Mission Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas was confident heading into Election Day that he’d keep his title once votes are counted Saturday evening.
He faces local businessman Jaime Gutierrez in a runoff; the only race on the ballot.
After Salinas narrowly missed clinching his seat without a runoff in May, he said he hadn’t changed his campaign strategy. He’s depending on voters who have kept him in office more than 16 years to hit the polls.
“I think they started going out again to vote,” Salinas said. “I’m very happy to see that they responded to the campaign.”
Election Day is Saturday. Voting locations are Bryan Elementary School, 1300 Elm Dr.; Castro Elementary, 200 S. Mayberry; Mission High, 1902 W. 18th St.; Pearson Elementary, 315 Holland Ave.; Celestino Fire Station No. 3, 1804 N. Shary Road. The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
In May, Salinas just missed avoiding the runoff with 49 percent of the votes. Collectively, Gutierrez and third candidate John Guerra received 2,698 votes to Salinas’ 2,590. Gutierrez had 31 percent, or 1,640 of the votes.
Days after the May election, Salinas said he’d heard he’ll earn more votes from folks who voted for Guerra the first time around. A week later, Guerra officially endorsed Salinas.
A long-time politician, Salinas wasted little time before analyzing the numbers from May and comparing them to the election before, when he received about 3,500 votes.
His opponents this time around garnered about the same amount of votes as his last challengers, which means about 1,000 voters didn’t cast a ballot, Salinas reasoned.
Meanwhile, Jaime Gutierrez saw the 51 percent of voters that voted against Salinas as a mandate for a new mayor. He’s been walking the streets and meeting with as many voters as he can.
“All we can do is put hard work and effort into it,” Gutierrez said. “I think the people really want a more cooperative city government. They want you to be able to hear them, listen to them.”
Gutierrez, 43, was born in Los Angeles. He grew up in a family of migrants, working in places like Wisconsin and Indiana.
He and his wife moved to San Juan 17 years ago and Gutierrez opened a wholesale car dealership with his brother.
He moved to Mission about 12 years ago when he found the right house for him and his family. Since then, Gutierrez said he sees two Missions: the south side and north side. Some sections of the city seem forgotten, he said. That’s a large part of the reason he’s running for office.
It’s time to start helping people in the community, Gutierrez said, and make sure that local business owners are taken care of before bringing in big business.
And lowering taxes is fine, Gutierrez said, but the city needs to ensure it maintains quality services and has enough revenue coming in to take care of things like streets, lighting and drainage.
More work to do
At 67, Salinas has said he’s a rancher and businessman at heart, but his passion is running the city of Mission.
He was born in Cuevitas and moved to West Texas after graduating from Rio Grande City, though he moved back to the Valley shortly after, starting work at Ceballos Funeral Home in McAllen and moving on to start his own ambulance service.
Salinas has lived in Mission 28 years and has served as mayor for 16 of them. Prior to that, he served as the community’s county commissioner from 1980 to 1992. It was at the community’s request, Salinas told the Progress Times, that he first ran for mayor of Mission in 1998 when he found out former Mayor Richard Perez would not run for re-election.
Salinas has said his work is not done. The city is in the design phase of expanding the wastewater treatment plant and is working with an architect to design an event center to promote arts and cultural events in the city. The mayor hopes the event center will spur additional economic growth in the community.