Edinburg’s Place 1 race draws 4 hopefuls

Four candidates are running to be the next Edinburg city councilmember for Place 1 in the city’s upcoming November general election, most of whom stressed the importance of improving the city’s infrastructure.

The four candidates — Gerardo “Gerry” Lozano, Fern McClaugherty, Daniel “Dan” Diaz, and Ismael “Smiley” Martinez — are running to replace current Councilmember Jorge “Coach” Salinas, who did not file for re-election.

Lozano, 46, owns a construction company called Nutx Construction and works for his family’s business Sandia Depot, which specializes in shipping watermelons year-round.

Jerry Lozano

He said he wanted to run for office because he believed the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation could be doing a better job of attracting businesses and new industry into the city.

“We have a foreign trade zone here in Edinburg that was created almost 20 years ago and it’s never been used,” Lozano said, referring to the zone established at the city’s airport. “Those are the type of things that I’ve seen and I’ve known about and they haven’t done anything about it so, to me, by staffing a strong EDC with the people that they need, giving them the resources, I think Edinburg can grow to be a major city here in the Valley.”

The city, Lozano said, was growing at a fast rate and the drainage infrastructure needed to reflect that.

“If we’re going to continue to keep on growing at the pace that we’re growing at, we need to get ahead of the problem,” he said. “Infrastructure is always key for any city. If you don’t have it, it’s going to be hard for any city to continue to grow and attract the businesses that we want to attract.”

As for why citizens should vote for him, Lozano acknowledged that he was only one vote on the city council and therefore couldn’t make any big promises with the exception that he would fight for what they wanted.

“I will always fight for them. To me that’s most important,” he said.

Fern McClaugherty

McClaugherty, 72, also emphasized the need for drainage improvements.

“It is absolutely horrible,” she said about the current drainage infrastructure, which she said likely deterred new businesses from coming in.

As a member of the Objective Watchers of the Legal System, or OWLS, McClaugherty regularly attends city council meetings and Hidalgo County Commissioners Court meetings.

“I watch how they spend money, give it away so easily, and all I can do is make a remark in open forum,” she said.

If she were to be elected to the council, she said, she would be able to question those decisions.

Another one of her main objectives is ensuring that the city lowers property taxes for their residents.

“There is so much money that is spent and given away and that they need to, especially with these hard times with the COVID and the businesses being closed, that they need to have lowered the tax rate because our property values kept going up,” McClaugherty said.

Born in Odessa, her parents moved to Pharr when she was 5 years old. They later moved to Edinburg and she has lived there ever since.

“My main thing is I’m conservative and I have watched the spending, both with the county and the city, and our number one thing that we need in our city is drainage,” she said about why people should vote for her.

“People want their homes,” she said. “They want a roof over their heads, they want one that they feel safe in and when you’ve got water that is coming in, getting closer to your front door and then coming in on you, that’s a horrible feeling.”

Regardless of who was elected to the position, though, she urged the public to regularly attend the city and county meetings to keep an eye on how their elected officials were spending taxpayer funds.

While he acknowledged that drainage was a priority, Diaz, another candidate, had an array of other goals for the city.

Dan Diaz

Diaz, 50, is the owner of an emergency medical services company and is a registered nurse.

He previously served as a combat medic in the U.S. Army before moving to Edinburg.

Since then he’s served on various boards such as the Texas Ambulance Association board, the Edinburg Medical Advisory board, and the Edinburg Parks and Recreation board. Currently, he sits on the board of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation.

After serving in those roles throughout the community, running for city council just seemed like a natural progression for him.

“Now I feel like I could serve the city in city hall as a councilmember,” Diaz said.

If he were to be elected, he said he’d want to continue the work of the EDC of bringing in more businesses so that in turn could bring in more jobs into the city.

An important aspect of that are the efforts to revitalize the city’s downtown to have an “entertainment” district for the 18- to 34-year-olds.

Additionally, he wants to establish more senior community centers for their older population.

“And, of course, everyone knows that flooding has always been an issue,” Diaz said.

He noted that when he worked with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department four years ago, he suggested looking into flood grants so they could convert their parks into dual-usage retention parks.

He also thinks the city needs more sports leagues so that families don’t have to travel to other cities so their kids can participate in sports. Along with that, he wants to have a regional park that would include fields for those sports.

Diaz also stressed that because of the financial strain brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the city should not raise property taxes.

“Everyone needs to stabilize their economy across the board so definitely no new taxes,” he said. “There’s ways to find the monies to take care of everything you need to do within the city.”

As for the elections, he urged voters to really examine the candidates.

“If the pandemic has shown us anything, or the way the world’s been changing, I think it shows that it really matters who represents you in city hall,” Diaz said. “Just like I served honorably in the military, I vow to serve with honor and integrity if I become the next city council member.”

Smiley Martinez

Also running for the Place 1 seat is Martinez, 60, who is the owner of IAM Insurance Agency.

Martinez did not respond to messages seeking comment but, according to his campaign website, he worked as a paraprofessional for six years for the Edinburg school district and he also coached sports.

He’s owned his insurance company since 1996 and served as president of the home owners association for his neighborhood for 10 years. He also served as president of the Edinburg Civil Service Commission from 2006 to 2012 and, since 2019, he’s served as the president of the Golf Advisory Board for the city.

[email protected]