Anzalduas, Hidalgo international bridge director resigns

McAllen Superintendent of Bridges Rigoberto Villarreal, who runs the Anzalduas International Bridge and the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge, submitted his resignation on Monday after more than nine years with the city.

“Roy, the mayor, the bridge board, they’ve all been great,” Villarreal said in a telephone interview on Monday, referring to McAllen City Manager Roel “Roy” Rodriguez. He added: “It’s family. I’ve been contemplating making this decision for the last two years. But the New Year got me thinking, and the passing of my dad in September, and spending a lot of time with my little girls over the holidays. I’m 55, I want to enjoy life and spend time with my kids.”

Villarreal said his last day with the city will be Jan. 20. In his resignation letter, Villarreal said 2019 “was not an easy year for me.” He said he finalized his divorce and his father passed away.

Rodriguez, whom Villarreal met with on Monday, said there has not yet been a decision to appoint an interim director, but he said that issue will come up at the next bridge board of directors meeting. The cities of McAllen, Granjeno, Hidalgo and Mission jointly oversee the two bridges, but McAllen is the city that staffs the bridges’ senior day-to-day leadership.

“We’ll go through the process,” Rodriguez said of filling the position. “This is a very tough business. And lots of folks don’t realize that. It wears on you. It’s a full-time grind. Unfortunately, we experience this in local government where we see some turnover.”

During his tenure, Villarreal oversaw the implementation of empty truck traffic at the Anzalduas International Bridge, which began in 2016. In his resignation letter, Villarreal also said he “largely improved the financial state and external cooperation of the bridges,” and he “encouraged much needed bi-national relationships on both sides of the border.”

However, truck traffic dipped significantly in 2019 and the bridge has been unable to make swift headway on implementing full-service commercial traffic, which has frustrated Mayor Jim Darling.

Villarreal also sought to leverage his relationships from years working in various levels of government for the benefit of the bridge, including hosting his longtime friend U.S. Sen. John Cornyn for various events at the Anzalduas International Bridge, before eventually dedicating a plaque to the senator there. Villarreal also hosted Cornyn at his home for a fundraiser this fall.

Villarreal’s work before joining the city included working for then State Rep. Kino Flores in the early 2000s and then as chief of staff for then Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas.