Living in South Texas, we are no stranger to crises. From a 500-year flood event last year to the many turbulent challenges we have experienced in just the past few months, emergency preparedness is a perpetual priority for the Rio Grande Valley. 

Thankfully, we have been able to meet the needs of our community now more than ever, through the strength of our community, dedication of local leaders and with the help of a more recent industry sighted all along the horizon.

Edward Gonzales

I have always felt the calling to be a civil servant, and in my roles as the City Commissioner in Raymondville and Chairman of the Board for Willacy County Emergency Service District, I’ve seen how certain industries can positively impact communities, but one industry that I’ve find this to be particularly true is the wind industry. From the time that two major wind projects came online in Willacy County through E.On and Duke Energy, we have seen our yearly collected revenue increase rapidly, from just $290,000 to over $600,000. This increase has been vital in not only properly funding our emergency services, but also expanding and improving them in the face of major threats to our community. 

The pandemic is fundamentally impacting so many parts of our lives, but we saw an immediate need to ramp up our emergency medical services to meet the challenges of COVID-19 patients alongside our regular demand. The closest hospital for most of our residents is more than 20 minutes, and with Willacy County Emergency Medical Services servicing a large region, transport to a hospital quickly becomes the difference between life and death. Because of the increase in revenue from wind projects, we were able to authorize a third ambulance shift, a major investment that eliminated a gap in service and provided our EMS with the ability to hire. The reason we were able to quickly make these changes and save lives in our county is largely in part due to the wind projects in our community. 

Beyond critical circumstances, we have also been able to upgrade medical equipment, invest in additional training, and make improvements that have rippled across our county and schools. In high school 30 years ago, I remember wearing band uniforms that were already 20 years old. Today, I’ve seen the shine of new uniforms, technology and infrastructure in our schools that were not possible without an increase in tax revenue. I am proud that the wind industry has made many of these investments a reality, and as additional projects come online, we hope to see our budget tripled in 2021, improving our community even further.

In Raymondville, we are celebrating American Wind Week, August 10-14, and I invite all of Texas to join me. Beyond the investment and improvements we have seen in our community, we appreciate our corporate neighbors for the positive impacts they’ve had in fueling our homes, jobs and economy. I truly shudder to think what Willacy would look like without the wind industry today. 

Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by Edward Gonzales, City Commissioner for Raymondville and Chairman of the Board for Willacy County’s Emergency Service District. The op-ed appears in The Grande Guardian with the author’s permission.

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