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MISSION – Mission Police Chief Martin Garza was named interim city manager for the City of Mission Monday, Feb. 11. He will begin his new duties on March 1 when Julio Cerda officially leaves the post.
About being appointed to the position, Garza said he will remain a public servant and is humbled and honored to serve the citizens of Mission in this capacity.
Cerda said Garza would serve in the position the next several months until the city council decides it is time to go forward and make their decision on a permanent city manager.
Cerda said he recommended Garza for the position because of the way he carries himself among the citizens, and his manner of taking responsibility. Cerda said the new interim manager takes whatever action is needed to help a citizen. He was also pleased with Garza’s administrative skills made apparent while running the city’s largest department with the biggest budget.
“It is incredible what he did in one year,” said Cerda. He took the responsibility to take care of problems when they arose and how he handles himself in different situations that made my job easier, “I like the way he responds.”
Garza, a Mission native, has been with the Mission Police Department for nearly 21 years. He began as a patrolman with the department in 1992.
Garza has also served as an investigator where he went from corporal to lieutenant, a supervisor for investigations for the special crimes unit, a Crime Stopper coordinator, internal affairs investigator, a public information officer and served three years as assistant police chief.
His career at the Police Department has given him the opportunity to be in different positions, learn the process of administration and serve the public, said Garza.
Garza has a four-year degree from the University of Texas-Pan American in police administration, in addition to an associate degree in law enforcement that he earned from Laredo Junior College (now Laredo Community College).
Last year, when he took on the position of interim police chief, he said he had seen a lot and enjoyed the opportunities to assist the public and be able to address the concerns of the community.
“This is a new endeavor for me,” said Garza. “I feel the years of experience is going to play a role in this new position.”
Garza said he looks forward to this opportunity to work closer with the city council and mayor. He added that he knows it is an enormous responsibility and hopes to learn a lot from those he will be working with.
“It’s a big task,” said Cerda. “With the capacity that he has, I know he can take care of business.”
As police chief, Garza oversees a $14 million budget and 205 employees at the Police Department. As interim city manager he will be manage 620 employees and a $38 million budget.
“My intention is to continue the example Cerda has left behind,” said Garza.
The two men share a likeness in how they handle business.
Cerda has been meeting with department heads at least four times a month. Garza says this has helped him open relationships with the staff and directors of other city departments. We all share our experiences, goals, objectives and projects the city is working on.
“My idea was to instill responsibility in them for every task they take on,” said Cerda.
“I know what the Public Works Department is working on, what issues (they are) going through,” said Garza, as well as all of the other departments. “That process … makes sense.”
Garza continued, saying he knows the directors of the other departments, and they know him. They know my management style. That will help facilitate this transition.
Both men believe customer service is a top priority. Cerda said, it is all about making sure the customer is happy when they leave, that the person has been attended to, or that the issue has been resolved.
“We are working for the people,” said Cerda. “We’ve got to treat everybody as if they’re our family. They are your citizens. They are the people you are responsible for.”
Garza said customer service and being transparent is something he has kept as a priority at the police department and that is something he wants to continue with at the city.
Mayor Norberto Salinas said he believes Garza has the knowledge, education, good communication skills and experience to do the job.
“I feel we will have a good asset,” said Salinas about Garza. “This is a good opportunity for the city to see one of their own in this position.”
Salinas pointed to the experience Garza has with the Police Department and how much of the city’s budget is spent there. He said Garza will be able to help him deal with the needs of the Police Department better when new budget talks start in the next few months.
“He is very fair,” said Salinas Garza. “He is a very honest man. I have a lot of respect for that man.”
Salinas said he wouldn’t beat around the bush about the possibility of Garza staying long term.
“If he does a good job, I may ask him to stay.”
Salinas looks at Garza being interim for at least five months, possibly longer.
“But if he does what I think he is going to do, he might make it full time,” said Salinas.
Garza will be shadowing Cerda for the next two weeks.
Cerda said it wouldn’t be like he is going to Alaska and won’t be able to be reached if Garza needs anything he will still be there to help if needed.
He said what he will miss the most is the everyday excitement of a new task that needs to be taken care of to help someone.
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.