City of Presidio candidate questionnaires

City of Presidio residents will be voting to elect a mayor and three council members this election season. Early voting begins April 19, leading up to Election Day on May 1. Presidio resident John Razo and incumbent Mayor John Ferguson responded to The Presidio International about their visions for Presidio as they face off for mayor. On council, two seats are open for full terms, and incumbents Irvin Olivas and Rogelio Zubia are running unopposed to hold their two spots. While those candidates did not complete the candidate questionnaire, council appointee Trisha Runyan and her challenger, Presidio resident Abel “Billy” Hernandez, have gone on the record to talk about why they believe they should be elected to fill an unexpired term on the council.

John Ferguson

  1. Tell us about yourself. What experience will you bring to this role?

My name is John Ferguson, and I am running for mayor of the City of Presidio.

I have lived in Presidio since 1987. In 2020, I retired from a 33-year career in the Presidio schools. I am married and have two grown children. I believe I can bring valuable experience to the position of mayor because I have been involved in city, school and local affairs since moving here. I have good working relationships with citizens and business owners in Presidio as well as officials from county, state and federal government. I look forward to continuing to serve Presidio for many years to come.

  1. Presidio is at a crossroads, as many city officials attempt to boost tourism in what has long been a more industrial economy. What do you see for the future of Presidio?

Presidio’s economic future will likely be closely tied to international commerce. We are recognized as being an emerging port of entry in Texas and growth is definitely going to happen here. The Presidio City Council needs to continue to strike the correct balance between growth of the business sector and governing in a manner that allows development to happen in the right kind of way. I believe tourism is also going to be a bigger part of Presidio’s economy, especially as the interest in the Big Bend continues to grow. Presidio should aspire to be a city where people want to visit, and that means preserving our culture and history, while at the same time making our community inviting, interesting and fun.

  1. A lot of changes are coming to trade in Presidio, from revitalized international bridge and rail crossings to a new transmigrante port. How can Presidio take advantage of these opportunities while also protecting quality-of-life in the city?  

The City of Presidio has been actively involved in making sure the international bridge expansion and railroad bridge reconstruction were accompanied by the creation of the Presidio International Port Authority, which is working toward the promotion of a Free Trade Zone, cold storage and agricultural inspection, all of which are critical to fully utilizing our new and larger border crossings. As I previously stated, at the same time that significant growth in Presidio begins to be obvious, present and prior city councils have done an excellent job in ensuring that expansion of the business sector happens in an orderly way.

  1. Presidio has been improving its infrastructure in recent years, including a sidewalks project and new water lines. What other infrastructure projects would you like to see the city undertake?  

Most importantly, all citizens of Presidio deserve access to water and sewer. In addition, we must prioritize street paving for every city street, including routine maintenance of existing paved streets. We also should look for ways to upgrade parks and recreational opportunities every year.

  1. At a city council meeting last year, residents complained that city business too often happened in English, without interpretative services available. How can city leaders make sure they are reaching out to and connecting with residents who only speak Spanish?  

Communication of all city business to every citizen is something they deserve. The City of Presidio purchased a wireless intercom headset system in the fall of 2019 which allows for simultaneous translation of all city council meetings into Spanish. When we resume in-person meetings in the upcoming months all persons in attendance will be welcome to utilize this service for free.

John Razo

  1. Tell us about yourself. What experience will you bring to this role?

I was employed with the City of Presidio for an accumulated 13 years. I worked with Presidio’s Emergency Services as a driver for two years and as an EMT for six years. I was a Presidio volunteer firefighter for 11 years, where within that time I gradually moved on to assistant chief.  I completed my schooling at Texas A&M on firefighting phases 1-4, advanced firefighting, HAZMAT, EVOC, officer training and fire investigation. During my time, I did recruiting, training and helped with grants to improve our fire department. I was a water operator in 2005 for three years and then Presidio’s chief water operator for two and a half years with a class C water license, class D wastewater, and CSI licenses. I worked on resolving TCEQ state violations  and water loss, as well as water revenue loss. I am an active member of the city council with the goal of helping make better decisions for our community and showing transparency. Through my years of employment in multiple departments in the city, I’ve gathered knowledge and experience that I feel strongly will help me make educated decisions for our city.

