Looking back over the last five and a half years on Edinburg City Council, Alma Garza says her time here was always about voting with her conscience and having the community in mind.
Garza, who began her tenure in Nov. 2005, said she leaves Edinburg in a better place than when she arrived. The trademark of the long standing group of councilmembers was an emphasis on improving city facilities without raising taxes, which they accomplished. “That’s one thing I’m real proud of,” Garza said.
Garza will be replaced by banker Elias Longoria Jr., who won the spot on the Council following a hotly contested race against J. Chris Treviño, who is county commissioner Joseph Palacios chief of staff. Garza said the needs of family drove her not to seek a third term.
“We’ve done a good job improving services to our citizens. I think it (Edinburg) is a better place. We were always working hard,” she said. “One thing I learned during the service is that nothing is ever done easy and fast. It all takes time. I take pride in my relationship with the employees.”
Garza said she will look back fondly on the major projects completed during her time on the Council. Not long after she was appointed, the city broke ground on what was to become the Dustin Michael Sekula Library on Closner Blvd. Edinburg’s police station was completed during her time here, as was Fire station No. 4 on Canton Road.
“Edinburg has been lucky because we have weathered the recession. When I first came on I kept talking about smart growth, and it started real fast, we couldn’t keep up with it,” she said. “I think we have done well in accomplishing that. With the Shoppes, I-Shop Edinburg, all these things have sustained us.”
Including her time on the Council, Garza looks back on more than 25 years of working with the City. She began as a member of Edinburg Crimestoppers in the late 1980s. She is a former member on the board of Edinburg Community Development, Edinburg Junior Service League, and was the city representative on the Lower Rio Grande Development Council.
She currently serves on the board for Planning and Zoning, which she has done since she began on the Council.
“I want people to remember me by realizing that my vote was my own. I always tried to be consistent with that, whether it was the right or wrong decision, my vote was my own,” Garza said. “I also want to be remembered as someone who cared. As someone who listened to people, and tried to help people. Maybe it wasn’t about building a whole building, but it was the small tasks that mattered. They knew they could call me to get things done.”
City elections last week have potentially changed the dynamic of the Council. With Garza’s departure, and longtime councilmember Gene Espinoza’s loss to businessman Homer Jasso, voters have essentially swapped experience for the benefits of a new but inexperienced council, according to Espinoza.
“I will definitely be available if they need anything. We are going to have a very young council that has a lot of learning to do,” he said. “With my seniority, if they need any assistance they just need to call me, and I will be there to help them.”
Three-time incumbent Espinoza had served on the Council for the last nine years, and was often called the ‘construction guru’ by other councilmembers. At a campaign rally earlier this year, Garza called Espinoza a mentor during her time on the council.
Espinoza acknowledged that among all other councilmembers, he cited his professional relationship with Garza as the most significant.
“It was out of the respect we both had for each others decisions,” Espinoza said. “Make no mistake about it, there were times when we did debate, but I think it’s professional. We learned a lot from each other.
“She (Garza) was definitely an asset to the City Council,” Espinoza says. “The words she said were true and from the heart. Every decision she made, she had the residents at heart. She was just a hard working commissioner, all the way around.”