MISSION, Texas – Tributes have poured in for rancher, businessman and legendary former Mission Mayor Norberto ‘Beto’ Salinas, who passed away Thursday after a long battle with cancer. He was 77.
Salinas served as mayor of Mission for 20 years, from 1998 to 2018. During this time he led the way in getting the Anzalduas International Bridge built. In 2022, Salinas penned a guest column for the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service where he said that Mission’s best years were 1998-2018. Click here to read it.
Salinas also served as a Hidalgo County Commission for Precinct 3 for 12 years, from 1980 to 1992.
His family posted this message on Facebook: “It is with great sadness that former City of Mission Mayor Norberto ‘Beto’ Salinas has entered eternal rest. He was a life long public servant whom was truly dedicated to the residents of Mission leaving a legacy of prosperity.”
Salinas was president of S&F Developers and Builders. He was a member of the National Association of Hispanic Elected Officials, Lower Rio Grande Development Council Board of Directors and Texas Department of Transportation Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Committee.
Additionally, Salinas volunteered with the International Good Neighbor Council, Mission Historical Museum and Mission Helping Hands.
Here are some of the tributes that have come in for Mayor Salinas:
State Sen. Juan Hinojosa
State Sen. Juan Hinojosa, who was born and grew up in Mission, said: “Today, the City of Mission, the Rio Grande Valley, and the State of Texas lost a political icon with the passing of my dear friend, Norberto ‘Beto’ Salinas. My friendship with Beto goes back to 1980 when I was running for State Representative and Beto was running for Hidalgo County Commissioner. He was elected that year and served as Commissioner for 12 years. In 1998, he was elected Mayor of the City of Mission and served six terms, making him the longest serving mayor of Mission. Beto also served in many other appointed positions including the Indigent Health Care Task Force, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs and the Texas Funeral Services Commission. Beto was a lifelong public servant, a leader, a fighter, and made the City of Mission a better place to live and raise our families. Beto will be missed by us all. My deepest condolences to his family. May he Rest in Peace and be in Heaven.”
Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez
Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez said: “Few people have the ability to define a community. Our friend Norberto ‘Beto’ Salinas was one of that rare breed. Mayor Salinas and the City of Mission helped define one another in great measure because of the legacy of public service that he left. My condolences go out to his family and to the City of Mission on the death of this great public servant.”
Congressman Henry Cuellar
Congressman Henry Cuellar said: “My family and I deeply regret the loss of former Mayor of the City of Mission, Norberto “Beto” Salinas. Mr. Salinas was a good man and beloved by his community. We will keep you in our thoughts and prayers. Rest in peace.”
Mission Economic Development Corporation
Mission Economic Development Corporation issued this statement: “The MEDC offers its sincerest condolences to the family and friends of the honorable former City of Mission Mayor Norberto ‘Beto’ Salinas. His remarkable legacy will continue to be etched in our building, where his name graces the ‘Beto Salinas Entrepreneurship Hall. Mayor Salinas exemplified a lifelong commitment to public service, demonstrating unwavering dedication to the residents of Mission, and he will be truly missed.”
City of Mission
The City of Mission issued this statement: “Mayor Norie Gonzalez Garza and the City Council, along with the entire community express their deepest condolences to the family of former Mission Mayor Norberto ‘Beto’ Salinas. He was a great leader who dedicated his life to serving the community. He served as mayor from 1998-2018. His contributions will never be forgotten, and his legacy will continue to inspire future generations. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones during this difficult time.”
Mission Police Department
Mission Police Department said: “Chief Torres and the Mission Police Department would like to express our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the Salinas family and the entire community of Mission. We extend our deepest sympathies to the family of former Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas. He was a remarkable leader who devoted his life to serving his constituent; we honor his memory. Mayor Salinas served the city from 1998 to 2018, and his contributions will forever be remembered, inspiring generations to come. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones during this challenging time.”
Juan Elisio Gonzalez
Juan Elisio Gonzalez, who worked for Salinas, said: “Es con gran pesar que recibo la noticia del fallecimiento de mi gran amigo Mayor Norberto ‘Beto’ Salinas. Un gran hombre, servidor público como pocos, que dió su vida por servir a los demás, un hombre generoso. Te voy a extrañar viejón, se quedan en mi muchas aventuras que vivimos. No tengo duda que ya estas en el cielo. Que en Paz Descanse mi Mayor.”
