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Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council Executive Director Ken Jones is pictured left with President Jim Darling, 2nd Vice President Celeste Sanchez and Secretary Norma Garcia.

WESLACO, RGV – The board of directors for the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council has selected a deputy executive director.

He is Manuel Rolando “Ron” Garza of San Antonio. Garza currently works as Human Services Administrator in the City of San Antonio’s Department of Human Services. Aged 41, Garza was born in Harlingen and raised in San Benito.

Ken Jones
Ken Jones

The announcement was made by LRGVDC President Jim Darling at a monthly board meeting on Tuesday. “We had a lot of good applicants for the position of deputy executive director. We think we have made a great decision,” Darling said.

Garza will leave his current post at the City of San Antonio just before Christmas and start at the LRGVDC on January 4, 2016, working alongside Ken Jones, who has served as executive director for the past 23 years. Jones will be 65 years of age next year. In August he announced he would be retiring next year.

Jones’ slated departure in the first week of September, 2016, so Garza will have eight months to learn the ropes from Jones before, if all goes well, he takes over the reins. “Ken is going to be around to mentor Ron,” Darling said.

The LRGVDC is the regional planning organization designated by the State of Texas as a Council of Governments. It serves the counties of Cameron, Hidalgo, and Willacy and is tasked, among other things, with developing a “Regional Strategic Plan” for the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

Garza has worked at the City of San Antonio for the past seven months. Before this he worked for 17 years at Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services. His final post for the legacy agency was Operations Director for Programs. Before that he worked for DARS as business relations consultant, employment specialist, vocational counselor and instructor.

Garza graduated from San Benito High School. He went to Southwest Texas University in San Marcos for his undergraduate studies and the University of Texas at Austin for his Master’s Degree in Special Education. He has been married for 11 years to Ida Garza, a first grade school teacher from Corpus Christi.

Interviewed by phone soon after the appointment was announced, Garza said he was thrilled to be appointed.

“I am very excited. It is a tremendous opportunity to work under Ken. I expressed to the board how much I appreciated the thoughtful succession planning that was done. We are both going to work our hardest to make sure there is a smooth transition,” Garza said.

Asked if he was aware just how fast the Rio Grande Valley is growing, Garza said: “It is part of the excitement, all the growth. In San Antonio, I administer services for senior citizens, which is the fastest growing part of the population. This division has just exploded since 2007. We are just trying to keep up with the growth. You have to grow very strategically.”

Garza said he hopes to bring a fresh perspective as the LRGVDC expands its services to account for the growth. “Over 20 years I have lived in Austin, San Antonio and Corpus Christi, so hopefully I can bring a lot of the perspective from some of those cities back to the Valley,” Garza said.

Asked if he speaks Spanish, Garza said: “I can understand everything but I will have to brush up on speaking it. It will be a little bit of a challenge but I am sure being down there some time it will hopefully come back to me.”

Asked if there is anything else he would like to tell the residents of Hidalgo, Cameron and Willacy counties, Garza said: “I cannot express how much I am looking forward to working for the Council. Just being able to have this position, for an agency with so much influence, back in the Valley where I grew up, is just a tremendous opportunity. I am very excited.”

Editor’s Note: Click here to read our story on Ken Jones’ retirement announcement.