City mulls legislative liaison

HARLINGEN — The city wants a point man to promote its interests at the state and national levels.

From City Hall, Mayor Chris Boswell and City Manager Dan Serna have worked with state and federal lawmakers to push the city’s legislative agendas.

Now, the city wants a staff member for the job.

Later today, city commissioners will consider Chris Gonzales, the Harlingen Area Chamber of Commerce’s president and chief executive officer, to serve as the city’s legislative liaison.

“It’s really important to stay in regular communication with our legislative delegation on the state and federal level,” Boswell said yesterday.

As part of a proposed contract, the city would pay the chamber $1,500 a month to allow Gonzales to work with lawmakers in Austin and Washington, D.C.

Gonzales “will work with the city’s lobbyists and the city’s leadership to review current government-related issues, legislative plans and agendas and identify an action plan to improve local, state and federal relations,” Serna wrote to commissioners.

As part of the job, Gonzales would set up legislative and executive branch meetings in Austin and Washington “to promote and further the city’s agenda,” Serna wrote.

Serna said Gonzales is the right man for the job.

As part of his job with the chamber, Gonzales has been working to promote the city’s interests at the state and federal levels, Serna said.

“He does a lot of this already,” Serna said. “We’re trying to expand on what he’s doing now. We want to engage someone as qualified as Chris Gonzales in government relations so we can stay in constant communication with (elected officials’) offices.”

Gonzales said he plans two to three monthly visits to Austin while taking “a few trips a year” to Washington.

“We like to stay involved with the city to make sure the city continues to progress forward,” Gonzales said. “We try to meet with different (lawmakers) on what is better for our area and businesses.”

Gonzales said he would not be working as a lobbyist, a job which goes to lobbying firms.

Planning the city’s legislative agenda starts at home, Boswell said.

Every two years, he said, city officials meet with community leaders to identify issues to push in Austin and Capitol Hill.

Boswell said those meetings are planned for this fall.

As part of his job, Gonzales would hold annual workshops “to lay out legislative priorities at the national and state level,” the proposed contract states.

The contract would require Gonzales to hold quarterly meetings with the city to report on his work.

At the national and state levels, Gonzales would set up meetings with members of Congress, executive branch agencies along with state representatives and senators “to advocate on behalf of the city, with a main priority to build working relationships and maintain open dialogue with members of Congress and key legislative staff,” the contract states.

The contract states Gonzales would work with the city to set up annual dates while selecting official delegates to meet with members of Congress along with state representatives and senators to “update and align legislative priorities which will be presented to members of the State Legislature.”

For five years, Gonzales has served as president and CEO of the chamber, which has led the city’s work in governmental affairs while closely working with the Economic Development Corporation to draw business to town.

Previously, Gonzales, who has worked with U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, served as vice president of the Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce.

A Rio Grande Valley native, Gonzales holds a bachelor of science degree from Texas State University.

The Chris Gonzales file

• President and CEO Harlingen Area Chamber of Commerce

• Former vice president Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce

• Former constituent service representative for U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar