McALLEN — A retired Air Force captain and the former dean of business, public safety and technology for South Texas College has thrown his hat into the ring for the District 3 seat.
Mario Reyna, 66, said Thursday he’s ready to use his 19 years of experience in the military and 23 years in the world of academia to make McAllen a better place to live.
“I love this place. I wanna see it prosper, and I know the McAllen community very well,” Reyna said about his first bid for office. “So I wanna make sure that we continue to do well as a community.”
Reyna, who was born in Mission, enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1976 at the age of 21. He was initially stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and then moved to Corpus Christi, where he served as a recruiter from 1983 to 1985. He was commissioned later that year and sent to Loring Air Force Base in Maine. From there, he was transferred to several bases, including Zaragoza Air Base in Spain and Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, before finishing his career as a captain in Florida.
“So I have this vast amount of experience that I can share with the community,” he said about his leadership roles in the military.
In September 1996, Reyna arrived at STC, where he initially served as the Director of Business — though he notes his position dealt with the instructional programs rather than the college’s business dealings. Reyna spent 23 years working there, until his retirement last year as the dean of business, public safety and technology.
“I have gone to some of the best schools in the country. I graduated from the University of La Verne in California with a bachelor of science in business management; I have a master’s in public administration from Webster University. So I have the right experience,” he said. “I was a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force, so I have been given a tremendous amount of education, and I want to share that experience with the community.”
Reyna said his time with the college has given him tremendous insight into much of the Rio Grande Valley.
“I was very much involved with the economic development that goes on from Mercedes all the way to Starr County because that was my role,” Reyna said. “McAllen is doing great, but I think we need to make sure that the business community is being taken care of.”
And while he’s happy with the city’s current condition, there’s some specific areas he would like to focus on, including solidifying McAllen as a destination city.
“Do we have the assets in the city to make sure that people don’t fly over us to go to San Antonio or Houston or Dallas? We need people to stay here,” he said. “When you become a destination city, then you have attractions, you have restaurants, hotels, those things generate investment. Those things generate taxes for our city, and they generate jobs at the end of the day.”
McAllen is at a very strategic location, he said.
“We have a neighbor to our southern border that can use our medical facilities. So there’s no reason why McAllen can not become a part of the global medical tourism,” he said. “Can you imagine the amount of economic development that takes place when you hire a doctor?
There’s a lot of economic development that takes place, you know, doctors hire all kinds of people.”
Reyna also said he wants to improve the city’s quality of life.
“We’re talking about parks, we’re talking about trails, we’re talking about educating the community to respect the bike lane, for example. That’s very important,” he said. “And then, at the end of the day, we want our streets and traffic to be efficient. We want to get from point A to point B in the least amount of time.”
When asked what differentiated him from District 3 incumbent Omar Quintanilla, Reyna preferred instead to focus on his vision for McAllen.
“I think it’s more about me, and that’s the way I want to keep it,” he said.