MCALLEN, Texas – Small businessman Othal Brand, Jr., filed the necessary paperwork Friday to run for mayor of the City of McAllen.
The 67-year-old is currently president of Hidalgo County Water Improvement District No.3 and would have to give up his seat on that body should he win the mayoral race.
His father, the late Othal Brand, Sr., served as mayor of McAllen for 20 years, from 1977 to 1997.
Brand, Jr., ran unsuccessfully for mayor of McAllen in 2017 against incumbent Jim Darling. This time around the retiring Darling will not be on the ticket. So, the seat is open and expected to attract many candidates.
Asked why he is running again, Brand said: “McAllen is my home. It is where I live. This city has done a tremendous amount for my family. I appreciate it and I love my community. I want to give back.”
The mayoral and city commission elections are in May. With 13 weeks of campaigning available, Brand said there is plenty of time to roll out his full agenda. However, for now, he said he wanted to focus on two major issues: drainage and being a good steward of the taxpayer’s money.
“There are a multitude of issues that need to be addressed. One is drainage. For most of the people in this city their biggest investment is their home. We have spent a bunch of money for drainage but it is still not enough. Two, I am going to be kind here, we need good stewardship of our money.”
Asked about his pledge to be a good steward of the city’s finances, Brand said: “If there is a way to cut taxes, I will do it. If there is a way to make better use of the taxes, I will do it. If there is waste, that is a matter for myself and the city commission. That will have to be looked at. We have one of the biggest budgets in this county. The bigger it is, the harder it is to wield and wield well.”
Brand said he has watched with interest how the city has been run since he sought the mayoral post in 2016. “Since the last campaign I have watched what has been happening and there are still challenges. We have a great city, in the top 20 in the state. But, there are always challenges.”
Brand said if he is in tune with the electorate, local residents do not want a city leadership that “lords” over them.
“We don’t need that. What we want people running the city that are good public servants, not people who think of us as a customer and a number. The rank and file? You will not find better public servants thank those in the rank and file. The attitude I am talking about is coming from the second floor up (at city hall). That needs to change. There are a lot of fine people in this community.”
Asked what he learned from his last race, Brand said: “Putting out more yard signs than everybody else does not get you elected. Spending more money than anybody else does not get you elected. I made a real effort last time. Going up against an incumbent is always hard for someone from the outside. Jim had 46 years of service as an employee and an elected official. I think my biggest problem last time was just communicating. Communication was my biggest issue.”
Brand said he learned a lot being around his father during his long stint as mayor.
“Twenty four years of being around my Dad when he was on the city commission, as a commissioner and mayor, I was intimately involved in many ways. When Dad ran, he made a point for everybody to know: he would never allow any of his family or friends to be employees or sit on any boards. But, believe me, there was a lot going on that he needed done. It was great. My Dad loved working for the city, he had a love for it.”
Brand said his father studied issues thoroughly before taking a vote. “He did not come out of the box without knowing the topic. That is one thing I learned from my Dad. I saw how he did it and the spirit in which he did it. That is what I want from my city.”
In addition to serving as president of Hidalgo County Water Improvement District No. 3, Brand is also its general manager. Indeed, he has spent 17 years with the organization. He has also served for 14 years on the state board of church-based nonprofit.
“I do not have aspirations for anything else, beyond mayor. I do not like everything that is going on in Washington. I do not like everything that is going on in Austin. There are a lot of things going on in McAllen I do not like. What can you do? I can start with what is around me. This is my community. I do not have any aspirations beyond being mayor. That will be a handful.”
Brand added that it is important to have a good mixture of backgrounds on the city commission, noting that there are currently no business people represented. He said the city has to do a better job of working with prospective developers, cutting back on red tape that stifles potentially lucrative projects.
“You give me an entity that does not pay taxes, I promise you I can put it in the black and keep it in the black. It is easy to do when you use business principles in a non-tax environment.”
Editor’s Note: The above news story is the first in a series of profiles on the McAllen mayoral candidates.
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