Starr County attorney abruptly retires from position

Victor Canales

Starr County Attorney Victor Canales retired from his position Wednesday after more than 15 years in office.

Canales submitted a letter of retirement Wednesday, notifying Starr County Judge Eloy Vera that he would be leaving office effective that day.

In the letter, obtained by The Monitor through a public information request, Canales did not provide a reason behind his departure and he could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Though the letter lacked details behind his resignation, Canales did recommend that the county commissioners court consider appointing Assistant County Attorney Jennifer Vasquez Gonzalez as his replacement.

“She is a tireless worker and extremely capable Attorney and would assist in the continuity for the Office,” Canales wrote.

“Upon the appointment of my replacement, I would like to advise you and the Commissioner’s Court that I will be happy to facilitate the transition in any matter.”

Vera said the county is trying to determine what steps they will need to take to fill Canales’ position, consulting with the Texas Association of Counties and the Texas Secretary of State’s office.

“I think, but again I’m not certain, that the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, the precinct chairs, need to come together and come up with a candidate for each party and then they will face off in November,” Vera said.

The secretary of state’s office confirmed Thursday that those will indeed be the next steps.

Because Canales’ term in office doesn’t end until 2024 and he resigned with more than 74 days before the November general election, “the remainder of the unexpired term shall be filled at the next general election for state and county officers,” which is this year, according to Sec. 202.002 of the Texas Election Code.

And because the deadline to file to run for the March primaries has long passed, the Democratic and Republican county or precinct executive committees can each nominate a candidate, according to Sec. 202.006 of the election code.

“The County Attorney position will now have to be on the November 8, 2022 General Election ballot in Starr County,” wrote Sam Taylor, assistant secretary of state for communications. “Both political parties’ executive committees get to appoint their nominee to appear on the November ballot after they take office later this summer.”

Until a new county attorney is elected in November, the Starr County Commissioners Court will have to appoint an interim county attorney in accordance with Texas Local Government Code Section 87.041, which stated that in the occasion of a vacancy of a county attorney, the commissioners court shall “fill a vacancy by a majority vote of the members of the court who are present and voting.”

The appointed person shall hold the office until the next general election.

Vera said he expects the commissioners to make that appointment during a meeting in May.

“We have commissioners court Monday but it’s too late to post for Monday’s agenda,” Vera said. “So it probably won’t be until May 9.”