MCALLEN, Texas – Donna Mayor Ric Morales believes his good friend Javier Villalobos will become a great mayor of McAllen.

Villalobos, an attorney, has been legal counsel for the City of Donna for the past 21 years. On Saturday he won a runoff race for mayor of McAllen. 

“I have known Javier for 22 years. He is extremely smart, he knows what he is doing, knows municipal law very well, and the citizens of McAllen have elected a very, very, good man to lead their city,” Morales said.

“Very soon the voters of McAllen will see he is going to do a great job for their city. He has got some big shoes to fill but I know he is going to do a very good job. He will leave a very good and positive legacy there, for the City of McAllen. As the city of McAllen grows, they have picked the right man for the job.”

Current mayor Jim Darling chose not to run for re-election. Five candidates sought the post. In the first election, Villalobos secured 26 percent of the vote, former educator and nonprofit executive Veronica Vela Whitacre picked up 24 percent, businessman Michael Fallek 23 percent, businessman Othal Brand, Jr., 17 percent, and physician Shahid Rashid 10 percent. Because no one picked up 50 percent plus one, Villalobos and Vela Whitacre went to a runoff.

The unofficial results from the runoff election on Saturday show Villalobos securing 4,744 votes, with Vela Whitacre picking up 4,538 votes. The turnout was close to 12.5 percent. 

“Thank you, McAllen for trusting and believing in me. I promise to not let you down,” Villalobos said, in front of jubilant supporters, soon after the results were announced. “I am going to make you all very proud.”

Villalobos was born and raised into a farm worker family in Crystal City, Texas. He said his parents, Jesús and Élida, made sure he and his six siblings realized the value of a good education. 

“My parents only had a second and seventh grade education, but through their love and wisdom, they always instilled in us the value and need of an education, and in working for what you have,” Villalobos told Edinburg Politics, back when he was running for state representative in 2008. “These beliefs have not been forgotten, and are now shared with our families.”

Early in his career, Villalobos worked for the Texas Comptroller’s Office but later went back to law school to become an attorney. Settling up his law practice in McAllen he picked up a number of municipalities for clients. For four years he was chairman of the Hidalgo County Republican Party. He ran to serve an unexpired term on the McAllen City Commission in 2018.

“Three years ago we went on a little journey about running for commissioner and we were the underdog. We pulled it off,” Villalobos told cheering supporters outside his law office.

“Three years later, we said, you know what, let’s run for mayor, because, I thought, hopefully, McAllen wants somebody that has the knowledge, the experience, to lead and take it to a higher level. And, gracias a Dios, they did.”

One of the first people to wish him well was Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. 

“Javier Villalobos is a proven leader who cares deeply about the people of the Rio Grande Valley,” Abbott tweeted, soon after the runoff election results came through. “Congratulations on becoming the next mayor of McAllen.”

Like Villalobos, Donna mayor Morales came from a farm worker family. Morales said Villalobos has lost none of the humility his tough upbringing taught him.

“Javier’s best attributes? One, he is very intelligent, smart. Two, he is loyal, he is going to take care of McAllen because he is going to be loyal to McAllen. That attribute is kind of hard to come by. He is a man of his word and I know that he promised the people of McAllen that he is going to do a great job and I have no doubt that he will do that,” Morales said.

Asked how well Villalobos has done for the City of Donna, Morales said: 

“He came in as city attorney in 2000. He has done a great job for us, we are very happy. Whenever I talk to other cities that are looking for a good city attorney I always recommend Javier. He can put on a coat and tie and be in a room with investment bankers and other attorneys and professionals. And he can also get along with your common individual. People like my father, who use to be a janitor for a living. He can go and talk to them. Javier is a great, great guy and I know for a fact he is going to do a great job for the city of McAllen.”

Morales added: “Javier had to work in the fields, the way I did, growing up. He and his brother went to school, went to college, they are both attorneys. They grew up in a very humble family but then went out and found out at a very young age that education is the key to success. Now you can see the fruits of their labor. They went off to school. Javier worked for the Comptroller’s Office before he became an attorney. He is an accountant and he is also an attorney. Those humble beginnings, he never forgot where he came from.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Javier Villalobos and his wife Annette celebrating soon after the unofficial McAllen mayoral race runoff election results were announced. (Photo credit: Villalobos campaign)

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