  1. Presidio is at a crossroads, as many city officials attempt to boost tourism in what has long been a more industrial economy. What do you see for the future of Presidio?

I would personally like to use our history and culture as an attraction for tourism, organizing more events like we had in the past, like an art festival and chili and cabrito cookouts, boosting our tourism while also bringing our community together.

  1. A lot of changes are coming to trade in Presidio, from revitalized international bridge and rail crossings to a new transmigrante port. How can Presidio take advantage of these opportunities while also protecting quality-of-life in the city? 

With the traffic of transmigrates coming through, this will help boost our economy and our local businesses. As we all know, our town has always been pretty low on opportunities for employment. The railroad will help us with jobs and hopefully help us get produce and goods to our town. This will open the door for other businesses to come to Presidio and open more job opportunities for our community.

  1. Presidio has been improving its infrastructure in recent years, including a sidewalks project and new water lines. What other infrastructure projects would you like to see the city undertake? 

These two projects are a great start on our infrastructure. I would like for us to work on getting a new standpipe so that we would have the option to clean the old standpipe. At this time we only have one standpipe and this makes it very difficult for us to schedule a cleaning and interior paint redo. Cleaning our old tank would help us drop the mineral problem that we have with our water and would also help keep pathogens down in our water system. We will also need to start replacing old water wells that supply our town with potable water. I would also like us to work on a gate valve replacement program, line replacement program, streets repair program, recruiting and training to have an efficient and running fire department, and work on getting better health care services for our community.

  1. At a city council meeting last year, residents complained that city business too often happened in English, without interpretative services available. How can city leaders make sure they are reaching out to and connecting with residents who only speak Spanish? 

A great number of our constituents are Spanish speaking, so I think this is a very important issue that can be resolved pretty easily. One would be taking more time during our meetings to be able to translate what we are saying in Spanish. This would be possible due to the majority of the council and our mayor being bilingual. The other option would be to hire an interpreter to help us translate our meeting. I think translating ourselves would be the best start and if this doesn’t work we would hire a translator to help us with this issue.

Unexpired Term Council Candidates

Abel “Billy” Hernandez

  1. Tell us about yourself. What experience will you bring to this role?

I am Abel “Billy” Jimenez Hernandez. My family has been in Presidio for well over 160 years. I’ve lived here my entire life and have friendships and relationships just as long. I stayed in Presidio and raised my family here. I worked for 20 years for the County of Presidio Maintenance Department before retiring. I’ve seen firsthand the growth and challenges facing the City of Presidio. Twenty-two years ago, my father Salvador Ornelas Hernandez ran and held the same seat on the city council to the exact date, May 1, 1999. I’ve listened and learned from his experiences on the school board and city council. The people of Presidio know the commitment our family has had to the city.

  1. Presidio is at a crossroads, as many city officials attempt to boost tourism in what has long been a more industrial economy. What do you see for the future of Presidio?

The future will be limited for the City of Presidio without embracing tourism. The City of Presidio has long sat as a farming and ranching community, at a port of entry with limited sustainable growth. The largest employers are the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Presidio ISD, and the City of Presidio. These opportunities leave many of the city’s residents without sustainable employment. The city is literally at the crossroads of the gateway to Big Bend and Mexico. Presidio has failed to attract tourism, consistently seen by our neighbors in Fort Davis, Marfa, Alpine, Marathon, Terlingua, Lajitas, Redford, Candelaria, Ruidosa and Valentine. Presidio needs to be open to capitalizing on tourism to create an opportunity, to create sustainable jobs. The city and its residents should approach the tourism market in an intentional and systematic way. The city needs to work with the office of the governor, economic development, and tourism to secure funds to assist with grants for tourism enhancement projects and in the annual budget around continued marketing and event planning around tourism. Those traveling through our area are often on their way to the Big Bend for hiking, camping, tent, RVing, fishing, hunting, kayaking, canoeing. The city should work with community leaders to encourage investors to create businesses and attractions to support tourists needs as well as provide the opportunities for other businesses to capture tourist dollars.

