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Pharr City Commissioner Arturo Cortez

PHARR, RGV – Pharr City Commissioner Arturo Cortez has known Pharr Mayor Pro Tem Adan Farias for 35 years and has no hesitation in recommending him to voters as the best candidate for mayor.

Cortez said he first met Farias when their children were graduating from high school. Cortez was working for the U.S. Postal Service at the time while Farias was a teacher for Pharr-San Juan-Alamo school district.

“I have known Mr. Farias for over 35 years. He is the best candidate because, unlike his opponent, Adan Farias will be a full-time mayor. That is very important because that is what is needed,” Cortez said. “Adan Farias has an unquestionable record of honesty, integrity and public service. He is beholden solely to the citizens of Pharr, not to outside manipulators who have their own special interests.”

Both Cortez and Farias are on the Pharr First slate of candidates in this year’s city elections. Cortez is running for re-election in Place 1 and Farias is running for mayor. Their opponents are the Pharr Forward slate led by Dr. Ambrosio “Amos” Hernandez.

Cortez said that throughout a hard fought campaign that has been peppered with negative attacks, Farias has “stayed calm” and dealt with all the distortions with “class, grace and dignity.” He said longtime residents of Pharr will be aware of his colleague’s attributes.

“After 30 years as an educator at PSJA ISD, including serving as the first principal of PSJA North, the citizens of Pharr know Adan Farias can be trusted to make the right decisions. Adan Farias has essentially been the leader of the Pharr City Commission for the past several years now. During this time, Pharr has attracted Costco, At Home, Cinemark, and Main Event just to name a few of the businesses coming into the city.”

Cortez then listed some of the community organizations Farias has been involved with over the years.

“Adan Farias is a board member of the Pharr Oratory of St. Philip Neri School System. He is a member of the Pharr Library Board, the Pharr Golf Course Advisory Board, and the Rio Grande Valley Literacy Center. He chairs the highly respected and influential Texas Border Coalition, which is a big plus for us because of our international bridge. He is a member of our bridge board,” Cortez said.

“Adan Farias attends about 98 percent of all the ribbon-cuttings in the city. That is important because the people that are opening up their businesses are proud to be in Pharr, they want to be in Pharr and they are just so happy that our Mayor Pro Tem is there to wish them good luck. For these reasons and many more I feel that Adan is the best candidate to be mayor of the City of Pharr.”

Cortez said it could be argued that Farias has been groomed for the role of mayor over the last seven to nine years. “He is very well respected by his fellow commissioners, very well respected by the city manager and the department heads. He is an individual that, when he speaks, people listen.”

Cortez went on to say that in many respects Farias is “the good face of Pharr and the honest face of Pharr.” He said longtime residents would know this. “As far as I know and I am sure I right, you have not heard one piece of bad publicity about Adan Farias in Pharr. Not one. On top of this, Adan’s wife, Diana, is involved in a lot of community service work herself. You name it she is involved with it, in a good way.”

Farias was born in San Isidro, Texas, and educated at what was then called A&I University in Kingsville. It is now known as Texas A&M University-Kingsville. “Adan got a job offer from Pharr to become a teacher here,” Cortez recalled. “Everybody told him, don’t go to PSJA, it is full of gangs, full of graffiti. He was told, go to Edinburg, go to McAllen, but don’t come to Pharr. That is how bad things were back then. Adan said, well, maybe that is where I need to be so I can start fixing things.”

Cortez and Farias were first elected to the Pharr City Commission at the same time, back in 2006. Cortez said they pledged to each other that they would leave their city in a better shape than they found it.

“When we got here things were in a mess. The city was $6.5 million in the red. No businesses were coming to town. There was graffiti all over the walls. We were having gang problems. Working with others we put things in place, we got a lot of help from a lot of people and we got rid of the graffiti, we got rid of the gangs, we got rid of the deficit. Businesses started coming back. It all starts with the city commission. If the City Commission is bickering businesses will shy away. When we got it together and stopped bickering, guess what, the businesses started coming back.”

To start with, however, things were tough, Cortez recalled.

“The first two years were miserable because we were with the old regime, Richard Medina being one of them. We would take one step forward and three steps back. The low point for me was when we were granted $40,000 to provide Internet service for our library. They voted against it, free money. They said, well we do not want to have the Internet there because the kids will start watching X-rated stuff. Can you believe that? They did not know you could protect against that. Once we won the next election we put it back on the agenda and we got high speed Internet. That was in 2008. Now, we get that money every year.”

Asked what the highlights have been on the city commission during his time there, Cortez pointed to two things, success with the budget and the opening of the downtown library.

“The new downtown library was only half done when we got there. There were lawsuits flying all over the place, everybody was pointing fingers. That was the first thing we started working on. Let’s get that library finished, let’s get the road cleared. We accomplished that in about a year and a half,” Cortez said.

“As for the budget, we visited every department head. We asked, what kind of budget money do you have left to spend and they said they did not know. We said, what do you mean you do not know? They said, everything is controlled by finance. We found out the finance guy was moving money from here to there and nobody really knew how much they had to spend or whether they were overspending. We fixed all that. We got a new finance director and things changed from there.”

Cortez said he and Farias chuckle now when they go to a restaurant and have a coffee with Pharr residents. “People would stop us and say, we really miss those big fights at the commission meeting. But, they would also say they appreciated we were getting things done. The image factor went from below the ground to ten feet high.”

Asked if there was anything else he would like to say about Farias or the campaign, Cortez said he worries about what sort of turmoil might ensue if their opponents are successful.

“It has taken us seven years to get the image of Pharr into a positive light with our neighbors and to the outside world. I am sad to say it has taken our opponents two and half months to destroy it again. People have started second guessing all the good things we have done. They have second guessed Fred (Sandoval), our city manager, completely. A lot of that has come from our mayor. But that is okay, we are going to get back in there, take care of business, get the city’s respect back, get the city exuding confidence again.”

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part series focusing on the Pharr mayoral race. Click here to read part one.