Former volunteer fire chief among those running for city commissioner seat in Sullivan City

Five people applied for two seats that are up in the Sullivan City commissioner special election set for November.

Despite the amount of applications, one of them – Margarita R. Hernandez – dropped out of the race Tuesday, leaving Sullivan City residents Marcelino Alanis, Jose Luis Ramirez Jr., Rene “Cunte” Pena and Jaime Villarreal to fill up two vacancies in the city commission.

The vacancies were created last month when Sullivan City Mayor Pro-Tem and Place 4 council member Adriana Rodriguez resigned from the city council. The Place 3 vacancy occurred after commissioner Gabriel Salinas died following a standoff with Mission police at his home last month. He was elected in 2017 and was up for re-election next year.

The city will hold a special election for the vacancies during the Nov. 3 general election with early voting set to start Tuesday, October 13 and run through Friday, October 30.

Among those running in Salinas’ place is Rene Peña, a former manager of a local insurance agency who previously spent 16 years with the city’s volunteer fire department.

“I was fire chief for eight of those years and I want to help out in any way for the benefit of our residents,” Peña said. “There’s a lot of stuff that can be done.”

Among the issues he said the city needs to fix are paving needs for El Faro and El Pinto roads, two of the most used roads in the city.

“It’s a lot of things we need to do and I know it won’t get fixed immediately,” Peña said “It’s a process that will take a while but I know it will be done.”

Peña is part of a slate with La Joya ISD asset management Supervisor Jaime Villarreal. Both men said they regularly volunteer for the city and are well known in the community.

“I think we’d be a perfect match to bring progress to citizens of our city, we’re both committed to it and have been friends for 25 years,” Villarreal said. 

Issues he hopes to resolve as part of the city commission include the city’s drainage system which he said took a hit during Hurricane Hannah last month.

“We saw a lot of flooding in low lying areas and no sufficient drainage to alleviate that,” Villarreal said. “We need to get in touch with architects and the drainage district to prevent this kind of disaster from happening again.”

Villarreal also said there is an urgent need to bring a library into the city and relocate the city hall and police station.

“Its current location is dangerous, the police station is in a residential area so if cops need to leave they could potentially hit children playing in the street,” he said.

Marcelino Alanis is Villarreal’s opponent and said he is running to bring a new voice to the city.

“I am passionate about our community and want to do my part to help Sullivan City thrive,” Alanis said. “I’ll do that by ensuring our council runs a transparent and efficient government, seek financial federal assistance to invest in our public places and help promote a balanced development throughout our city and shape the future of our community.” 

Like his opponent, Alanis considers a need for infrastructure and drainage improvements as a major issue. Among his goals are to advocate and build relationships with legislators to ensure Sullivan City receives state and federal assistance, he said.

Jose Luis Ramirez Jr., who is running for a Place 3, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

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