England Cattle Company
England Cattle Company said: “We are extremely saddened to hear of the passing of our good friend Norberto ‘Beto’ Salinas. A longtime Brahman breeder and friend, Mr. Salinas was an avid supporter of our breeding program from day one, and we were blessed to have the opportunity to dedicate our recent production sale to him last Saturday. Many years ago, we purchased a group of cows from Mr. Salinas and in that group was Miss Double A 468/7. If you have followed our program for a while then you know the impact that cow has had on our herd. She is responsible for several donors and herd sires that have shaped our Polled Brahman herd, and we are fortunate to have had the opportunity to purchase such a great cow from Mr. Salinas. He will be extremely missed, not only by us, but also by so many others in the Brahman breed who have felt the impact of his great genetics. Our sincere condolences go out to his family and friends.”
Edinburg Mayor Ramiro Garza
Edinburg Mayor Ramiro Garza said: “My heartfelt condolences to the Salinas family and the City of Mission family. Former Mayor Beto Salinas served his community and our county for many years. His leadership will be missed and the contributions he made will never be forgotten. My thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time.”
Hollis Rutledge & Associates
Consultant Hollis Rutledge, a Mission resident, said: “I worked with Beto when he was a county commissioner back in the 1980s and followed his political career with interest. I can tell you he was certainly one heck of a mayor. He was very conservative, he was a shrewd businessman and he will be sorely missed by a lot of people. Beto Salinas was an icon, as far as I’m concerned.”
Judge Armando J. Marroquin
Hidalgo County Court At Law No. 10 Judge Armando J. Marroquin said: “Mayor Norberto ‘Beto’ Salinas was a compassionate leader who touched countless lives and served his community with unwavering dedication. Our deepest condolences to his family during this difficult time. His legacy as a true public servant will forever be cherished.”
City of Palmhurst
The City of Palmhurst said: “Rest in Peace Former City of Mission Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas. We would like to extend our most sincere condolences to the Salinas family and to the City of Mission community.”
City of La Joya
The City of La Joya said: “On behalf of Mayor Isidro Casanova, City Council, staff and the citizens of La Joya we extend our deepest condolences to the Salinas Family and the City of Mission on the passing of their former mayor, Norberto ‘Beto Salinas. Mayor Salinas was a lifelong public servant who demonstrated lots of dedication to his community. Rest in Peace Mayor Salinas.”
City of Penitas
The City of Penitas said: “The City of Penitas was saddened to learn of the passing of longtime Mission Mayor Beto Salinas. Salinas was a trailblazer and a positive driving force in Western Hidalgo County, and he will long be remembered for his dedication to his community and his selfless service. On behalf of Mayor Ramiro Loya and the Penitas City Council, administration, and employees, we offer our most sincere condolences to Salinas’ family and wish them comfort and peace during this difficult time. May he rest in eternal peace.”
McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos
McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos paid tribute on behalf of his city. He said: “On behalf of the City of McAllen, City Commissioners, City Staff, and community, I would like to extend our heartfelt condolences to former Mission Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas’ family and friends. Mayor Salinas was a dear friend, great leader who dedicated his life to public service while serving the Mission community. As our neighboring community, Mayor Salinas contributed throughout his years on several regional projects. His legacy will live on through his good deeds and friendship. We send our thoughts and prayers for comfort and peace to his beloved family during these trying times.”
Hidalgo County Commissioner Everado ‘Ever’ Villarreal
Hidalgo County Commissioner for Precinct 3, Everado ‘Ever’ Villarreal, said: “Mayor Norberto Beto Salinas dedicated many years of his life to serving the people of Precinct 3, and his contributions to our Precinct will not be forgotten. During his time as Hidalgo County Commissioner for Precinct 3, Mayor Salinas worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life for all Precinct 3 residents. He was a strong advocate for public safety, economic development, and education, and his leadership was instrumental in making Precinct 3 a better place to work and live in. As Mayor of the City of Mission his leadership was instrumental in making Mission the thriving community it is today. We extend our deepest sympathies to Mayor Salinas’ family and loved ones during this difficult time. We know that his passing represents a great loss to our community, and we are grateful for the many ways in which he touched our lives. Rest in peace, Mayor Beto Salinas. Your legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of those who knew you.”
