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20120316_MayorBillyLeo_023EDINBURG — The days of working on strategies and overseeing local elections and campaigns are taking a backseat as La Joya’s former mayor Billy Leo sets his sights on traveling.

“I’ve always wanted to travel, all my life,” Leo said, adding that he’d like to travel overseas.

Leo was honored this week by the Hidalgo County Commissioners’ Court for his work in the county and La Joya.

After nearly 15 years as mayor of La Joya, Leo lost his last campaign against Jose A. “Fito” Salinas last year. Since then, he’s working on a few other projects before ultimately retiring from public life after over 30 years in politics.

“I’ve kind of slowed down,” he said referring to a stroke he suffered months before his final mayoral race.

Before becoming mayor, Leo served the county as the Hidalgo County clerk and also the La Joya school board where he was elected president.

Over the years, he’s also served as president of the Mexican-American Democrats for the 27th Senatorial District, founder and president of the La Joya Lions Club, gubernatorial appointee to the State Community Development Block Grant, Hidalgo County Housing Authority member and most recently as gubernatorial appointee to the Texas-Mexico Authority.

Amancio Chapa, a former La Joya mayor and member of the La Joya school district, said Leo’s efforts were mirrored after his family’s ties to the community.

“Throughout his life he’s honored the memory of those ancestors,” Chapa said.

Likewise, Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia said Leo’s had big shoes to fill in the memory of his father, Leo J. Leo, in serving the community.

“Your dad was always one of our leaders,” Garcia said.

Leo’s friends, who praised the former mayor at Tuesday’s commissioners’ court before commissioners approved a resolution in honor of Leo, said education was always one of his top priorities.

“He was dedicated to educating not only the kids in the La Joya area, but he’s been concerned about education countywide and statewide,” Chapa said.

A fan of baseball statistics, friends recalled that Leo is the best when it comes to detecting political trends and figuring out vote estimates.

“He’s honed his skills in politics beside his father,” Chapa explained.

Virginia Townsend, a Mission member of the Objective Watchers of the Legal System, or OWLS, said while she and Leo have occasionally been at odds philosophically, she’s always admired his astuteness in politics.

“I don’t know how he does it,” she said.

After helping attract big politicians to the Rio Grande Valley to seek votes for state and national campaigns, county leaders said Leo was committed to showing residents here they had a voice in government.

“I love my town and I love my county,” Leo said.

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