BROWNSVILLE, RGV – Fresh from his re-election victory, Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez says his city is poised to make great strides with its economy and its culture.
“We have had a great amount of success, not because of me but because of the team we have put together. Brownsville is a great place and we want to continue to move forward. The future belongs to us. The moment is now for Brownsville. The time is now for Brownsville. We have a lot of wonderful things going on. I think we can do great,” Martinez said.
At his campaign victory party on Saturday evening, Martinez told reporters that success has come about thanks to the team he is fortunate to lead.
“I think most of you who have kept up with us know that we have a lot of prospects that are on the drawing board. A lot of those prospects look at what our city commission looks like and what sort of cooperation and professionalism you have going on,” Martinez told the Rio Grande Guardian.
“I think what we have now is what? Cesar de Leon, a new commissioner, Jessica is back, Debbie Portillo I have had for a couple of years, Rose Gowen I have had for four years, Rick I have had for four years and John four years. It looks like a good team to me.”
Martinez was referring to his new city commission, which comprises Commissioner At Large “A” César de León, Commissioner At Large B Rose M.Z. Gowen, District 1 Commissioner Ricardo Longoria, Jr., District 2 Commissioner Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa, District 3 Commissioner Deborah Portillo, and District 4 Commissioner John Villarreal.
Martinez defeated former Mayor Pat Ahumada handily, winning 63 percent of the vote in Saturday’s runoff.
In an interview with Ron Whitlock Reports the week before the runoff election, Martinez spoke about the projects he and his team are working on. He said it does not start and end with SpaceX.
“With the start of UTRGV, we are going to have an academy of performing arts for the under-privileged. We are working with the university and their music department. It is going to be free dance and music lessons. We are not only transforming the economy, we are transforming the culture. It is something all the parents and voters can be proud of,” Martinez said.
The key thing, Martinez said, is for Brownsville not to repeat mistakes it has made in the past, most notably failing to seize opportunities that present themselves. “Employment, education, all the wonderful things all of us really want for our people, it is there for the taking,” he said.
“Besides SpaceX we have the new university, we have electricity, we have the restoration of the Resacas, we have to restore downtown, we have to build a new airport, we have to build the East Loop, we have to finish West Rail, so there are just tons of stuff to do and I know how to do it. I want to keep doing it.”
Ron Whitlock asked Martinez if there were any advantages for being one of the first Texas leaders to endorse Barack Obama for president. Martinez replied: “If you do not know who to call when you go to Washington… We go to the White House and we talk to the Cabinet members. We go to Chicago and speak to companies that want to come down here. We are out there. You need to be active. This is a full-time job. One of the companies we are courting very actively, we actually got a Cabinet member to call them directly, personally, to tell them to come to Brownsville. I am very proud of that.”
Asked for wrap-up remarks in the eve-of-poll interview, Martinez said: “You want a good Brownsville and you want to keep the momentum going. You do want a good image. Do not forget what it takes for people to come to Brownsville, to spend their money in Brownsville, to move their businesses to Brownsville. It is the image that we have and the opportunities that we have.”
In his interview soon after securing a second term as mayor, Martinez was asked about the importance of teamwork, a key theme not only of his campaign but also his time as mayor. “I have never seen a Super Bowl being played by one guy. It has always been a team versus another team and that is what you need to get to where you need to go,” Martinez replied. Asked by Whitlock if he was the owner or the quarterback of the team, Martinez said: “I think I am the bus driver, as best I can tell.” He then pointed to remarks by Dallas Cowboys Coach Jason Garrett. “He said, I had the right people on the bus I just did not have them in the right seats. I think I have them in the right seats.”
In his interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Martinez was asked about his plans to revamp Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport. He said: “When SpaceX came they said we really need an elongated runway, like 12,000 or 13,000 feet. Our longest one is 7,400 feet. The FAA said we need a letter of interest from whoever wants to use it. We said, it is Elon Musk and SpaceX and they said, oh, okay, no problem. They also said, you are kind of outdated with some of your airplanes and with the way your terminal sits you are going to have to move them eventually. So, that kind of spurred on everything. We said: how long have we had this airport? It has been a long time and it has not been done. The FAA will reimburse you for all things you put in there but you have got to make the initial outlay. When I found all that out we started acquiring properties and we are probably about 92 percent there to do the extension. The rest of it is just money.”
Martinez said city leaders are looking for a replacement for longtime airport director Larry Brown, who has had to retire due to health concerns. “Life is more valuable than the job. Larry needed to slow down,” Martinez said.
Asked about the big heavy manufacturing foundry that an as yet unnamed Italian company plans to build in Brownsville, Martinez said: “That is still on the drawing board but the thing about it is because there are so many entities involved, the state as well as the city, they said, you know what, why don’t we work out all the details and then if there is something to be said about it, let’s all do it together. We are still dotting I’s and crossing T’s.”
Martinez concluded his remarks to reporters at the campaign party by saying: “Brownsville is a place to be. With what we have got going obviously we have enough people that believe in Brownsville.”
Later, Martinez was interviewed live by KRGV-TV reporter Shelley Childers. Asked how felt, Martinez said: “I feel very relaxed – very appreciative of the voters of Brownsville giving us a chance to continue to serve. What can I say about this team? They were wonderful. They worked incredibly hard and they deserved this win because this win was for Brownsville.”
Childers asked if the work starts again on Monday. Martinez responded: “Next week we have to start working on the West Rail. We hope to have that open in July. The airport is another big step we are taking immediately. We have some restoration efforts. The Academy of the Performing Arts, we hope to start working on next week as well.”
Former Brownsville Mayor Nacho Garza said he was pleased voters had elected Martinez to a second term. “I am very happy. Tony and his family have been friends of mine for years and years. I think he has done a good job in the four years he has been there and I am glad to see he will be going back,” Garza said. Asked in what regard Martinez has been good for Brownsville, Garza said: “He has run a very calm commission. We have good things going on with SpaceX, with UT-Rio Grande Valley. Hopefully, they (the commission) will keep going on for the sake of the community.”
Brownsville attorney Jose Luis Garcia said: “I have been witness to the transformation of Brownsville under Tony Martinez’s watch. He has put us on the map. We have become known in the world thanks to SpaceX. We are changing from a small village to a global village. He has changed our circumstances, taken us to unknown paths. He is a visionary, he is one of us; he is doing a great job. We need a leader like him at this stage, to put the right people, the right energies in place to take advantage of these great opportunities.”