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The Agua Special Utility District board ousted President Esequiel “Zeke” Ortiz Jr. on Monday, just five months after he assumed the position.
Director Lloyd Loya made the motion to remove Ortiz. Moments later, Loya motioned to make himself board president.
“Nothing against Zeke. I like the guy. He’s a good friend,” said Loya, who added later: “At the end of the day, it’s a business. We’ve got to take care of Agua SUD and our constituents.”
The utility district, which serves about 16,800 customers in western Hidalgo County, is managed by a seven-member board of directors. Voters elect the board, which picks a president, vice president, secretary and treasurer.
Loya, 32, of Peñitas, who works for the La Joya Independent School District, is the fourth person to serve as president during the past four years. He joined the utility board in 2015, when Rodrigo “Rigo” Lopez resigned to become mayor of Peñitas.
In September 2016, the board replaced then-President Ricardo Ochoa with Roger Hernandez. He served until Feb. 4, 2019, when the board named Ortiz president.
Ortiz spent months attempting to repair the relationship between the Palmview City Council and the utility board.
Palmview had attempted to build a separate, city-controlled sewer system to spur commercial development on Expressway 83. When the utility district complained, Palmview filed a lawsuit.
Ortiz worked with Palmview City Councilman Joel Garcia and City Attorney Eric Flores to mend fences. They approved a settlement agreement and dismissed the lawsuit in May after months of negotiation.
What, exactly, prompted the board to pick a new president remains unclear. Members of the board rarely discuss their differences in public.
Loya said he felt Ortiz didn’t always communicate well. He offered no other criticisms of Ortiz.
“I’m the one who nominated Zeke to be there,” Loya said. “And I just felt that he wasn’t fulfilling his role as the president.”
On Monday afternoon, Loya motioned to remove Ortiz from the position. Board Vice President Cesar Rodriguez Jr. seconded the motion, which passed without any discussion.
Moments later, Loya motioned to make himself board president. Rodriguez seconded the motion, which also passed without any discussion.
Loya promptly switched seats with Ortiz and started presiding over the meeting.
Members of the board selected Director Ivan Sandoval, who represents Sullivan City, to replace Loya as treasurer.
Asked why the board ousted him after just five months on the job, Ortiz said he didn’t know.
“I don’t even know who put it on the board agenda,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz and Loya both said local politics didn’t prompt the board shakeup.
“I just felt like it was time,” Loya said. “And that’s why I made my motion.”