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Agua SUD holds swearing-in ceremony for new utility board members

The Agua Special Utility District held a swearing-in ceremony for three new board members on Wednesday.

Jose Luis Ochoa Jr., 33, of Peñitas; Ana Maria Perez, 49, of Palmview; and Adriana Flores-Villarreal, 59, of Sullivan City — who all work for the La Joya Independent School District — took the oath of office Wednesday afternoon. They were joined by Rick Perez, 58, of La Joya, a banker who returned to the board for a second term.

“With growth comes changes and challenges,” Rick Perez said. “And hopefully we can meet them.”


Members of the Agua Special Utility District board of directors posed for a photo on Nov. 16, 2022. From left to right: Director Esmeralda Solis, Director Adriana Flores-Villarreal, Director Jose Luis Ochoa Jr., Director Maribel Diaz, Director Ana Maria Perez and Director Rick Perez. (Photo by Dave Hendricks / The Progress Times.)


Agua SUD, which serves nearly 17,000 customers in western Hidalgo County and a small part of Starr County, is governed by a seven-member board of directors. Each director represents a district with a roughly equal population.

Ochoa, a teacher at HOPE Academy, ran against Peñitas police Inv. Oscar Barron Jr. for District 4.

About 59% of the 972 voters who cast ballots in District 4 supported Ochoa, according to official results canvassed by the utility board on Wednesday.

“God willing, I can put my best foot forward,” Ochoa said, adding that he wants Agua SUD’s next four years to be better than the last four years.

Ana Maria Perez, an educator and librarian, ran unopposed for District 5.

Rick Perez, an executive vice president at Rio Bank, ran unopposed for District 6, which he had represented since October 2021.

Flores-Villarreal, the executive director for student services at La Joya ISD, ran against Sullivan City Fire Chief Jesus Martinez for District 7.

Nearly 56% of the 1,855 voters who cast ballots in District 7 supported Flores-Villarreal, according to official results canvassed by the utility board on Wednesday.

“I will do everything in my power to address all the issues that have already been brought to my attention,” Flores-Villarreal said.

Supporters packed the boardroom to watch the swearing-in ceremony.

The standing-room-only crowd included Sullivan City Mayor Alma Salinas, La Joya Mayor Isidro Casanova, La Joya ISD Trustee Alex Cantu and his wife, South Texas College Trustee Victoria “Vicky” Cantu; Hidalgo County Irrigation District #6 General Manager Antonio Uresti, former La Joya ISD Trustee Rita Garza-Uresti and their son, Hidalgo County administrator Anthony Uresti; former La Joya ISD Trustee Claudia Ochoa and her husband, former La Joya ISD Trustee Arnold Ochoa; and local attorney Marco A. De Luna.

Ana Maria Perez was sworn in by her mother, former state District Judge Aida Salinas Flores.

Hidalgo County Precinct 3 Commissioner Everardo “Ever” Villarreal showed up to swear in the other three board members. Villarreal, though, received instructions that asked him not to actually administer the oath of office — just the anti-bribery statement.

The crowd applauded anyway, apparently unaware the new directors hadn’t actually been sworn in yet.

When he completed the process, Agua SUD Project Assistant Pamela Perez, who is a notary, administered the oath of office.

The crowd applauded again.

After a brief recess, the utility board reconvened to select new officers.

Maribel Diaz became the new president. Flores-Villarreal became the new vice president. Ochoa became the new secretary. And Rick Perez remained the board treasurer.

Diaz replaced Esmeralda Solis, who stepped down from the Agua SUD board to serve on the La Joya school board.

Solis recommended the new board approach Agua SUD with an open mind, be patient and listen to advice from district staff.

“You learn along the way. You try and make the best and the most responsible decisions,” Solis said. “Of course, always thinking of Agua SUD’s best interests.”

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