A notable figure within the western Hidalgo County community is now member of the La Joya Housing Authority board of commissioners, filling the vacancy created in February.
Filomena Leo, a former teacher and superintendent for the La Joya school district, was sworn in this week as the newest member of the housing authority board following her appointment by La Joya Mayor Isidro Casanova.
Leo fills the position on the board left vacant by Board Chairman John Peña who, after four years on the board, resigned Feb. 25.
“When the opportunity came up, she’s the very first person that I thought about,” Casanova said. “I’m glad she chose to take that responsibility.”
A San Benito native, Leo has lived in La Joya for about 48 years. Her late husband, Billy Leo, also served as mayor of La Joya for approximately 15 years.
“Everybody knows who she is here in La Joya,” Casanova said. “She’s a person that people look up to and that’s very important.”
He added that she is someone who is easy to talk to and who really listens.
“I think that’s what we need with the housing authority board — somebody they can trust, basically; that they can trust is going to help them to do whatever possible to make things work there at the housing authority,” he said.
Leo said she had expressed an interest in serving the city and the opportunity presented itself with the vacancy on the housing authority board.
“What interested me too about this particular one is the fact that this organization has had some conflict recently so I know that when information was first coming out, I was concerned about what impact all that controversy would have on the residents who participate at the housing authority,” Leo said.
An educator, Leo worked at the La Joya school district for 23 years in various roles including superintendent. She also served as interim superintendent at six other school districts.
She also served on the school board of South Texas Independent School District for 30 years.
Because of her experience, she said she believed she could contribute a different perspective to the housing authority board.
“I thought, here is somewhere that I think I can assist, having had multiple years in administration and management,” she said. “Although, there is a director and I fully respect it is the director’s job to manage but as a commissioner, being able to oversee the operations and ensure that the residents were not, in any way, being disadvantaged by what may have gone on or may continue. I thought I could lend that point of view.”
Leo said she continues wanting to serve the community because her upbringing taught her that “service to others was service to our Lord.”
“When I married into the Leo family, they had a similar philosophy of life,” she said. “That if we have abilities, if we have skills, they are to be used for the good of others.”