Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Edinburg Mayor Joe Ochoa will be honored today for their years of public service by the National Association of Latino Elected & Appointed Officials (NALEO).

NALEO will be holding it’s first ever visit to the Valley at the Social Club in Edinburg. The group marks the start of its “South Texas swing” at the special event honoring the two Valley leaders.

Along with the Valley Democratic Party, NALEO executive director Arturo Vargas, boardmembers and staff are all slated to attend the event, according to ECISD Board trustee Robert Peña Jr., a NALEO member and Board candidate.

“Really they just wanted to come in to the Valley, they have never been down here, and let everyone know that as a national organization for Latino elected officials and others, they are here,” Peña said.

At the event, NALEO will also announce their activity and participation in the upcoming 2010 Census. The organization will be “pushing hard” for the Census, which can mean increased federal dollars, grants, and Congressional seats for the area, according to Peña.

“We are hoping that by their exposure and participation in the Valley that would excite and get more people to get involved in the Census,” Peña said. “NALEO as an organization wants to elevate the exposure of the Valley towards that.”

NALEO is a non-partisan leadership organization comprised of more than 6,000 Latino elected and appointed officials. To date, it’s presence has been focused primarily on major markets for Latinos like Los Angeles, where the organization is currently headquartered.

Peña said he played a role in NALEO’s first ever visit to the region.

“NALEO as organization is always focused on the major markets for Latinos such as Los Angeles, Dallas, Washington D.C., and Miami and since joining I have continued to insist that they visit southern Texas,” Peña said.

“As an organization, their answer to me was basically they had never been invited. Now the invitation is there and we are opening our doors to them. They themselves are responding in recognizing our local elected officials,” he said.