Presidio city election 2017: Wide range of choices in Presidio City Council election
April 6th, 2017 under News Now
By CAMERON DODD
PRESIDIO — Non-partisan local elections present voters with the choice of a cast of local volunteers who campaign unsupported and unhindered by party affiliation. In the absence of platform or ideological rigor, candidates offer earnest and idealistic, albeit often vague, campaign pledges, short on details but heavy on enthusiasm for making the communities great. After the tumultuous national election shook up some of the most vulgar and cynical campaigning American democracy can produce, local elections give citizens the chance for more direct, and potentially refreshing, involvement in the more immediate political choices affecting their lives.
Presidio’s upcoming May 6 city council election is one such opportunity. Six candidates are vying for three seats. Two of the available seats carry full two-year terms, while one is a single-year term to make up for a past council resignation. Some of the candidates are young first-time politicos looking to bring fresh perspective to the council. A few are experienced and looking to build upon some momentum the city has built in recent years. Regardless of their experience, the names populating May’s ballot all share the goal of helping Presidio grow and develop beyond what many see as a decades-long stagnation.
Current council member Isela Nuñez is the only incumbent seeking re-election to the council. The first-term council member also sits on the board of directors for the Presidio County Appraisal District and was recently appointed to the board of the Presidio Municipal Development District. A Presidio native, Nuñez returned to her hometown in 2011 after about 25 years of work with Chevron in Texas, Arizona and Europe. She has since worked with Pro Customs Brokers, an agency that facilitates imports and exports of cattle and other goods.
Nuñez presents her business experience as an asset for helping the council channel Presidio’s subtle growth into benefits for the community.
““There are so many good things coming up for Presidio,” Nuñez said. “A lot of people worry Presidio could grow to be like Odessa. It’s not the same but we do have some growth happening. We could gain 400 people a year for 10 years and still be at just 8,000 people.”
The opportunity to serve on the city council has been rewarding, Nuñez said. “Being able to do something for the city, for the people you care about who live here, it’s so satisfying.”
Nuñez cites her often outspoken input as a positive contribution to council discussions.
“Dialogue is extremely important,” Nuñez said. “We work well as a council. We don’t always agree, and we’re not perfect, but we agree on trying to do the right thing for Presidio.”
Nuñez’s first term on the city council, her first time on any elected body, has seen the city make progress on its budgets, its long-problematic audits and the hiring of a new city administrator. The city council made difficult decisions about dipping into its emergency funds to finance Presidio Emergency Medical Services.
In a second term on city council, Nuñez would like to see the city push for more equitable amenities from Presidio County and seek more state funding to help with the issues that hinder growth in rural communities, such as emergency medical services.
“It’s really annoying for Presidio residents to have to go all the way to Marfa for titles or birth certificates,” Nuñez said. “With technology, we should be able to have things in both places.”
Nuñez also wants to bring more activities and jobs to town for Presidio’s youth and adults.
“A lot of moms in town feel like single moms because their husbands work out of town,” Nuñez said. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could reunite those families, if the men didn’t have to work out of town?”
Presidio counselor Victor Hernandez is a first-time candidate for city office. Born in New Mexico, Hernandez moved to Presidio from Ojinaga to study and play football at Presidio High School. After graduating in 1999, he went on serve in the U.S. Marine Corps, eventually deploying in Afghanistan and Iraq, attaining the rank of sergeant. Hernandez then earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at El Paso in political science with a minor in psychology. He moved back to Presidio after nearly a decade away in 2009 to work at Franco Middle School while earning his Master’s degree in clinic counseling.
Hernandez is at a point in his life where he is tired of criticizing and wants to be involved in make positive change in his community, he said.
“I think it’s time,” Hernandez told the Presidio International. “If I can help, if I can participate, I know by myself I won’t be able to do nothing, but with the right people in the government, in the key positions, you can change a whole community, a whole town.”
Hernandez wants Presidio to grow in a direction similar to Marfa or Alpine, he said, towns he describes as progressive. “I want us to be a more colorful town, a more lively town, a town that is more dedicated to its citizens and its youth,” he said.
What Presidio needs, Hernandez said, is more events and local businesses that attract tourism. He said the city council should seek state grants and work with local agencies like the Border Patrol that also have an interest in making Presidio a desirable place to live. He points to the unused drag racing track as a potential site of national or even international events.
“Things like that would bring good people, good businesses and good money to Presidio versus selling Presidio to foreign hands,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez would start with helping to establish the Presidio Chamber of Commerce and advocating for more events and other measures to increase tourism. He wants to establish after school and summer activities for kids and teenagers. In his work with Presidio middle and high school students, Hernandez said, he sees how kids start drinking in Mexico at a young age for lack of anything fun to do in Presidio.
“My love for Presidio is big,” Hernandez said. “I plan to stay here for many, many years. I want a better Presidio for my kids.”
Ruben Armendariz told the International he is ready to assist the team that is already leading the city. The retired U.S. Army sergeant, current Presidio Independent School District Facilities and Operation Director and father of four has served on the school district’s board of trustees and the Presidio County Appraisal District Board in the past.
Now, he is looking to help the city run more efficiently and improve the city’s infrastructure. The city is in the middle of a years-long effort to finance improvements to the city’s water and sewer lines. Armendariz said he would also like to start pushing the city to be proactive in the long process of moving the Presidio landfill. The lifespan on the current landfill is only around 17 more years, and the process of opening a new one could take seven to 10 years.
“The challenge will be getting the community to buy in,” Armendariz said. “It’s easy to sell a swimming pool, but to get the community to be patient with the things they don’t really see or understand can be more difficult.”
Still, Armendariz thinks the city needs to get a jump on these unseen but vital projects.
“Without a solid foundation, we’re not going anywhere,” Armendariz said. “We’ve got to take care of our community members first.”
Elida Martinez has lived in Presidio since 1970 but has not served as an elected official before. She has two children in Presidio, but the rest of her family has left for the Permian Basin.
“My mother and family moved to Odessa and they say I should move up there to maybe find a new job,” Hernandez told the International. “But I’m not ready to leave Presidio. The town, the people, I just love it.”
Martinez is ready to give back and help the town she loves. Having worked as a clerk at the Three Palms Inn for 17 years, Martinez has knowledge of the local tourism industry and thinks the city could do more to bring travelers to town.
“I meet a lot of people coming to the Big Bend who haven’t heard of Presidio,” she said. “We have a beautiful town. We could do more to get more tourists coming to visit.”
Despite her lack of government experience, Martinez said she is ready to learn and do what she can to help. Presidio, she said, needs to do more to help existing businesses and create jobs by bringing in more outside investment.
“We would all like Presidio to be a great city,” Martinez said. “I want to get involved. I see what is going on and I want to something for me and the city.”
Presidio Adult Education Program Director Samuel Carrasco is a native Presidio resident with 20 years of teaching and grant writing at the school district. In a statement, Carrasco explained he is seeking election the city council because of his commitment to the community.
“I am running for city council to advocate for solutions for local problems,” Carrasco said in a statement. “I have no preconceived agendas or alliances so my loyalty lies in the city as a whole.”
U.S. Border Patrol agent Silverio Escontrias is also seeking a place on the city council. As of press time, Escontrias had not responded to requests for comment on his campaign.
The Presidio general election is on May 6. Early voting starts on April 24. Nuñez, Armendariz and Hernandez are vying for two full-term seats, and Escontrias, Martinez and Carrasco are competing for the one-year seat.
For more information on the Presidio general election, contact Presidio City Hall at (432) 729-4342.
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