McALLEN, March 1 - McAllen businessmen Othal Brand, Jr., and Daniel D. Vela have both decided not to run for mayor of McAllen this year.
Both said they appreciate all the support they have been getting but want to see current projects they are working on through to completion. In the case of Brand, that means projects for Hidalgo County Water Improvement District No. 3. In the case of Vela, it means his work on McAllen ISD school board.
In interviews with the Guardian both left open the possibility of running for mayor in the future.
Today is the last day to file for election and the only candidate to have thrown his hat in the ring for mayor of McAllen thus far is attorney Jim Darling, a current city commissioner.
“I committed to the school board and I have two years left of that commitment, said Vela, the owner of Lee’s Pharmacy in McAllen. “We have done great things for McAllen with the school district and we are going to continue to do great things.”
McAllen ISD has won national and international attention acclaim for a project to give iPads or iPods to every student. The idea is to transform learning in the classroom, in the campus and in the community. Last year, McAllen’s school board was named Outstanding School Board by the Texas Association of School Administrators.
“We have a tremendous school district, the best in Texas. I enjoy the work, I love the work. We have great administrators, great teachers, great kids,” Vela said. Asked if he might run for mayor of McAllen in the future, Vela said: “The future is wide open.”
In a separate interview, Brand said much the same. “At the moment I have some major projects with the water district but nothing is going to bar me four years from now,” he said.
Brand is general manager and president of McAllen-based Hidalgo County Water Improvement District No. 3. His father, the legendary Othal Brand, Sr., was mayor of McAllen for 20 years. Brand said he has water district projects worth $4.5 million currently underway and more on the drawing board.
“There are still many things to be done in this district that I want to see completed before I attempt anything else,” Brand said. “The projects will benefit not only the water district but the city of McAllen.”
Brand said he is in ongoing discussions with state and federal officials about his ideas on water conservation. He said if his ideas are adopted the entire Rio Grande Valley, which relies on water from the Rio Grande, would benefit. “The project I am thinking of would be the biggest we have ever done. With the drought we are currently going through, we have to think big,” he said.
Brand said he would like to address the fact that 35 percent of the City of McAllen’s 37,000 acre-feet of water rights is lost. “Ten percent is lost from river to reservoir. Five percent is lost in the reservoir. Five percent is lost in processing and 15 percent is lost in their networks, due to 100 year-old pipes. All of this is in their own book. There are ways to fix it,” Brand said.
Brand and Hidalgo County Water Improvement District No. 3 have had their disagreements with the City of McAllen in the past. Two years ago, city officials tried to get legislation passed to abolish the district. Gov. Rick Perry vetoed the legislation. Brand said he is hoping for a better working relationship with the City of McAllen in the future. “We need a good working relationship, particularly this year with the drought,” he said.
Brand added that he has been encouraged by Darling’s comments that if elected mayor, McAllen will develop better working relations with irrigation districts and surrounding cities. “McAllen is arrogant. They only think about what is best for McAllen, not the surrounding cities or the Valley as a whole. That has to change if we are to truly have regional unity,” Brand said.
“Also, McAllen has to change its attitude to businesses that want to come here. Some city leaders think they are the big business in town, not the private businesses that pay the taxes. That has got to change. You need people that have a public service attitude. That is what is missing.”