New officials sworn-in in Rio Grande City and Roma municipal seats

From left to right: Jaime Escobar Jr., Alberto Escobedo and Gabriela Rodriguez

Rio Grande City welcomed a new city commissioner Tuesday following the results of last week’s elections which saw Alberto Escobedo defeat two-term incumbent Dave “Chachi” Jones to become the next commissioner for Place 4.

Escobedo was sworn in during a virtual ceremony held Tuesday evening after the city canvassed the results for the election.

The official results had Escobedo with 2,169 votes to Jones’ 1,557 votes.

As a new commissioner, Escobedo said Wednesday that he hopes to bring transparency to the commission, an issue he ran on.

The owner of Esco Spa & Salon and of a food pantry called Casa De Esperanza, Escobedo said he was driven to seek public office because of struggles that he’s witnessed within the community.

Though this will be his first time in public office, he previously ran for city commission in 2016 and he ran for a position on the Rio Grande City school board in 2018.

“Now I’m going to be able to be on the inside and try to do the best that I can,” Escobedo said. “I know it’s easier said than done but I think what we need in politicians are people that listen, listen to the needs of our community so we can move forward.”

He added that some of the most important things are infrastructure, jobs, and addressing the needs of their first responders.

However, he knows there’s a learning curve and hopes the mayor and the other commissioners will have patience with him as he asks questions.

“I think that’s what’s going to be our first step, to learn the dos and don’ts and more than anything, learn what projects are in works at the moment and how those projects are going so I can learn exactly what’s going on,” he said.

Jones said he hopes that Escobedo will continue work on the projects he wasn’t able to see through to the end.

“I hope that he keeps his word that he gave to the community that he’s going to work with the commission and hopefully finish the projects I left there pending,” Jones said.

“I wish him the best of luck,” Jones added. “I know that he has big shoes to fill because I was really active with the community.”

The former commissioner said he had no regrets about his time in office and knew he was there for the right reasons.

“I know I was there for the right things, to protect the best interests of the residents of Rio Grande City,” Jones said, adding that he was grateful for the two terms that the residents gave him.

“The residents wanted change at this time and I’m looking forward to the future and see what the future brings,” he said. “I’ll be back.”

During Tuesday’s ceremony, Rio Grande City Mayor Joel Villarreal and Place 2 Commissioner Rey Ramirez were also sworn in for their new terms in office following their reelections last week.

Villarreal won with 2,280 total votes while his opponent, Ross Barrera, received 1,406 total votes, according to the official results announced Tuesday.

This will be the second full term for Villarreal who was first elected to office in a special election in 2015 and then reelected for a full term in 2016.

After he was sworn in, the mayor thanked his family and the electorate for going out and voting.

“I cannot say enough about letting the voice be heard,” Villarreal said, adding “once the election is over, then it’s peaceful transition of power and now moving forward with our plans that we have.”

Ramirez received 2,285 votes, winning a fourth term to his office over his opponent, Alvaro Iglesias, who received 1,388 votes.

“I enjoy serving as a commissioner and I look forward to all the projects that are coming up in the near future,” Ramirez said during the ceremony, during which he also congratulated Villarreal and Escobedo but also thanked his family, friends, and Jones.

“There’s a lot of projects that he had a hand on helping to build,” he said.

Farther west, the city of Roma swore-in a new mayor and new council member Wednesday evening.

Jaime Escobar Jr. and Gabriela “Gaby” Rodriguez took the oath office for mayor and council member Place 1, respectively, following a canvass of the votes from last week’s election.

Escobar received 2,289 votes while incumbent Mayor Roberto Salinas received 1,319, according to the official results announced Wednesday.

Rodriguez received 2,185 votes while Clyde Guerra, the incumbent councilman, received 1,401 votes.

Roma voters also approved a controversial charter amendment which now requires only a simple majority vote by the council to fire or hire the city manager instead of the super-majority that was previously needed.

The change was approved by 1,923 votes in favor compared to the 1,003 votes cast against it.

In a ceremony held in the city’s historical district, Escobar and Rodriguez thanked Salinas and Guerra for their service on the council.

“I’m a firm believer that newly elected officials must build upon their predecessors’ achievements,” Escobar said, “and I intend to work diligently with the council and the administration so that we can become the city we know we can become.”