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This election season for the city of Mission features some familiar faces.
This year, two places are up for grabs on the Mission city council, although only one includes an actual race.
The race for Place 2 includes incumbent candidate Ruben Plata, a mortgage lender in Mission who has sat on the council for over a decade, and John A. Lopez, a retired government employee (with the United States Border Patrol), teacher and coach.
Plata, a graduate of Plainview High School and the University of Texas Pan-American, plans on keeping the focus on the city’s budget and fiscal responsibility.
“My experience matters,” Plata said. “I always believe in Mission. We have done a good job and we have worked hard for the citizens.”
Plata hopes to continue with some of the projects happening in Mission currently.
“It’s serving the community, that’s the main thing,” Plata said. “I want us to continue reviewing the budget and see what we can do to bring up our fund balance.”
He added that his experience in banking and the finance world, which he has been part of for over 20 years, will positively impact the taxpayers and citizens of Mission.
“I’m very familiarized with the growth, I’m very familiarized with the market and how we can really benefit,” Plata said. “Anything I can do to help in continuing with the growth of Mission is beneficial to all of us.”
Plata plans on gaining more traction, in one way or the other, on the Madero Bridge Project that would build an international railway in Mission. He stressed that he was not sure if it is good or bad at this point.
“If a possibility to build a second bridge at a minimal cost to our community, I think it will be beneficial,” Plata explained. “I want to look at the growth that’s going to take place with the Killam Project [as well].”
Plata foresees several more great projects contributing to the growth in Mission, and said that with his experience he can help the city make them happen.
“I have dedication and a serving heart,” Plata said. “I’ve always been very transparent, very honest in what I do for the citizens of Mission. Honesty, transparency, hard work and dedication are values that have been instilled in me.”
Plata added that his faith also plays a big role in how he operates as a council member.
“I’m a person who truly believes in God, and serving is one of the attributes that I have learned and is instilled in me,” Plata said.
Lopez, who graduated from Mission High School and Pan-American University, was motivated to run in order to focus on drainage issues within Mission. When the area flooded in June 2018, he said he and his family were half an inch of rain away from water entering their home.
“I live on North Shary Rd., and we’ve had rains before but when there were hardly any homes – it was all orchards, and all the water used to drain into the orchards,” Lopez said. “Now it’s subdivisions, so where is it going to drain? The same ditch has been there forever.”
He noted that while the county and city were working on the drainage, the planning for heavy rainfall could have been better.
“The next two neighborhoods they built after I had lived there for a while, they flooded, so their water came into our yards,” Lopez said, noting that eight of the neighbors in his subdivision were flooded and flooding has been an issue in the past few decades. “I figured they [city leaders and officials] didn’t learn at that time, and it happened again.”
Unforeseen planning and growth in that area of Mission lead to current issues, according to Lopez.
“The drainage was never improved to fit those homes and the water is going into the streets,” Lopez said. “I kind of felt that maybe fresh eyes on the council, from a first responder, can see things through different eyes.”
Lopez taught and coached in the Edinburg Independent School District for a few years before starting with the Border Patrol as an agent, working his way up the ranks as a Supervisory Agent, INS Special Agent, Supervisory Special Agent and Patrol Agent in Charge. Because of his experience, he also hopes to focus on infrastructure and the police and fire departments.
“[Mayor] Dr. O’caña is doing great with a lot of community stuff out there,” Lopez said, adding that the city needs to concentrate on infrastructure before anything else. “No taxpayer in the city should see their house flooded. I know we’re growing, but we really need to focus on everything else.”
Lopez spoke highly of the values instilled from his parents, and said they motivated him to respectfully serve the community.
“The current administration is doing well, but they need some fresh eyes,” Lopez said. “What can we do to improve it? Hopefully I’ll be able to go in there and work with everybody.”
Council member Jose Alberto (Beto) Vela, who took over the position following Gus Martinez’s shift to city attorney in Mission last year, is running unopposed for Place 4. A prominent pharmacist and community member for several years, Vela maintains that he is not a politician.
“I know all aspects of Mission, I didn’t just pop in,” Vela said, noting that his parents (who were educators) always instilled a commitment to serve the underserved and those without a voice. “I like working as a team [with the council], I like to try to get things done in whatever is best for the city.”
“Honestly I’m learning as I go, because I hadn’t followed city politics and there’s a lot of things we need to get done,” Vela added. “Only working together is going to make it happen.”
Vela, a graduate of Mission High School aims to continue to work on the drainage situation in Mission, along with focus on what is absolutely needed that fits in the budget.
“You can’t expect the taxpayers to foot the whole bill, everything has to be done incrementally,” Vela said. “The major issues need to be worked on – everything else, you’ve got to take it slow.”
He also said that along with all city employees, first responders in the police and fire departments need more in terms of equipment and facilities.
“How do we expect them to be our first responders without the proper equipment?” Vela said. “They’re at the front line.”
Vela, who has a son with special needs, is also excited to improve parks and make headway on the future all-inclusive Lions Park.
“There is nowhere to take them here in Mission, and he’s already twelve but he still likes going to the park,” Vela said. “There’s a lot of families who don’t have the means that just want to take their kids somewhere.”
For Vela, serving is all about being there for the community, not special interests.
“You can’t do much in a couple of months,” Vela said on his current term. “It gives me an opportunity to work more for the city. I want to help out as much as possible, but if it’s something I don’t agree on I just don’t agree on it, which has worked so far for me.”
His career as a pharmacist has fostered his love for giving back. Vela pointed out that pretty much anyone in need who comes to his pharmacy will be helped out in some way, and they always have coffee and pan dulce in order to create a comfortable environment.
“My clientele are a lot of Medicare and Medicaid customers that sometimes need an extra hand, and I have always been available and accessible to my clients countless times, that goes above and beyond,” Vela said, noting that their policy is to donate to any child participating in extracurricular activities that comes to one of his pharmacies. “I try to take care of you as much as I can.”
Early voting for the Mission city council elections starts Mon., April 20, 2020 and runs through Tues., April 28, 2020. Election day is set for Sat., May 2, 2020.
This story was originally published in the Friday, Feb. 21, 2020 edition of the Progress Times.