Ron Whitlock Reports
Public affairs advocate Ron Whitlock said:
“It was always a pleasure to deal with Beto. He was focused and always had the eye on the ball. And the ball in his case was what was best for the citizens he represented. He was on the Tech Prep board where he advanced college placement for high school students. And, he was mayor of the City of Mission for a long, long time. There, he was always strategically planning for the long term; what was good for the citizens, his constituents.
“I saw very little indication that he was doing anything for himself. It was always about how could he make the lives better for the citizens of Mission. His accomplishments for Mission were fairly extraordinary.”
Mission Superfund site
In 2022, Salinas ran unsuccessfully to regain the mayorship of Mission. During the campaign he participated in a Rio Grande Guardian International News Service podcast. Click here to listen to it.
In his younger days, Salinas was more radical, supporting the United Farmworkers Union. In later years he became more conservative and usually supported Republican Party candidates.
Salinas did not get on with everyone in his hometown. He famously clashed with Mission community leader Ester Salinas (no relation) over how to handle the city’s Hayes-Sammons Superfund site. A defamation of character lawsuit brought by the mayor was settled in favor of the environmental activist by the Texas Supreme Court.
Support for farmworkers
Juanita Valdez-Cox, the former executive director of La Unión del Pueblo Entero, said Beto Salinas was always a friend of the farmworkers.
“Beto, was a good friend of the farmworkers throughout his life. I do not know if he was a farmworker, but he supported farmworker issues most of his life. When he was a county commissioner, he supported farmworkers’ issues. He supported the legislative bills that would give farmworkers unemployment and pesticide protections as well worker’s compensation benefits.
“A Catholic nun, Carol Ann Messina, was the United Farmworkers administrator at the San Juan office for many years. In that position, she worked with Beto and other public officials to coordinate their efforts in support. When Sister Carol passed away unexpectedly, Beto named a park in his district to honor her work on behalf of farmworkers.”
Valdez-Cox had an explanation for Salinas flipping from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party.
“In the early years, Beto declared to be a faithful Democrat. Then, in later years, he saw the shift favoring Republicans statewide. So, he changed his party affiliation to the Republican Party.
“He shared with me that his change was necessary to benefit his constituents in the city of Mission. However, his support for farmworkers did not waver.”
Salinas was elected Hidalgo County Commissioner for Precinct 3 in 1980. He served in this capacity for 12 years. In 1983 he was appointed by Governor Mark White to the Indigent Health Care Advisory Task Force.
In in 1991, Governor Ann Richards appointed him to the Texas Funeral Commission. He was later reappointed to this post by Governor George W. Bush. In 2001, Governor Rick Perry appointed Salinas to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.
Salinas served as mayor of Mission for 20 years, from 1998 to 2018.
From 1998 Salinas served as vice chair of the Anzalduas Bridge Board. He was a previous chairman of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council board of directors, and served as chairman and secretary of the Texas Department of Transportation MPO Policy Committee.
Salinas served as a director of Texas Tech Prep, the Hidalgo Chapter of the American Red Cross, and the Mission Chamber of Commerce. He was a leadership member of the Boy Scouts of America. And he served as president of the Texas Ambulance Association, and Amigos del Valle.
Salinas enjoyed supported both youth and elderly organizations. He received awards from Hidalgo County Juvenile Court; Sullivan City Head Start Program; Children, and Families & Elderly of the Abram-Perezville Community, the Mission Boys and Girls Club and Amigos del Valle.
Salinas was named Man of the Year for the City of Mission in 1987 and Mr. Mission for outstanding service to the community in 2006. He was inducted into the Rio Grande Valley Walk of Fame in 2007 and received the Citizen of the Year award from the Rotary Club of Mission in 2008.
Flores Funeral Home in Mission are handling funeral arrangements.
Editor’s Note: The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service will add this story as more tributes come in.
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