Willacy district clerk was strong voice for county

RAYMONDVILLE — Willacy County’s District Court is closed in honor of longtime District Clerk Gilbert Lozano.

Lozano died Wednesday following a lengthy illness at Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen. He was 72.

County Judge Aurelio Guerra said District Judge Migdalia Lopez and District Attorney Annette Hinojosa determined the District Clerk’s office could be closed yesterday and Monday without affecting court procedures.

“His employees are devastated,” Guerra said yesterday.

Lopez has appointed Isabel Adame, Lozano’s longtime chief deputy clerk, as the county’s district clerk.

Meanwhile, officials are trying to determine whether the county is required to hold a special election to fill Lozano’s term, which expires in December 2018.

Lozano, a former Cameron County probation official, was first elected to office in 2002.

The District Clerk’s office will remain closed Monday, when Lozano will be buried at Rio Grande Valley State Veterans Cemetery in Mission following Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church here.

After Lozano took office in 2003, he appointed Ruben Cavazos as a clerk.

“When I began, he took me under his wing and I was able to learn a lot from him,” Cavazos, the county’s treasurer since 2007, said in a statement yesterday.

“When I was elected county treasurer, I recalled the life lessons that he taught me,” Cavazos said. “One of them: Always put the people first and represent the people well, and always have the public’s trust,” Cavazos said

“He was persistent in that our work would be done according to the books,” Cavazos said. “Most importantly, he preached working with all the departments as a team. In order for the county to move forward, we (county offices) must work together. For everything he guided me through, I will be forever grateful.”

Longtime County Clerk Terry Flores worked with Lozano to computerize the county’s records.

“I’m still in shock he left us so soon. He’s going to be missed,” Flores said. “Gilbert was a wonderful man. He was a very close friend. We worked very well together. He was always very devoted to his work. He loved serving the people.”

Like other county officials, Flores said Lozano was known to voice his concerns about county business.

“He would speak up for what was right,” Flores said. “He was a fair man. He was a very caring person.”

Sheriff Larry Spence met Lozano when he worked as a Cameron County probation officer assigned to handle cases in Willacy County.

“We worked together a long time before he was district clerk,” Spence said. “He knew his job very well. We’ve been involved in many activities both in law enforcement and the social side.”

Like Flores, Spence said Lozano often stood up as a strong voice for other county officials.

“He could be very outspoken at times, but on the money,” Spence said. “He wasn’t afraid to stand up and say something that needed to be said.”