With Abiel Flores resigning from his position on Mission City Council to pursue a judge seat in the March 2024 election, four entered the race to replace him as one of Mission’s city leaders. Peter Geddes, Noel Salinas, Marissa Ortega Gerlach and Abraham Padron vie for a spot on the city council, concluding in a Dec. 9 special Election Day.
Geddes is one of two candidates who are not from Mission. He is originally from the Maryland, D.C. suburbs but found himself in the Rio Grande Valley 20 years ago because of his employment. In Mission, he met his wife Pam, and after a stint in Tennessee, the two decided to move back to the RGV and raise their family in the western Hidalgo County city.
Geddes is the director of purchasing with Alps Alpine, a company he was with for eight years and recently hired with again. Before Alps Alpine, the place 3 candidate was the purchasing director for the City of Mission for two years. He said resigning from his employment with the city was a difficult decision, and he wanted to find ways to continue serving the community.
When he learned of an opening for place 3, Geddes said former city employees encouraged him to run because of his background in city finances.
“As the city grows, you need leadership that can have a strategic view and look out into the future. It’s not just budgeting for the next year but what’s coming from a longer term perspective to manage that growth,” he said. “And it’s a balance too because…at the same time, you want to keep the history, the quality of life, the community that people know, that people like me chose to move to for those aspects. So it takes some forethought and some planning. And with the business background that I have, plus the city administration, I understand how the city operates, how funding works, the budget process, and especially the spending of the money. I oversaw that while I was there.”
Currently, Mission plans its budget on a year-to-year basis. If elected, Geddes would like to use his financial experience to help city leadership develop a more long-term strategic plan, which would require more community and stakeholder input.
But in addition to his expertise, Geddes said he just wants to be a steward of Mission.
“I truly have a heart to serve,” he said. “I want to be part of the community; I want to offer what I can to contribute to the community.”
This election is the second time Salinas has sought a seat on Mission City Council. The Laredo native moved to the Valley in 1996 and decided to run for city council when he felt like Mission began neglecting the little things that helped him fall in love with the city in the first place, such as cleanliness and general maintenance.
Salinas ran for city council in May 2022 against eventual winner Jessica Ortega and runner-up Moises Iglesias. Although he did not emerge as the victor, Salinas’s motivation to serve the community has not wavered.
Since the last time he ran, Salinas has attended every council meeting to familiarize himself with the process and the needs of the city. Additionally, the council appointed him as a board member of the Mission Economic Development Corporation.
And because of his commitment to attending city council meetings and workshops, Salinas said he has been able to assist other community members in need because of the knowledge he has acquired.
“Now, knowing what I know, I’m glad I didn’t win that time,” Salinas said, referencing the 2022 election. “Because I would have come up short because I didn’t understand what was going on. I would have had to be learning on the job and I think that would have slowed down the progress.”
The place 3 candidate said he has seen improvements around town since he last ran for a seat, and he applauds Mayor Norie Gonzalez Garza’s efforts to move the city in a positive direction. However, he still believes the city could benefit from his experience in medical administration, which requires him to work collaboratively to manage finances on a large scale.
To promote community interaction, Salinas is developing an app that allows constituents to talk directly to elected officials about their needs. The idea for the app stemmed from Salinas talking to constituents who feel like their concerns fall on deaf ears.
“I think for transparency, it works for all of us,” the candidate said. “It’s going to give us more work, but we made the commitment and I think we need to follow through with the commitment to be involved.”
More than anything, Salinas said he has greatly enjoyed assisting people since he started regularly attending city council meetings, and he would like to do that for the wider public.
“I think the nature of healthcare is helping people,” he said. “And I think this is a different way of helping and making my city good.”
MARISSA ORTEGA GERLACH
Gerlach is a business manager with a background in business administration and accounting. Her professional history includes auditing, financial reporting, analysis and all things involved in business management. Since 2011, Gerlach has worked with Jaguar Hydrostatic Testing — a Gerlach family-owned oil and gas company based in Mission.
When the Missionite learned there would be an opening on the city council, she said it felt like everything fell into place for her to be able to give back to the community.
“It was the perfect time in my life, and with my skill set and with my knowledge, I felt like this was the best position I could use my talents and my skills and my background to benefit the residents of Mission to the best of my knowledge,” Gerlach said. “I feel I have the skill set needed to fill this position.”
The place 3 candidate has experience in budgeting and managing finances, which she believes could benefit the city council when it comes to maintaining low property taxes and supporting business development. One of her goals for the city is enhancing economic development and creating job opportunities. And her strategy for encouraging development is ensuring fiscal responsibility from city leaders.
Gerlach said her family has long been stewards of Mission, helping with local fundraisers and the Texas Citrus Fiesta. And during the campaign, she has most enjoyed getting out in the community and listening to people’s needs. If elected to city council, she plans to do more of the same and advocate for Mission residents.
“I’m at a point now in my life and in my career that I have the knowledge, I have the skillset, I have the background to give back to the citizens of the city that raised me,” she said.
This is the third election that Padron has entered, but it is his first time running for Mission City Council. Previously, Padron ran for the Texas House of Representatives (D-36) in 2020 and 2016 but he lost both races to Sergio Muñoz Jr.
The agency principal for SafeGuard Insurance said, despite the election losses, he has stayed motivated to keep running because of his desire to provide aid to his people. In the past, he has donated to various departments at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and the Hidalgo County Head Start Program. But he wants to do more.
“Over the years, I’ve given back to many associations…and I will continue to do that. But what is a better way than to give yourself,” Padron said. “The experience that I’ve had over the years, being able to provide some of that knowledge and some of that expertise that I’ve had, back to my community, what is a better way to do it than as a public servant.”
Padron said he is focusing his campaign on the fact that he is running as an independent. He said he does not want to have any strings attached if the public elects him, and he does not want to owe anyone any favors once in office.
The place 3 candidate also wants to focus on being a visionary for Mission. His goals include bringing more vibrancy to the community and providing more skilled labor so the residents can afford the new attractions Mission has to offer. Padron suggested the city look into building more hotels to be able to capitalize on tourism and the vacancy tax, which could bring in more money to the community. Mission is a diamond waiting to be polished, he said.
“We have to raise the quality of life for the Mission residents; it’s all about quality of life,” the candidate said. “And I mean quality of life in Mission, not because you’re going to McAllen or Edinburg. What are we doing in Mission to keep our people in Mission happy with their quality of life?”
Padron said he has built his insurance business of 28 years on people’s trust. Without trust, he would not have gotten to where he is today. And with his business experience, he believes he has what it takes to help lead the Mission community.
“I told the mayor, ‘I may not agree with you, but we’re going to work together as a team to move our city forward,’” he said.
Special Election Day is Dec. 9. Early voting begins Nov. 22, it will close Nov. 23-24 for Thanksgiving and resume Nov. 27- Dec. 5. The polling sites are Mission Parks and Recreation and the Boys & Girls Club gym. They will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.