PHARR, RGV – A specially called meeting of the Pharr City Commission will take place next Tuesday and the future role, if any, of longtime city manager Fred Sandoval is on the agenda.

Pharr City Manager Fred Sandoval
Pharr City Manager Fred Sandoval

The agenda for the meeting was posted early Friday evening and Item 3 reads: “Discussion and action, if any, on the employment of the City Manager including but not limited to: voluntary or involuntary separation, reassignment, severance agreement, and/or publication of the vacancy.”

New Pharr Mayor Ambrosio ‘Amos’ Hernandez asked City Clerk Hilda Pedraza to put the item on the agenda, along with two other items. Item 1 is “Roll call and possible action on the excusing of any absent member of the governing body.” Item 2 is Election of Officers. This is to elect a mayor pro-tem and an alternate. After the three items are discussed the City Commission could go into executive session.

The new-look Pharr City Commission comprises Mayor Hernandez, Place 1’s Eleazar Guajardo, Place 2’s Roberto ‘Bobby’ Carrillo, Place 3’s Oscar Elizondo, Jr., Place 4’s Edmund Maldonado, Jr., Place 5’s Ricardo Medina, and Place 6’s Mario A. Bracamontes.

During the recent city elections, Hernandez, Guajardo and Medina were on a slate called Pharr Forward.  Bracamontes was on a slate called Pharr First. Carrillo, Elizondo and Maldonado were not on the ballot but supported the Pharr First slate. It was a hard-fought and expensive campaign.

Sandoval, who was born and raised in Pharr, has been city manager for nearly a decade. In 2013 he was inducted into the Rio Grande Valley Walk of Fame. “Under Mr. Sandoval’s tenure as City Manager, Pharr has earned the All-America City Award, attracted high-profile economic game-changers such as Pappadeaux’s Seafood Kitchen and COSTCO Wholesale Club and has become the model community in the Rio Grande Valley for environmental preservation,” the Walk of Fame organizers said. “Fred Sandoval is an inspiration to the Pharr community and serves as an exemplary role model for the true meaning of public service.”

The Pharr Forward slate of candidates criticized Sandoval during the recent elections. Hernandez told the Pharr Advance that Sandoval was “wearing too many hats” – a reference to his running of the city’s economic development corporation and chamber of commerce. “I’m not picking on the city manager or the city commission as a whole. I just think that the city is not being managed correctly,” Hernandez said. On the Ron Whitlock Reports show, Hernandez said Sandoval’s salary could be cut by $100,000 and redistributed to other city employees.

The Pharr First slate of candidates defended Sandoval, pointing out that sales tax revenues have gone up 42 percent while he has served as head of the EDC.

At the end of this week’s Pharr City Commission meeting, Hernandez and Medina told the Rio Grande Guardian that changes are in the works for Pharr EDC. A new board of directors for the EDC was appointed at the meeting.

Asked why the board of directors needed to be changed, Hernandez told the Rio Grande Guardian: “It’s simple: we looked at the performance of the current EDC and we need a new direction for it.” Asked what that direction will be, Hernandez said: “It will be more thorough and more informative before we take on projects.” Medina said of the EDC: “There needed to be changes. We felt we needed to bring new people in. We felt we needed a new direction.” Asked if Sandoval will remain as head of the EDC, Medina said: “We need to have some changes in the way things are done but that is something the board will decide.”