McALLEN — The city officially entered a new era Monday after Javier Villalobos was sworn in as the new mayor of McAllen.
In a crowded city hall chamber, surrounded by local elected officials and political supporters, Villalobos took his new place on the city commission alongside old and new faces.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Villalobos said of taking office. “Three years ago I was elected as commissioner, so I thank the people for the confidence they have given me and I keep on saying, ‘We will not let you down,’ and that is correct. We will not let them down.”
McAllen citizens elected Villalobos mayor in a close runoff election held June 5 in which he ran against Veronica Vela Whitacre, city commissioner for District 6. Villalobos was the city commissioner for District 1.
Villalobos received a total of 4,746 votes while Whitacre received 4,538 votes, according to the official certification of the votes.
Joining Villalobos in taking the oath of office on Monday were two new commissioners and two current commissioners who were reelected to office.
Tony Aguirre Jr., a former, longtime member of the McAllen Public Utility Board, was sworn in as the new city commissioner for District 1, replacing Villalobos.
Aguirre received a total of 1,625 votes while his opponent, Lucia “Lucy” Thompson, an attorney and mediator, received 1,184 votes.
In a speech, Aguirre spoke emotionally about his father who, in 1964, got a job in McAllen as the family were making their way down to Monterrey.
“Since then, we have lived in this beautiful city and my dad always said that it was the luckiest and best day of our lives, for the Aguirre family, to stay in this beautiful city,” he said. “I will serve it with honor, I will serve it to the best of my ability but I will seek your guidance and your help.”
District 3 Commissioner Omar Quintanilla was sworn in for another term after winning reelection with a total of 655 votes. His opponent, Thelma Tamez, received 397 votes.
Replacing Whitacre as District 6 commissioner is Pepe Cabeza de Vaca who received 1,013 votes, defeating Larry Esparza who received 804 votes.
Cabeza de Vaca is the assistant chief of staff for Hidalgo County Precinct 1 Commissioner David Fuentes and chairman of the city’s planning and zoning commission.
He thanked Darling and Whitacre for appointing and reappointing him, respectively, to the planning and zoning commission, which he said enabled him to build up experience within the city.
“We’re finally here,” he said. “I want to thank everybody that is here for the vote of confidence, the kind words you guys have given me.”
Commissioner Joaquin “J.J.” Zamora also took the oath of office after running for reelection, unopposed, for a second term as District 2 commissioner.
Following the speeches, supporters in attendance swarmed Villalobos as they clamored to take a photo with the new mayor.
Among them were members of the Texas True Patriots, a conservative group that participated in what was referred to as the Trump Trains leading up to the 2020 presidential elections.
The mayoral election of Villalobos, who previously ran for state congressional office as a Republican and is the former chairman of the Hidalgo County GOP, gained national attention because of Hidalgo County’s predominantly Hispanic population and its history of voting for Democrats.
When asked about reports that Texas Republicans were enboldened by his victory, Villalobos said that if it was something positive for McAllen, then he was all for it.
“I think if it puts McAllen in a good light, we’re very happy that it’s happening,” he said. “Of course, we know our race was not partisan. We had the help of Democrats, Republicans, Independents — everybody — and we pulled it off.”
As for what he wanted to tackle now that he has officially taken office, Villalobos said he wanted to focus on opening up the south side of the city and dedicating property for more green spaces. Though he stressed, as he often did during his campaign, the importance of not raising taxes.
“We’re going to hit the ground running,” Villalobos said.