with another local physician, Dr. Antonio Falcon, who was willing to take the job for free.
Vazquez resigned upon the commissioners rejection of his contract and Falcon was sworn in as the new health authority last week.
The day of Vazquez’s resignation, a online petition was created, calling on people to vote Garza out of office. As of Thursday afternoon, about 1,300 people had signed the petition.
“I vote my conscience and I vote what’s right for the community and I’m here to do a job and take care of taxpayers’ money,” Garza said.
He said that on the Sunday before that commissioners court meeting, he received several phone calls asking about the contract.
“I told them I didn’t know anything about it, I hadn’t seen the agenda,” Garza said. “I don’t look at the agenda until I get to the commissioners court; when the item comes up in there, I’ll ask questions and I know what I have to do, how to vote. I don’t need anybody to tell me how to vote.”
Among the concerned callers was Falcon, Garza said, who offered his services at no cost.
“How can you go wrong by denying a contract when somebody wants $120,000 and somebody’s going to do it free of charge?” Garza said. “It’s nonsense.”
Vera, the county judge, told the commissioners taxpayers would not have carried the expense because Vazquez’s salary would been drawn from funds the county received from the federal coronavirus relief bill.
Looking towards the future, Garza he continued seeking his constituents support because there was much left to be done.
“Right now, at this point in time, we’re going to have $1 million for each commissioner to renovate all the county parks,” he said, “including equipment, playground equipment, water splash (pad), drainage projects.”
He also highlighted services for the community that he wished to continue such as street pavings, the food pantry, the food bank, and free meals for kids.
“There’s still a lot of things to be done in the future,” he said.