EDINBURG, March 21 - San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro will headline the South Texas Mayors’ Stakeholders Summit taking place on Friday and Saturday in Edinburg.
The event, hosted by the New Leaders Texas Foundation, will also feature Congressmen Filemon Vela and Joaquin Castro, who is the twin brother of the San Antonio mayor. Rio Grande Valley mayors participating at the conference include Richard Garcia of Edinburg, Chris Boswell of Harlingen, and Steve Brewer of La Feria.
Also set to participate are UT-Pan American President Robert Nelsen, Proyecto Azteca’s Ann Williams Cass and Terri Burke of the American Civil Liberties Union. UT-Brownsville President Juliet Garcia and state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa have been invited to be panelists.
Among the issues to be discussed at the summit are life on the border, education, energy and healthcare. The summit is being held at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance and is open to the general public. Anyone wishing to attend should rsvp at firstname.lastname@example.org. The event starts at 2:30 p.m. on Friday. Mayor Castro gives his keynote speech at 12 noon on Saturday.
Brian Stansbury, chairman of the board of the New Leaders Texas Foundation, said his group is excited to be visiting South Texas. He said the group deliberately chose South Texas for its first mayors’ summit.
“We thought let’s go to the source. Let’s go to an area that is on the front lines of changing demographics and emerging communities. Let us go to an area we are not as familiar with because you can learn the most this way,” Stansbury told the Guardian. “South Texas is one of the most dynamic regions of the state. It has changed dramatically.”
Stansbury said the decision to host a South Texas Mayors’ Stakeholders Summit came out of discussions between South Texas mayors when the Castro brothers visited McAllen last October. Many Valley members were in attendance when the Castros spoke about economic development, infrastructure, healthcare, education and politics at Pepper’s Restaurant.
“This summit came out of that luncheon. It was a desire of the leaders to work together, including the Castros, to address the issues that are important to the mayors and the community. This summit is an opportunity to bring together an array of people to talk about some important issues ranging from education to healthcare,” Stansbury said.
Stansbury said New Leaders Texas was formed in order to “prepare and cultivate the next generation of principled, capable leaders.” He said it is important to “bring together, on issues of importance, leaders, citizens, community stakeholders to encourage people to participate in the political process.”
New Leaders Texas was formed by political activists involved with Bill White’s unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign of 2010. Stansbury said that while a majority of the organizers “tend to lean” Democratic, the group is not party political in nature. He said he does not identify himself as a Democrat or a Republican.
“There is not much value in bringing together just Democrats. The real value is bringing together people from different backgrounds that might not often talk to each other but should be,” Stansbury said. “What we want to do is bring together people who are smart, thoughtful, and focused on solutions. Our leaders are pro-education and pro-business and focused on constructive solutions to problems.”
With regard to ethnicity, Stansbury said New Leaders Texas is not focusing exclusively on emerging Latino leaders. However, he said because the group wants to represent the face of Texas today it is natural that a lot of the focus will be on Latinos.
“If you want to reflect the reality of Texas then naturally you will be engaging Latino leaders. While we are not specifically targeting Latino voters and leaders, we realize the Latino population is growing and it is becoming more influential in how Texas operates,” Stansbury said.
Stansbury said he believes those who attend the summit will learn a lot and so will his group. “We are excited to learn from the panelists and those in the audience who will be interacting with people on the panel. It shows the willingness of people in the South Texas region to work together,” he said.
“Our role is to provide a forum through which people can come together and talk and develop collective action to address issues that matter to the region. We are very excited and honored that so many people have stepped forward and shown an interest in attending. It is very humbling, to say the least.”