MCALLEN, Texas – McAllen Mayor Jim Darling says there are some big economic development projects nearing in fruition but they likely will not be unveiled until he is out of office.
After eight years as mayor and six years before that as a city commissioner, Darling is retiring from public office. He gives his last McAllen State of the City address this coming Wednesday at the McAllen Convention Center.
“There is a lot going on. There are some economic development projects for which we have non-disclosure agreements so I cannot talk about them. They are pretty big deals,” Darling told the Rio Grande Guardian.
When it was put to him that, therefore, all the glory will come after he leaves office, Darling said: “Yes, I know, but that is okay because I never did it for the glory. I am just proud we are leaving the city in good shape. I always said our job is to make it a little better.”
Darling said his predecessors did a “great job” for McAllen. “So, every time we have a new mayor the ante is raised up a little bit. So, that is what I hope I accomplished, leaving it a little better than when I came in.”
Looking back at his eight years as mayor, Darling acknowledged there have been many challenges.
“Certainly, this has been a tough year. I think we weathered… it is sad to see all the lives we lost but, COVD, I think we did a good job trying to balance keeping businesses open but keeping it safe. That was difficult because there were different levels of government doing different things.”
Darling noted that he has also had to deal with a hurricane, a major flood, and an Arctic freeze. Right now a tough issue to contend with is the surge in asylum seekers crossing into the United States from Mexico.
“The asylum issues all happened during my eight years (as mayor) so we are dealing with that,” Darling said. “I know I must be doing a good job on the asylum seekers issue because 50 percent on the Right are saying I am doing a lousy job and 50 percent on the Left are saying I am doing a lousy job.”
It was pointed out to Darling that he recently won an award from Rising LoneStars for his “humanitarian” approach to immigration.
The group said: “As national news outlets repeatedly featured headlines describing a ‘crisis at the border,’ Mayor Jim Darling presented an alternative interpretation of the country’s immigration situation. Mayor Darling described the situation as a ‘crisis in Washington,’ where three successive administrations have failed to find a solution to the nation’s influx of unaccompanied minors and undocumented immigrants crossing the southern border. Darling went on to criticize the administration’s lack of preparation for the recent surge in immigration and suggested the solution is greater federal support for cities on both sides of the border.”
Darling said the City of McAllen did not ask to be thrust into the national spotlight.
“I did not ask for this to happen in our city. But when it happens you have to respond to it and you have got to respond to it in the right manner. That is what we did, to protect our citizens and also to provide humanitarian relief to the people that have been brought to our city by Border Patrol.”
The Rio Grande Guardian interviewed Darling late last week. Asked if he had written his speech for the State of the City address, he responded: “No, I have been too busy. I do my best work under pressure.”
Asked if he will discuss his vision for McAllen during the address, even though he is about to leave office, Darling said: “I am going to talk about that a little bit. We have new people coming in. We will not know who they are. Not to say, ‘here’s what you need to do,’ but, one of the big things, if you look at all of the State of the City addresses, they have set out what our vision is for the future.”
Darling said that in the first year the focus was on making McAllen a healthier city.
“We just won our fourth It’s Time Texas. There is a lot of work to do but we have the marathon, the kid’s marathon, there is momentum always there for that.”
It’s Time Texas is a nonprofit that seeks to make Texans healthier and foster healthier communities.
Darling said the theme of the next State of the City was to build a better future for young people.
“We have the new university, we have the medical school, STC has a nursing school and is getting four-year programs. We have A&M here. We are working on economic things for our unemployment rate. Generally it has been us and Edinburg, the lowest in the Valley. Not too far behind the state, so I think we need better jobs now. On unemployment, we are not in double digits, we haven’t been in five or six years. We have done a lot of things.”
One theme Darling is expected to talk about in his last State of the City address is the importance of regionalization.
“The way you do that is you have to participate and in the past we did not do a lot of regional stuff. I probably do too much. I am on 19 boards. I have been chairman twice of the council of government, we are trying to change how we do things over there, the MPO board and different things,” Darling said.
“My message is it (being mayor of McAllen) is a big job and you have to provide leadership, not only with your city commission but in the region. You have to participate in the region. So, hopefully whoever does become mayor will.”
Darling realizes that devoting so much time to public service has been to the detriment of his earning capacity.
“I could not do both. I could not be a hospital administrator and mayor so I told my wife, which one do you want, the $50 dollar one or the one that pays a little bit more than that. I took the $50 one. But I could not do a good job on both of them.”
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