RAYMONDVILLE, Texas – Willacy County Judge Aurelio ‘Kete’ Guerra has asked Port Mansfield Port Director Ron Mills to deputize for him at today’s big regional economic development roundtable event with U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.

Elected officials, higher education officials, and economic development leaders will participate in a discussion with the senator at the Port of Brownsville today.

“I am honored that Willacy County Judge Aurelio Guerra has asked me to represent him at Senator Cornyn’s roundtable today because Judge Guerra feels that Willacy County’s best hope for job creation and economic development exists at Port Mansfield,” Mills told the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service. 

Public policy advocate, consultant, and Willacy County resident Ron Whitlock said he would be asking Sen. Cornyn for infrastructure funding for Port Mansfield. 

“Now that Port Mansfield has had its ship channel fully dredged by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, it is time to construct docks at the port,” Whitlock said. “Port Mansfield has great potential for barge traffic.”

On behalf of Port Mansfield, Whitlock visited with Cornyn and the Rio Grande Valley’s three members of Congress during a Rio Grande Partnership trip to Washington, D.C., in 2019. Soon afterwards Port Mansfield learned it would be getting its ship channel dredged. 

Mills, meanwhile, said he will be presenting Cornyn with Willacy County Navigation District’s new comprehensive plan for Port Mansfield.

Judge Guerra said Port Mansfield has the full backing of Willacy County Commissioners Court. 

“There is opportunity there. Hopefully we will be able to work together and support whatever the navigation district board of directors has going on right now. I know they are sharing their comprehensive plan. We have one as well that is in its finishing stages that was done through Texas A&M. So we can compare them and see how we can make them work together,” Guerra told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“We are listening to opportunities for Port Mansfield. I can tell you that the effort to improve economic development is in the forefront every day for cities and the county. I have witnessed this day in and day out. We have the right people in the right places.”

Whitlock said the other big issue for Willacy County right now is the imminent closure of a federal prison, operated by Utah-based Management & Training Corporation since 2003. 

“There is a September 30 deadline for the closure of the Willacy County regional detention facility. The loss of 220 jobs are at stake,” Whitlock said. “Willacy County leaders want the White House delay the closure by six months so they can prepare to take over the facility. So, I will be asking Sen. Cornyn if he can help persuade the White House delay the closure.”