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Pillar of Mission community retires

This article originally ran in the Dec. 21, 2022 issue of the Progress Times. 

After nearly 30 years, Adela Ortega’s time as a City of Mission employee has come to an end. With her last day on Dec. 29, the Missionite reflects on the past three decades as she enters retirement.

“Oh, it was wonderful,” Ortega said. “All of it has been wonderful.”

The 71-year-old has worked with eight city managers and four mayors, taking on many roles since the city first hired her in 1993. From executive project coordinator to social services director, from the Main Street Advisory Board to the Mission Food Pantry, Ortega has been an integral part of the community. 

Adela Ortega with her family. Photos courtesy of the City of Mission

She said she particularly enjoyed working to revitalize the downtown area and preserve historic buildings in the city. Ortega also spoke graciously of those who helped her at the Mission Pantry and how rewarding it was to see others involved in the community. It takes a team effort, she said. 

Despite all the hours she dedicated, the projects she led and the thousands of dollars fundraised, the years felt like a blur. 

“I was 40 when I started working with the city. Wow, how time flies right,“ Ortega said with a chuckle. “All my positions that I’ve had have been so much fun. I’ve enjoyed it. The years have gone so fast.”

Friends and family attended the December City Council meeting to celebrate the retiree. Assistant City Manager Aida Lerma and Councilwoman Jessica Ortega spoke fondly of Adela. They described her as unselfish and a giver. She is a wealth of knowledge with a huge heart and an open mind. Lerma characterized Ortega as a friend to all. 

“She has the uncanny timeliness of being at the right place at the right time — a place where she is able to lend a helping hand to the most vulnerable,” the assistant city manager said 

Jessica Ortega, the three-term councilwoman and Adela’s oldest daughter, honored her mother with a special note at the meeting. The elected official prefaced her words by saying she would try not to cry but teared up almost immediately. 

“I’m going to let everyone in on a little secret — for most of our community members I am just Adela Ortega’s daughter. Most don’t even know that I’m on city council. Most of the calls of concerns or requests have gone to my mother directly; [they] never actually come to me,” Jessica said. “Those of you that know my mother know that she takes the initiative to take care of things herself right away. And then when she completes that task, she calls that certain individual that asked for help and gives me all the credit.” 

Jessica said it has been a privilege to have her mother’s help on the sidelines. And she hopes to continue her legacy in the community. 

“My mother Adela is a woman who has inspired many,” the councilwoman said. “She leads by example every day through her faith and love for her community. She exemplifies leading with a servant heart.” 

Jessica Ortega hugs her mother Adela Ortega at the December 2022 Mission City Council meeting where Adela announced her retirement to the community.

Even outside her work with the City of Mission, Adela Ortega dedicates her time to helping others. She is a member of the Mission Lions Club and the Catholic Daughters of the Americas. Before becoming a city employee, she volunteered with Texas Special Olympics and worked as a special education teacher with the school district. 

Ortega said her mother started her young, sending her to neighbors’ homes to lend a helping hand to those in need. 

“It has been my ministry throughout my life,” the retiree said, “since I was 8 years old.” 

With her new freedom, Ortega said she plans to travel and spend time with her husband, three children and six grandchildren that she adores. 

“I need to enjoy my life while I feel good, while I’m healthy. And I’ll enjoy my retirement,” she said.

But even as Ortega enters the next phase in her life, she won’t be too far from the things she knows and loves. City Council just reappointed her to the Mission Historic Preservation Commission, and she still plans to be active in the community. 

“I might just open a food pantry in another location. Maybe I’ll open an antique store. I don’t know yet,” Ortega said. “I’ve got three job offers, so I don’t know if I want to work. But I might do part time or consulting work if they need me. But I’m still going to be involved. I’m not going anywhere.”

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