McAllen city elections tighten as 3 candidates added

McALLEN — The race for five seats on the commission here is beginning to crowd, as three more candidates announced their bids for office Monday.

In May, McAllen residents will choose a new mayor and will elect commissioners for Districts 1, 2, 3 and 6.

The race for District 6, however, is considered a special election, with commissioners calling for it on Monday. It was triggered by state law because Commissioner Veronica Whitacre, who recently announced she was running for mayor, has more than a year left in her current term, outgoing McAllen Attorney Kevin Pagan said during a commission meeting Monday.

And though it is considered a vacancy, “the incumbent, in this case Commissioner Whitacre, would continue to hold that position until her successor is qualified and sworn into office,” Pagan said during his last meeting as counsel.

Whitacre’s expected departure has already drawn out two contenders, both of which announced their intent to run for office on Monday: McAllen Independent School District Trustee Larry Esparza and Jose R. “Pepe” Cabeza de Vaca, who serves as assistant chief of staff for Hidalgo County Commissioner David Fuentes.

Larry Esparza

In a news release issued Monday, Esparza touted his eight years as a school trustee and the district’s recent accolades.

“During my time on the board, our district has been recognized as an A-rated district, our students and staff have received numerous awards, our business office has achieved the highest rating for financial integrity and accountability, our superintendent has been named Texas Superintendent of the Year, and our Board of Trustees has been honored as Board of the Year,” he said.

Cabeza de Vaca

Meanwhile, Cabeza de Vaca touted his 11 years on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, five of which he served as chairman.

“I have over 20 years of business experience and 17 years serving on various nonprofit and civic boards,” Cabeza de Vaca wrote on his Facebook page. “I offer all of this knowledge, experience and my passion to serve our community.”

Additionally, one more candidate for the District 1 seat announced his bid for office: Antonio “Tony” Aguirre Jr.

The McAllen businessman touted his 27 years of service as a McAllen Public Utilities Board trustee, with over half of those as chairman of the board.

“During that time, he has played an instrumental role in ensuring that our public utilities keep up with the city’s growth while maintaining water quality and safety,” a news release stated. “This is evidenced by the fact that, during this time, McAllen residents have never had to boil their water.”

Tony Aguirre Jr.

Aguirre said he is a “strong steward of taxpayer dollars,” saying that through “deliberate actions,” the PUB has managed to keep the city’s water rates among the lowest in the state.

“Those who know him describe Aguirre as approachable and kind with a relentless work ethic and a reputation for getting the job done,” the news release stated.

Aguirre also served on the city of McAllen’s Audit and Investment Committee for more than 10 years, spent 20 years on the board of Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement, and was also affiliated with the Boys and Girls Club of McAllen and the McAllen Economic Development Corporation.

“While 2020 was a time of reflection, 2021 must be a time of deliberate, visionary planning and implementation,” Aguirre said.