July 11, 2019 635 PM
MARFA – The Big Bend Regional Hospital District Board appointed James “Cuatro” White IV as Director for Single Member District (SMD) 2 at Tuesday night’s special meeting in Marfa. The board also accepted the resignation of Lisa Taylor, Director for SMD 3 and previously the chairwoman. She resigned at the June 27 meeting shortly after the board appointed Robert Rice as the new chairman.
White’s appointment fills the vacant seat previously held by former Presidio City Administrator Marco Baeza, who moved to Lubbock at the end of last year. He resigned from his position in March. Current Presidio City Administration Jose Portillo then applied for the seat.
Board directors serve staggered four-year terms with the next election in 2020. According to the board’s bylaws, directors can fill the vacancy in the meantime.
Rice told The Big Bend Sentinel that the delay to replace Baeza was a result of the district moving offices in Presidio. Secretary and Treasurer Esther Howard said that a lack of communication with Portillo contributed to the delay. She said they tried to schedule a meeting with Portillo numerous times before the vote, but he never responded to them. Howard said that they were under the impression that he might not have the time for the board with his current job and responsibilities even though they felt he was qualified. They were set to vote for him, but they tabled the appointment at last week’s meeting after they received the application from White, who Howard said has been more responsive. Vice Chairman S. Buddy Cavness believes White has more time for the board.
The board meets once a month, but they called a special meeting to fill the vacant seat.
Cavness said White’s family has been ranching in Presidio County since 1863. White was raised on the Brite Ranch in Marfa and his dad Jim White III is a former Presidio County Commissioner.
“[White’s] more connected to Presidio County than he is Marfa and he’s young,” noted Cavness. “I believe that the board has never had anybody from the rural ranching area to represent the people that live out in the rural area.”
Rice said that White understands the Big Bend region.
“We believe he would represent not only the people of Presidio, but also Marfa and the county as well,” said Rice.
Portillo is glad the board made a selection, even though he’s disappointed that he wasn’t selected. He said he wants the BBRHD to succeed and wishes them the best of luck, but he wants them to have Presidio County on their minds.
“There are many issues that need to be addressed. Presidio is looking forward to working with the board in the future,” said Portillo.
Presidio County Attorney Rod Ponton said that the law requires the hospital district to address these health care needs and that the BBRHD doesn’t fulfill that because the district doesn’t operate a clinic, a hospital or any facility to meet these needs for the city of Presidio. He feels Portillo was better suited for the seat, saying Portillo has the most knowledge about those issues.
“As city manager, that’s one of the things he has to deal with,” said Ponton.
Howard said that the BBRHD awarded the City of Presidio a grant of $280,000 in 2016 for a new ambulance, which she said is the largest grant the district has given.
Cavness doesn’t think the position is specifically reserved for the City Manager. Howard thinks it’s based on whoever raises their hand. She agrees with Ponton that Portillo was the more experienced candidate, but the lack of communication didn’t help the decision.
White will be sworn into his new position at the board meeting on July 25 in Alpine. His term will expire in 2022.
Howard said that the board doesn’t know why Taylor resigned. After they voted in Rice as the new chairman, Taylor submitted her letter of resignation––written at the meeting––and walked out. Howard said she felt the board needed a change in leadership and went with Rice.
Taylor’s resignation means there’s now a vacancy for SMD 3, which covers part of Brewster County. BBHRD will start the procedure to fill the seat next week.