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2 challenge Salinas for Mission mayor title

20140404 Mayor-Candidates-for-webAfter 16 years at the helm of the City of Mission, Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas has said he’s not ready to quit just yet.

But two Mission residents both say it’s time for change and unity in the city. Dr. John Robert Guerra and businessman Jaime Gutierrez are opposing Salinas in his bid for re-election.

“I truly believe we have to renew,” Gutierrez said. “Whatever doesn’t renew, it stays in the same place. It’s time to open scenarios for new generations. This generation is not here to divide. We’re not here to break down what has been done; it’s to take it to another level.”

“We want to be able to treat everybody fairly and equally,” Guerra said of his own bid for the seat. “I’d like to have a city government that is of the people, by the people, for the people. His (Salinas’s) poster says ‘one mission,’ instead of ‘our mission.’”

Gutierrez envisions a city government that employs college graduates, giving them the crucial experience they need to move on and move up in the private industry. The system also would allow younger generations to feel a part of the city and its growth.

Guerra, too, referenced the “brain drain” that leads promising students to attend college out of the area and stay there. Referencing his occupation, Guerra said city government is new to him and he’d need to do the same kinds of things he’d does when seeing a patient: listen, define the problem, diagnose it, manage it and then come up with a treatment.

“How come Edinburg can do it? How come McAllen can do it? And now Pharr is not very far behind,” Guerra said. “But Mission? Mission is stagnant.”

For his part, Salinas has pointed to the city’s tax rate that’s dropped 15 percent since he took office. He touted more than $100 million in state and federal money to expand Bryan and Inspiration Roads, widen Mile 2 Road and construct the International Bridge to the Anzalduas Highway.

“We have touched every quadrant of the city and made improvements to our existing facilities or added new ones. It’s great to see and to hear from our citizens that they are using the parks with their families and how much they appreciate them,” Salinas said. “I want Mission residents to take pride in their community.”

Breaking the pattern

Gutierrez, 43, was born in Los Angeles. He grew up in a family of migrants, working in places like Wisconsin and Indiana.

“I really wanted to break the pattern,” Gutierrez said. “I told my wife that’s not going to happen to us.”

They moved to San Juan 17 years ago and Gutierrez opened a wholesale car dealership with his brother.

He moved to Mission about 12 years ago when he found the right house for him and his family. But Gutierrez said he sees two Missions: the south side and north side. Some sections of the city seem forgotten, he said.

It’s time to start helping people in the community, Gutierrez said, and make sure that local business owners are taken care of before bringing in big business.

“Sometimes we focus so much on the economic side, and everything’s about building, building, building, and it seems like we forget that our purpose is to serve our people so they can have better lives, so they can have better opportunities,” he said.

Lowering taxes is fine, Gutierrez said, but the city needs to ensure it maintains quality services and has enough revenue coming in to take care of things like streets, lighting and drainage.

Tired of complaining

Guerra, 58, grew up in McAllen, attended Saint Anthony’s Jr. Seminary in San Antonio in high school when he considered becoming a priest, but ended up coming back to the University of Texas-Pan American to get a degree in biology and chemistry.

He eventually earned his medical degree at the University of North Texas Health Science Center and started training in obstetrics and gynecology in Phoenix. He moved to Mission to work for the hospital in 1998.

Guerra’s never gotten involved in politics before, but he envisions a Mission that is better, safer and stronger. He wants a city government citizens can have confidence in and trust.

“I’ve always complained and complained,” Guerra said. “People have such a great apathy right now. If I’m going to complain, then I should get out there and do something about it.”

Guerra said he’d work with both Sharyland and Mission Consolidated ISD to work out socioeconomic differences between both school districts. It would take cooperation of both public and private entities to rebuild the infrastructure of Mission, he said.

“I think the community is looking for change,” Guerra said. “I want to work with the fire department and police department. They’ve gotten bad raps here. We want to take a look at that, evaluate that. Since we’re this kind of quote, unquote bedroom community to McAllen, we need to have good safety.”

Passion for city

At 67, Salinas has said he’s a rancher and businessman at heart, but his passion is running the city of Mission.

He was born in Cuevitas and moved to West Texas after graduating from Rio Grande City, though he moved back to the Valley shortly after, starting work at Ceballos Funeral Home in McAllen and moving on to start his own ambulance service.

Salinas has lived in Mission 28 years and has served as mayor for 16 of them. Prior to that, he served as the community’s county commissioner from 1980 to 1992. It was at the community’s request, Salinas told the Progress Times, that he first ran for mayor of Mission in 1998 when he found out former Mayor Richard Perez would not run for re-election.

Even after 16 years, Salinas has said his work is not done. The city is in the design phase of expanding the wastewater treatment plant and is working with an architect to design an event center to promote arts and cultural events in the city. The mayor hopes the event center will spur additional economic growth in the community.

“It takes a full time ‘mayor’ to run this city and I have been blessed that I can dedicate much time to city business,” Salinas said.

Election Day is May 10, and early voting begins April 28.

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