Palmview Mayor Jerry Perez will not run for re-election, clearing the way for City Councilman Rick Villarreal to take the top job.
After two decades in city government — he joined the City Council in 1996 and ran for mayor in 2014 — Perez said he’s ready to retire.
Perez weighed running for re-election, but ultimately decided against seeking a second term. With the City Council firmly supporting Villarreal, he faced a tough race without any obvious allies.
Villarreal plans to campaign with City Councilman Joselito “Hoss” Hernandez, who’s running for re-election, and retired teacher Arturo “Art” Alaniz, who would replace him on the City Council.
Asked whether or not he would support them, Perez said he wished the candidates well but remained noncommittal.
“No. I haven’t really thought about it because nobody will be able to fill my shoes,” Perez quipped. “I just hope that they can continue the momentum.”
Villarreal, Hernandez and Alaniz said they’ll file ballot applications before the Monday deadline.
They’re focused on the basics: a balanced budget, improving infrastructure and public safety, Villarreal said, adding that Palmview suffered from bad management and irresponsible spending during prior administrations, which saddled the city with debt.
“When it came to budget, when it came to finances, we never had a true picture,” said Villarreal, an assistant superintendent at the La Joya Independent School District who joined the City Council in 2010. “We were never given a true picture.”
The City Council didn’t know about many of the problems until Palmview hired a new city manager and replaced the accountant who briefed them on budget matters, said Hernandez, the bus parts manager for the school district.
“We were actually relying on him to tell us the truth,” Hernandez said, adding that the City Council felt misled after learning about the financial problems.
Villarreal and Hernandez said they supported a push to re-examine city spending.
The review uncovered questionable spending at the police department, which triggered a federal audit; old budget problems, which required the city to borrow money for operating expenses; and credit card bills with unexplained expenditures.
Alaniz, 54, graduated from La Joya High School and earned a master’s degree from the University of Texas-Pan American. He taught math and science before retiring from the Sharyland Independent School District in 2016.
While he lived in Palmview for 25 years, Alaniz said he attempted to steer clear of local politics.
“My sister called me yesterday. ‘What are you doing?’” Alaniz said, recalling the conversation. “I said ‘Yeah, I know Hoss. We played basketball together when we were in high school. And Rick and I used to work at the ninth grade center. For two years, I think.”
Alaniz said he had frank discussions with them about his political philosophy.
“And I go ‘I hate politics. I don’t like a lot of the stuff in it.’ And they said ‘Well, that’s why we want you,’” Alaniz said, recalling the conversation. “And I said ‘I don’t trust politicians.’ And they said ‘Another reason we want you. We want to establish a new type of leadership, one with transparency and accountability.’”
With that commitment, Alaniz said he agreed to run. He wants the city to address drainage problems, build more sidewalks and research the possibility of tax breaks for people who install solar panels.
City Councilman Joel Garcia, who supports all three candidates, said they would continue the progress Palmview made during the past two years.
“I don’t think anybody that would want to run against these gentlemen would want to do it for the best of the city,” Garcia said. “They would want to run just for the power.”