San Benito taps new city manager as head of economic arm

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Fred Sandoval

SAN BENITO — Four months after landing the city’s top administrative job, City Manager Fred Sandoval is taking on the role of economic development director.

The EDC’s board appointed Sandoval as the agency’s executive director after launching a search aimed at replacing past boss Ramiro Aleman, who’s heading Cameron County’s first economic development department.

“I am truly grateful to the mayor, city commission and the EDC board for their support and confidence,” Sandoval said in a statement. “I am humbled and honored to serve the citizens of San Benito, Texas. As an independently contracted and appointed executive director with the EDC, I will serve as the lead analyst and negotiator for economic growth and development in San Benito.”

On Wednesday, EDC board President Alex Salinas requested the Valley Morning Star file a request for information regarding Sandoval’s salary as economic development director.

For Sandoval, the EDC job marks the second time he’s taken on a position as head of a city’s economic arm.

During his 11-year stint as Pharr’s city manager, he also served as executive director of the city’s economic development department, helping to draw businesses such as Costco Wholesale and Papadeaux Seafood Kitchen.

”The city-EDC departmental model is efficient and effective and I am very comfortable in that role,” Sandoval said. “This structure allows me to drive sales tax revenue and job creation by leveraging city resources and economic development incentives to maximize growth.”

Since Aleman, who was drawing a $103,000 salary after about a year on the job, resigned in late November, the EDC’s board was searching for the city’s next economic development director.

During that time, some officials were considering Sandoval for the job.

“When Fred came along, he said, ‘I used to run the EDC in Pharr — I was executive director,’ so we kicked that around,” Mayor Rick Guerra said. “By being the city manager and EDC director, you’re dealing with one person. We’re hoping for better results. We believe it’s going to help San Benito and the businesses that come in.”

San Benito Economic Development Corporation’s office is seen in this undated photo. (Courtesy: San Benito EDC/Facebook)

At City Hall, Sandoval’s appointment marks at least the third time the city manager has taken over as head of the EDC.

In 2016, past City Manager Manuel De La Rosa took over as the EDC’s director before replacing the position with a coordinator’s job before officials hired Rebeca Castillo as the agency’s economic development director.

During Castillo’s tenure, a split city commission cut into her job title in June 2021, giving De La Rosa the EDC’s chief executive officer’s job along with a $45,000 pay increase.

By October 2021, Castillo had returned to the CEO’s post.

Sandoval’s appointment comes four months after commissioners hired him to replace De La Rosa, who was making a $175,000 salary, after they bought out his contract for about $200,000.

In late October, commissioners hired Sandoval at a salary of $135,000, signing him to a one-year contract opening with a six-month probationary period.

“We’re quickly approaching the end of the six-month period with Fred and I’m pleased with the things I’m seeing,” Commissioner Tom Goodman said. “I continue to look for metrics to measure the activity of growth in town. Performance will be based on results.”

Sandoval, who served as Pharr’s city manager from 2004 to 2015 before taking over as owner of Sylvan Learning from 2016 to 2021, had been serving as chief executive officer with Renryder Solutions since 2021 while working as a field consultant with Strategic Partnerships in Austin since 2022, his LinkedIn profile stated.

The profile stated he studied biology at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley from 1990 to 1991.