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Annual Citizens Awards make a legendary comeback

‘Mr. Mission Award’ now the ‘Beto Salinas Legacy Award’

Last Thursday evening, the Progress Times welcomed esteemed members of Mission at the Mission Event Center to celebrate influential and impactful members of the community through its Annual Citizens Awards. Publisher Dee Rendon acted as the event’s master of ceremonies, announcing a surprising change to the Mr. Mission award.

Over the past 50 years, the publication has recognized community leaders who have worked to influence and improve their communities.

“These awards promote good citizenship among all the members of the community,” said Rendon. “We should all be good citizens. However, this award is for those that go above and beyond with no regard to self, but instead choose to serve others.”

In 2019, Woman of the Year Norma Guevara, Man of the Year Randy Perez, First Lady of Mission, Helen Bentsen Reinhardt, and The Men’s ACTS Choir from St. Paul’s Catholic Church as the Spirit of Mission were award recipients. After 2020, the pandemic halted the award ceremony.

But as the pandemic has come to an end, it was time to recognize the influence of role models within the community over the last three years. The Citizen’s Awards included the Woman of the Year, the Man of the Year, the First Lady of Mission, and Mr. Mission, which in honor of its awardee, was renamed as a legacy award.

 

Woman of the Year, Dr. Maria M. Vidaurri

Photo courtesy of Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce

With her retirement this coming June 2024, Dr. Maria M. Vidaurri was honored for her 39-year career in education. Named Woman of the Year, Vidaurri’s dedication to Sharyland ISD’s excellence and tradition shone brightly.

“She has revitalized programs and increased parental involvement and has been instrumental in establishing Early College High School

designations across the state,” said Progress Times Publisher Dee Rendon, who later presented the Superintendent with the award.

Vidaurri, donning a white pantsuit, smiled all through her acceptance speech.”I’m going to start here by thanking God for giving me the opportunity to serve in the way that I have been able to for the last 39 years,” she said.

Vidaurri also thanked her Board of Trustees.

“A leader cannot do what a leader needs to do without the support and guidance of their Board of Trustees,” she said, looking at them as she spoke.

 

Man of the Year, Jose Alberto ‘Beto’ Vela

Photo courtesy of Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce

Jose Alberto ‘Beto’ Vela was named Man of the Year due to his extensive service on the Mission City Council, development-based work across the Rio Grande Valley, and open advocacy for elders and the special-needs population.

“This recognition serves as a reminder that our collective efforts, no matter how small, can create a ripple effect of positive change,” he said. “Let us continue to work hand in hand to create a brighter future for Mission, Texas, and beyond.”

In the middle of Vela’s speech, as he thanked his family, his mother embraced him, earning applause from the crowd-filled ballroom.

“Thank you to the Progress Times for this award.”

 

First Lady of Mission, Minnie Ramirez Rodgers

Photo courtesy of Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce

Minnie Rodgers is a familiar face to the organizations and boards she has served throughout the Mission community. After moving to Mission in the 1970s to teach, Rogers became a Mission Consolidated School District board member for nine years after her retirement, advocating for a safe and impactful learning environment.

She has also served on the Texas Citrus Fiesta Board for over 25 years and a member of the Lion’s Club for over 30.

Rodgers celebrated her birthday the previous day, the award almost acting as a belated birthday gift.

“Yesterday was my 81st birthday,” she said before turning to Rendon at the podium in gratitude. “Thank you.”

Mr. Mission (now the Beto Salinas Legacy Award), Norberto ‘Beto’ Salinas

The late Norberto ‘Beto’ Salinas, formerly serving as Hidalgo County Commissioner for 12 years and the Mayor of Mission for 20 years, previously received the Man of the Year Award in 1987 and the Mr. Mission Award in 2006 for his dedication to service.

“Serving others according to the example we have in Jesus is a quality of having a servant’s heart. The late Beto Salinas demonstrated that daily. He offered his assistance to all citizens; rich, poor, civil servants, everyday citizens, none of that mattered to him,” said Rendon. “He led with tenacity. And he envisioned a great city in Mission.”

Rendon declared a change to the Mr. Mission award: the title will now be the Beto Salinas Legacy Award, honoring the late Mission leader from Starr County for his lifetime of service.

Rick Salinas accepting award for his father, the late Norberto “Beto” Salinas. Courtesy Photo.

Beto’s son, Ricardo Salinas, stood to receive the award on his father’s behalf, earning a standing ovation from attendees.

“I wish I could say something along the lines of: ‘Well, thank you, we don’t deserve it,'” said Ricardo. “But no, I’m not going to say that. I think the old man deserved it.”

He continued, speaking about his father’s service after his time in office.

“He evolved into something that was bigger than life. Because if you remember, this was a man who fought public corruption,” he said. “And he fought it.”

Salinas shared a saying his father told him: “Don’t ask God for courage. No te lo va dar, he won’t give it to you,'” he said. “He reminded me of a fact that we can be out in a situation where you can be courageous.”

He continued.

“Today’s city council and mayor, you have the dubious task and the duty to be courageous in the middle of what you face,” he said, facing their table by the dance floor. “Our duty from here on out is to be courageous…We love the people of Mission. We will never forget. We are not gone. We are always here.”

 

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