McALLEN, February 12 - If elected mayor, Jim Darling says he wants to build on the excellent relationships McAllen has with Reynosa, Monterrey and other Mexican cities.
“We need to build on what Mayor Richard Cortez did. He really reached out to Mexico. That helped us get through some of the violence we had in Mexico and the downturn we experienced. Hopefully I can tap into Richard’s experience and carry it forward. We need to maintain and strengthen the relationships he established,” Darling said.
Darling has served two terms as McAllen city commissioner for District 6. At his recent State of the City address, Cortez announced he would not seek a third term as mayor. The next day, Darling, a former city attorney for McAllen, announced he would run for mayor. The municipal election is scheduled for Saturday, May 11.
“We have really been dependent on Mexico for tourism and retail sales so we want to build on that. I think it is a little bit safer now to travel and hopefully it is. We need to emphasis Monterrey and Reynosa and northeastern Mexico,” Darling told the Guardian.
“One of the advantages I have always thought is that we are an All American city that speaks Spanish. We are very safe. That extends to the real estate market. I was in San Antonio recently and there is a lot of real estate being bought by Mexican nationals. The same thing is happening in Houston. We have an opportunity to capture some of that market because we are an All American city, we are safe and we speak Spanish. We need to increase our advertising in Mexico to attract that.”
Darling said McAllen and the Rio Grande Valley can also benefit from the EB-5 program that allows foreign nationals to become U.S. citizens if they invest in a new business that becomes successful. “The EB-5 program has been really big in China and other parts of the world. We need to emphasize it in Mexico. Working with developers here and developing it in Mexico is very important. We can enhance it,” Darling said.
Darling said he used to enjoy playing softball in Mexico. He said it was great for public relations. He acknowledged, however, that “things have been rough” in Mexico in the last few years because of the problems with drug cartels. “I really feel sorry for the citizens of Mexico. Hopefully, that is behind them to a good degree and we continue to build on the relationships we have developed. We have Sister City relations and we have to keep these strong and vibrant.”
Darling is married to Sandra Darling and has three daughters and three sons. He graduated from Baylor Law School after serving two tours of duty with the Air Force in Vietnam. He served as city attorney for McAllen for 28 years. He is currently general counsel at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg.
Darling’s record of public service is extensive. He previously served as president and board member of the Boys and Girls Club of McAllen, president and board member of Communities in Schools, board member of McAllen Crime Stoppers, board member of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, chair of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce Legislative Committee, president of the PTA Fields Elementary School, chairman of the CPL Cities Steering Committee, president of the STAP Cities Electrical Aggregation Group, board member of the Hidalgo County Bar Association, and the vice chair of the Texas Affordable Housing Task Force.
As a news release from his campaign points out, Darling is the recipient of the Henry B. Gonzalez National Housing Council Award, the National Boys and Girls Club Medallion Award, McAllen Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year, USAF Distinguished Flying Cross and the Hidalgo County Bar Association John E. Cook Pro Bono Award. He is married to Sandra Darling and has three daughters and three sons.
In the same news release, the Darling campaign highlights some successes that he has been a part of: the creation of the foreign trade zone and international bridges; major transportation projects such as the Bicentennial expansion; McAllen’s recycling program; new public safety initiatives that have helped lower the crime rate; building affordable housing programs that have created new neighborhoods; the new nationally-recognized public library; partnerships with STC and UTPA to build a quality workforce; and improving infrastructure for better drainage and public utilities.
Darling told the Guardian that his campaign motto is “Together for McAllen. He said that in addition to strengthening ties with Mexico, another part of his platform is making McAllen a better place to do business.
“I want to make sure McAllen has a ‘can do’ attitude. Whether it is perception or reality, we have been perceived as not being business friendly and I want to make sure we overcome that. We need to do whatever it takes to make sure we are business-friendly area. That is what McAllen has always been about,” Darling said.
“That does not mean you ignore other things. I think we are a ‘Green City,’ with the parks we have. Building on business, we can provide those things for our citizens. That is what I hope to do.”
Darling also said he wants to improve McAllen’s relations with its neighbors. In recent years, relations with neighboring cities and irrigation districts have sometimes been strained. One example was when McAllen tried to increase its power on the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council at the expense of the smaller cities. It lost out. Soon afterwards, in what appeared to be pure retaliation, the LRGVDC was told to leave the premises it rented from the City of McAllen. So, it regrouped in Weslaco.
“We need to be regional players, with the cities and the irrigation districts. We need to reach out to the irrigators. Irrigators control all the water and we do not even talk to them. We need to make sure we build relationships with the irrigators and the county and the school districts. It is all about regionalism,” Darling said.
“Hopefully, we think of the synergy we have, instead of having 28 particular ideas. They all may be good ideas but it would be really nice if we all came together. We are part of Hidalgo County. What is good for us is also good for our neighbors and vice versa. Often times we come up to Austin and we know the people here think, ‘all we have to do is get the Valley entities fighting among themselves and we do not need to worry about them.’ Those days have to end.”
Darling concluded his interview by saying he was “really excited” about serving as mayor, should he win election. “I can provide the energy and do some things that can really bring our region together and be good for our city.”