RIO HONDO — City Commissioner Gerald Hartzog was in his office outside of Mike’s Grocery recently thumbing through paperwork and getting organized.
Hartzog, 64, had just come back from a vacationing from the day-to-day work of running the grocery store and getting back on the saddle of helping lead the city.
At the last city meeting held in June Hartzog took the oath of office once again to join the City Commission.
“I didn’t run for office this time,” Hartzog said. “I needed to get out.”
But it wasn’t long after he stepped down from office that the city he loves came back to him for help.
Hartzog took office for the sixth time to take the City Commission Place 2 seat after Commissioner Rick Tello stepped down because he was moving out of the city to live in Dallas.
Tello stepped down in February.
Hartzog was appointed in May and then sworn into office June 12.
Hartzog has served Rio Hondo as city commissioner for more than a decade.
“I love Rio Hondo. I was raised here, I was born here and I love the people of this town,” he said.
He said as a city commissioner he is giving back to the community because he feels it’s his duty.
But doing his duty came with having to roll with the punches at times.
Hartzog was told early on not to involve himself in politics because of the family grocery store he manages. But it didn’t stop him from wanting to help the city as a commissioner.
“People have threatened to boycott my store during different periods of my time as city commissioner,” Hartzog said.
He has worked with three different mayors while on the City Commission, helping to make the city better.
“Eleven years ago we were dealing with the water problem and today we’re still dealing with the water problem,” Hartzog said. “I would have thought we would have had the water problem solved a long time ago.”
But Hartzog said in the next year and a half the water system will be in much better shape.
“It’s just a continuous battle of a small town,” Hatzog said. “We don’t have the income and it’s very hard to make the people understand the money situation.”
He said everybody thinks there’s money. Everybody wants police protection, but they don’t know how much that takes out of the general fund.
He explained in between taking phone calls and filing paper work in his office that the city administration and police take up more than 50 percent of the budget.
Hartzog said the city operates on $1.2 to $1.3 million a year before grants are included.
“The city is always strapped for money,” Hartzog said. “We do what we can with the money we have.”
Hartzog said he may run again after his term expires.
“After I got out the first time, I told myself I should have stayed in,” Hartzog said.
But he said he would rather see young people step up and run for office who want to contribute in making Rio Hondo better.
“I would not stand in the way of anyone who I thought could run and do well,” Hartzog said. “I’m older and older people need to learn to get to the back of the line.”
“I thought I owed it to my community,” Hartzog said. “And it has been good for me.”