  1. A lot of changes are coming to trade in Presidio, from revitalized international bridge and rail crossings to a new transmigrante port. How can Presidio take advantage of these opportunities while also protecting quality-of-life in the city?

The City of Presidio has the opportunity to balance between tourism and industrial businesses for economic stability. Utilizing city zoning, the city can create industrial zoning areas to promote businesses using the port of entry to create distribution hubs in Presidio while maintaining the small town feel for its residents. Bringing a combination of types of industry to the city creates more job opportunities for the city’s youth to come back or to stay in Presidio, to raise the next generation of residents. Creating economic growth allows for the city to benefit from city sales, hotel and property taxes and rental licensing revenue, to create city programs and invest in the city’s infrastructure.

  1. Presidio has been improving its infrastructure in recent years, including a sidewalks project and new water lines. What other infrastructure projects would you like to see the city undertake?

The city has done a great job in creating a city park, hiking and biking trails, sidewalks with nighttime lighting and tree planting along the main roads as part of the city’s beautification projects. The new water lines are the first true investments in infrastructure noted. Many of the city’s roads are still not paved, and the ones that are paved are full of potholes. Post pandemic, the city should seek to further improve the wireless network wifi bandwidth for better connectivity in public spaces. The city council should work with the city manager to evaluate the electric grid, the city sanitation services and water supply systems for areas needed in additional investments in infrastructure and anticipation of the city’s growth.

  1. At a city council meeting last year, residents complained that city business too often happened in English, without interpretative services available. How can city leaders make sure they are reaching out to and connecting with residents who only speak Spanish?

The city needs to view language barriers as a failure to provide public accommodations to its people. The city’s proximity to the Mexican border naturally makes the primary language of its residents Spanish. When city business is conducted primarily in English, this creates a barrier for all the city’s residents to participate in making their voices heard. The City of Presidio also has a large Asian population that also goes unheard. While there may not be interpretive services available, the city should work with community leaders to coordinate with language translation volunteers. Residents should be able to testify and ask questions of city officials in their own language. The city should allow for translation of city notices into English and Spanish as well as collecting data on other languages and work to represent all of its citizens. This is another opportunity to seek grant funding to assist with providing language translation services. The city is as diverse in its population as any big city and should work to represent all of its residents, no matter their primary language. Having all residents participate in community meetings means that they are investing in the future of the city.

Trisha Runyan

  1. Tell us about yourself. What experience will you bring to this role?

 I am a mother and a grandmother. My grandfather, Fernando Daly, was born in Presidio, as was my mother, Grace Daly Runyan. I live in the home that my great-grandfather, Patricio Armendariz, built when he moved his wife and children from the ranch in Mexico to Presidio.

I have extensive experience in public administration, legislative work and grant development. I worked as a community development analyst for the City of San Antonio, served as president for the SA Business and Economic Society and volunteered with numerous organizations to help with grant development.

  1. Presidio is at a crossroads, as many city officials attempt to boost tourism in what has long been a more industrial economy. What do you see for the future of Presidio?

The neglected resource of Presidio Valley is in growing delicious and healthy foods: fruits, vegetables and orchards. We must protect our water resources so that our heirs will always have good water to drink. We must obtain financial resources so that our farmers can afford to work their land and then we must find ways to create and sustain jobs for those who are willing and able to work in harvest season.

  1. A lot of changes are coming to trade in Presidio, from revitalized international bridge and rail crossings to a new transmigrante port. How can Presidio take advantage of these opportunities while also protecting quality-of-life in the city?

By electing officials who understand the real nature of economic development and who know how to work with national- and international-elected officials to sustain healthy growth.

  1. Presidio has been improving its infrastructure in recent years, including a sidewalks project and new water lines. What other infrastructure projects would you like to see the city undertake?

We need public social spaces such as better playgrounds, tennis courts, soccer, basketball, picnic and outdoor meeting spaces. We need to provide suitable shade in these locations to protect our children from the blistering summer sun.

  1. At a city council meeting last year, residents complained that city business too often happened in English, without interpretative services available. How can city leaders make sure they are reaching out to and connecting with residents who only speak Spanish?

We need interpreters who can provide immediate translation of the action as it happens during council meetings. We need equipment that citizens can easily access to hear the translations.

 


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