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WESLACO, RGV – A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held July 27 for the new Center for International Economic Development Opportunities.

CIEDO will be administered by the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council. Also on July 27, the LRGVDC’s board of directors will hold their monthly board meeting at the LRGVDC offices in Weslaco. Previously, the board meetings were held at the Valley Metro Transit Center in Weslaco.

The July 27 board meeting will be the last one with Kenneth ‘Ken’ Jones at the helm of LRGVDC. He retires Aug. 12. His successor has already been named – Ron Garza.

The LRGVDC was one of 24 regional Council of Governments formed in 1967 the state of Texas. Garza said the association encourages the Hidalgo, Cameron and Willacy counties to work together to improve the Rio Grande Valley in aspects such as health, safety and general welfare for the region’s future.

Garza has shadowed Jones for the past six months or so to experience the responsibilities and duties of an executive director. Both Garza and Jones agree that relationships are fundamental to making the transition in power as smooth as possible.

“The council of government and our COG is built upon relationships, Garza said. “We spend a lot of time ensuring and building confidence in a lot of folks throughout the community that our core values will remain the same. There will be little twists here and there, but fundamentally, there’s a lot that Ken Jones and I share. I hope to continue those and prove to the community that our elected officials [are] still going to have high value, high integrity and continue moving forward as we’ve done.”

Garza, a San Benito native, left the Rio Grande Valley in the early 1990s to obtain his bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Texas State University in San Marcos. He later obtained his graduate degree in rehabilitation counseling. For about 17 years, Garza worked in the health and human services arena and later accepted an opportunity in San Antonio. He said his work as an administrator within human services required him to closely with the Alamo Area Council of Government.

“Through that relationship with them, some of those colleagues were the first ones to kind of turn me on to this opportunity – which is ironic how things work,” Garza said. “Once I met Ken Jones and the executive board, I learned about their succession planning and the vision they had for the council of government. It was just an absolutely tremendous opportunity and I’m so grateful for the opportunity because at that point they had the confidence in me that I can continue as we’ve been moving forward.”

When Garza returned to the RGV after nearly 25 years, he noticed that aside from the population growth, the cultural connections remained the same.

“It’s funny to see cities such as San Antonio and others spending millions of dollars on planning efforts to create more sub-communities that are walk-able and more community integration and you see all this re-planning of major metropolitan areas. But, the Valley naturally has that,” Garza said. “With my career being kind of ingrained in workforce development – it’s something I’m very passionate about. Seeing the potential and just what’s on the horizon with workforce development and building human capital from this area, that’s the thing I’m most excited about. And the words ‘innovation’ and ‘advanced’ – when you talk about advanced clusters and advanced manufacturing, just to see such a strong community that’s built on traditional family values moving to a high-tech advanced [era] – it’s a fabulous time.”

When Garza’s term begins as the executive director for LRGVDC, he said he wants to make sure that the COG is ahead of the curve in terms of preparations for growth.

“I think the Valley as a whole – when you grow as rapidly as we have – that’s where resources tend to stretch and sometimes with that rapid growth, you’re kind of putting out fires more than you are doing visionary, long-term strategic planning,” Garza said. “I want to make sure that element doesn’t go away. [I want to] make sure that we have the resources, the staff, the planning and that we just serve as the conduit for that growth.”