As the Edinburg CISD bid farewell to Superintendent Gilbert Garza Jr. Tuesday night, newly named Superintendent Dr. Rene Gutierrez was already on hand to begin the transition process.

Garza announced his retirement earlier this school year, after serving the school district for 32 years — three of those as superintendent for the school district.

The school board recognized Garza for his service to the district, as an educator, and presented him with a plaque that read:

For his contribution to the legacy of learning: yesterday, today and tomorrow. By serving the Edinburg CISD for the past 32 years our fondest wishes for a rewarding well deserved retirement.

“You have been a great mentor and a great friend,” said ECISD Board president Omar Palacios, as he presented Garza with the plaque. “The lives that you touched and the difference you made in this district . . . any kind of award would not compare to everything that you have done for us.”

It was an emotional time for Garza, as he held back tears and tried to say a few words. “It is hard to leave half of your life, and the family you have grown to be with,” he said. “The hardest point in my career was to address the staff of my retirement to spend time with my family.”

Garza said he would continue to serve the community and offered his services as a private citizen during the transition. “I have my five children and 35,000 more that will continue to be a part of this school system, which I acknowledge is the best district in the nation,” he said.

After a standing ovation from the crowd, Garza accepted the plaque and hugged every board member. President Palacios then formally introduced Gutierrez, who comes to the district from the La Joya ISD where he served as assistant superintendent for administration and finance.

“I can’t remember in recent history when a search for superintendent has brought on so much controversy and doubt from all angles,” Palacios said.

After the announcement of the new superintendent, members of the community voiced their concerns over Gutierrez’ experience. Palacios said Gutierrez has the finance forte, but many in the community wondered if he would be able to handle the curriculum.

“I think he is going to make a good superintendent and will be able to handle both the financial sector and curriculum sector,” he said.

Gutierrez said his first order of business will be to get to know the staff and familiarize himself with the different departments in the district, as well as the programs that the district has.

Gutierrez said he feels very fortunate to have been selected as the new superintendent, “my background and education have prepared me be superintendent of this district this size,” he said.

In his last school board meeting, Garza said he felt the same way he did when attended his first meeting. “It was business as usual, I feel like we have accomplished a lot in the past three years,” he said.

During Garza’s tenure, the school district created several educational programs as well as the construction of several new projects such as the new Technology Building, Fine Arts facilities for all of the three Edinburg high schools and groundbreakings for several renovation projects.

“I feel really good about leaving the district with a sense of progress that has been made,” he said. Garza then said the school board deserved the credit for supporting administration and for being visionaries. “They are visionaries for not only looking at what is needed right now, but what will be needed years from now,” he said.

Garza’s last day as superintendent is set for June 30, Gutierrez will begin his duties as the new superintendent July 1.