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A quiet election marked by low voter turnout resulted in a win for incumbent Rodolfo “Rudy” Castillo in his bid to keep his District 4 seat on the McAllen City Commission.
“I’m very satisfied with my community that came out and voted. It feels good. It feels good,” a jubilant Castillo said shortly after McAllen posted unofficial election results on the city’s Facebook page Saturday evening.
“Now, este, this feeling of goodness is we’re gonna work harder,” Castillo added.
Castillo garnered a total of 279 votes to challenger Javier Salazar’s 66.
Salazar good-naturedly congratulated his opponent after learning of the results.
“We look forward to working with Rudy to advance the issues that are important to the community,” Salazar said. “It doesn’t really matter who holds the position as long as we get things done in south McAllen.”
Just 261 people in the south side district cast a ballot during the early voting period, which ended on Tuesday.
Another 85 cast a ballot at the Palm View Community Center on Jordan Avenue on Election Day Saturday, according to unofficial polling results released by the city.
All election tallies remain unofficial until canvassed by the McAllen City Commission.
The low voter turnout is something both candidates remarked on as they spent the final hours of Election Day campaigning outside the community center.
Salazar estimated that approximately 10,000 people are registered to vote in District 4. With only a few hundred showing up to the polls, residents are sending a clear message.
“That is 9,500 people saying, ‘You know, we don’t want to go vote. We don’t trust you. What’s going to change?’” Salazar said. “That’s their way of saying, ‘We’re very unhappy with the politics.’”
Similarly, Castillo referred to the low turnout as “disappointing.”
“Sometimes, they’ve lost a lot of trust,” Castillo said of the dearth of active voters.
“That’s one of the things we have to battle — try to get them educated more that we really need to vote. If you want to get heard, you want your voice to get heard, we need to vote,” he added.
With the win under his belt, Castillo said one of his goals over the next four years of his term is to try to bring back the polling place options southside residents used to enjoy.
District 4 previously had three additional polling places in addition to the Palm Valley Community Center, Castillo said.
Another priority for the newly reelected commissioner will be to focus on economic development within his district, which he says has seen a lack of such growth compared to newer parts of the city to the north.
One particular project Castillo has his eyes on is the potential commercial development of what is currently the McAllen Disc Golf Park on South Ware Road.
The 90-acre plot of land is currently one of a vanishingly few green spaces on the city’s south side.
It’s a beacon not just for those wanting to play with Frisbees, but nature lovers looking to spend a morning birdwatching, or hiking among the old-growth forest that exists there.
When the McAllen City Commission put in a request to rezone the park to “light industrial” use earlier this year, it led to a small uproar from the community.
Last month, the city temporarily shelved the rezoning plans as they worked with an as-yet unnamed developer to create a presentation to show to the public about the development plans.
Salazar criticized how opaque the process has been thus far.
“There’s a lot of secrecy, a lot of things that are being kept from the public,” Salazar said. “We really don’t know anything about it. There are legit concerns on the ramifications this could have on our district.”
One of the chief concerns for residents is how development at the site would impact stormwater runoff.
According to the city of McAllen’s own records, the entire park lies within a FEMA-designated “Special Flood Zone Hazard Area.”
Residents worry that developing the site would push floodwaters into their neighborhoods.
“Will it flood even worse, you know?” Salazar asked.
Castillo said he shares his constituents’ concerns about the proposal.
“A lot of residents are worried. And I’m one of them that lives right there. So, we’re worried about the flooding. We’re worried about what could happen,” Castillo said.
Nonetheless, he touted the undisclosed project’s potential to bring “high paying jobs” to the region, and added that the city will do its due diligence in performing the proper study and engineering ahead of any development at the site.
“Sometimes — it’s sad to say — but sometimes we gotta sacrifice one thing for another,” Castillo said. “But if you’re gonna sacrifice something, it’s gonna be for the best.”
Ultimately, Castillo is looking forward.
He, Salazar and another man — Pablo Damian Garcia — ran to fill the unexpired term left when former District 4 Commissioner Tania Ramirez challenged Richard F. Cortez for the Hidalgo County judge seat last year.
Castillo emerged victorious in the February 2022 runoff, but this election will mark his first opportunity to serve a full term in office.
He’s eager to see what collaborations will be possible over the next four years.
“I’m looking forward (to working) with my other fellow commissioners, you know, they’ve been helping out a lot. And I know with, now, four years, I know they’re gonna really help me now,” Castillo said.
Find the complete, unofficial election results of races across the Rio Grande Valley here.