With tears in his eyes, he told Progress Times publisher in a private interview before making the announcement to a room full of city department directors, that he had a burning desire to do what he loves and start his own engineering company. His last day with the city will be Feb. 28.
Trained as a civil engineer, Cerda was hired as the city’s first staff engineer in 2003. Two years later, he was tapped to run the city from the city manager’s desk.
In a prepared statement, Cerda said, “I was nervous about sitting in the ‘Administrator’s BIG chair,’ but as the weeks turned into months, I became very comfortable and knowledgeable of where the council wanted me to take the city. You took a chance on me, and I was determined not to let you down.”
In the interview, Cerda said he has been the longest serving city manager for Mission in 40 years. While his predecessors have served four years or less, he has served eight years in the top city post.
Mission has experienced tremendous growth in the past eight years. Crediting Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas and the city council, the city manager said the city’s property values have shot up from $1.8 billion in 2005 to $3.41 billion today. And the city itself has grown by 3,100 acres through annexations.
Cerda’s engineering background has been a tremendous asset to the city during his tenure as manager. He said one of the most rewarding experiences of his tenure as city manager was working through the night to avert a flooding disaster when floodwaters from Hurricane Alex threatened to burst through an earthen levee. His civil engineering background played a key role as he coordinated the efforts of several governmental entities to safely overcome the threat to local residents.
Having worked for as an engineer for TxDOT before coming to work for the city, Cerda was no stranger to highway construction projects. Again, his background benefited the city as major infrastructure projects were completed or begun during his tenure.
Some of the major projects that have been completed during the past eight years include construction of the Anzalduas Bridge, Anzalduas Highway, Stewart Road drainage improvements, Inspiration Road overpass improvements and widening of 2 Mile Road from Taylor Road to Bentsen Palm Road. Another project now underway is the expansion of Inspiration Road from Expressway 83 to 3 Mile Road. Add to that two new water towers, expansion of the city’s water plant from 8MGD to 25.5 MGD, expansion of the sewer plant from 4.1 MGD to 9MGD and the completion of the Mission sewer EDAP project, providing sewer connections to many residences and businesses that previously did not have the service.
Due to the mayor’s initiative, which Cerda supported, the Police Department grew from 93 to 146 officers – the third largest department in the Valley. Meanwhile, the Mission Fire Department also received the funding and resources to grow from 48 to 67 fire fighters.
Cerda explained he has always believed in honesty, respect and doing the right thing. These ethics have made his time with the city enjoyable.
“Respect your leaders and respect the elderly…that is how you grow, by respecting people,” Cerda said. “I admire Mayor Salinas and the passion he has for this city. I love him like a father figure…it’s been wonderful to learn from him.”
“I love the city, I love the attitude and I love the citizens,” Cerda said, adding that this has been one of the most difficult decisions he has ever had to make. He said he is thankful to have been given the opportunity to work with the Mission City Council and the mayor.
Andrielle Figueroa contributed to this story.
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.