RAYMONDVILLE, RGV – Texas Governor Greg Abbott says Willacy County’s economy is rebounding and he is going to help it get even better.

Abbott spoke at a local Republican Party fundraiser at the Willacy County Historical Museum and Community Center on Friday evening. Tickets for the Lincoln-Reagan Dinner were $50 per person.

Before the event, Abbott was interviewed by Ron Whitlock of Ron Whitlock Reports. Whitlock pointed out that a sitting governor had not visited Willacy County for decades. In fact, Whitlock said he could not remember a governor visiting the poorest county in Texas throughout his broadcast career, which stretches back to the mid-1960s, when he worked as a reporter for KSOX 1240 AM in Raymondville.

“It has been too long for a governor to have been in Willacy County,” Abbott told Whitlock. “I am honored to be here. These people are great. The community is great. I want them to know that the Governor of Texas cares about them, cares about Willacy County, cares about Raymondville, and that I am fighting for them and their values in Austin, Texas.”

Governor Greg Abbott with veteran broadcaster Ron Whitlock.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Willacy County, with a population of 22,056, has the highest poverty rate in the state with 38.8 percent of residents living in poverty. It has the second-highest child poverty rate with 45.9 percent.

“This is the poorest county in the State of Texas. The people need jobs, they need all kinds of help with economic development because Walmart closed, the prison closed, they lost 300 jobs. They really need help. You intend to help them?” asked Whitlock, who is a resident of Willacy County.

‘I want to talk a lot tonight about economic development,” Abbott said. “I know they are challenged in Willacy County, as far as unemployment. However, the good story is this: this time last year unemployment was about 12.2 percent. This year now it is 9.6 percent. So, unemployment is going down. People are getting jobs. The economy is beginning to pick up and we intend to continue that progress, we intend to continue to stimulate economic growth.”

Ron Mills, port director for Willacy County Navigation District, says he believes expanding commercial activity at Port Mansfield is the best economic development tool Willacy County has at its disposal. For this to happen, the port’s ship channel needs to be dredged. Recently, Mills thanked Gov. Abbott for his efforts to get hurricane-relief funds for Texas ports such as Port Mansfield.

The Willacy County event was the second attended by Abbott in the Rio Grande Valley in the last few days. Last Wednesday he attended a campaign fundraiser at the Double Tree Suites in McAllen hosted by Othal Brand, Jr., Dr. Fred Farias, III, Sandy and Dr. Nolan Perez, Hollis Rutledge, Jr., Sheila M. Vallés-Pankratz, and Texas Optometric Political Action Committee.