Rio Grande City will remain under the same management for at least another two years after the city commissioners agreed to extend City Manager Alberto Perez’s contract earlier this week.
During a city commissioners meeting that commenced Wednesday evening but ended early Thursday morning, the city commissioners agreed to a two-year contract for Perez with the possibility of a one-year extension.
The details of the contract are still being worked out.
Perez was first hired for a six-month probationary period in September 2016 and then in March 2017, was officially hired as the city manager on a three-year contract.
With the matter of Perez’s contract on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting, several members of the community spoke in support of Perez during the public comment portion of the meeting. Those included Sam Vale, president of the Starr Camargo Bridge Company and Dr. Antonio Falcon, a family medicine physician who is well-known in the community.
Rio Grande City Mayor Joel Villarreal Jr. said he wasn’t surprised by the outpouring of support for Perez.
“Many people in the community, business owners, have stressed to me personally and to others — the commissioners, personally — that they’ve had a tremendous relationship with Mr. Perez in reference to his strong financial background.”
Villarreal commended Perez’s performance, crediting him with the implementation of several systems that improved the city’s financial position.
The mayor pointed to the city’s financial audit, which was presented to the commissioners during Thursday’s meeting and showed the city was in good standing.
“It’s the strongest financial position that Rio Grande City has ever been,” Villarreal said. “So Mr. Perez has done a tremendous job of putting systems in place to allow us to be in this position.”
During the discussion of Perez’s contract — which was initially set to be held during executive session but was held in open session at his request — Perez spoke for nearly 42 minutes, detailing his accomplishments.
“I did, seriously, cut it from 24 pages down to nine.” he said. “It was not about beating my own drum but I think it was more to show the public and the business people that were there or the people that were watching it, that the stuff I worked on were not small things.”
He touted the decrease in water loss which he said was at 54% when first came in and is now at 7%.
“I’ve been focused on infrastructure, repairing the major leaks,” Perez said, explaining how the water loss was addressed. “And where there’s too many leaks in a particular area, replace the pipes itself or the line itself.”
Addressing that problem, Perez pointed out, allows the city to save money.
“The bottom line, when you look at the audit, public utilities is better off today and we’re able to do more projects because money is coming in instead of being thrown away,” he said. “It adds up to the bottom line that you fix waste and you will have the ability to do more things with the tax dollars that you get.”
The mayor continued to praise Perez’s performance but acknowledged the city was still looking to improve upon training, whether it was on human resources or technology in order to incorporate that more into the organization.
“What is it that they can all do as staff and also as a commission,” Villarreal said. “What can we do better, what can the city manager do better, what can our staff and employees do better?”
Regarding what the city has been able to accomplish, Villarreal said it was enabled by Perez’s work and that it’s visible throughout the city.
“You can drive around Rio Grande City and at every turn you see progress and prosperity, you see the growth, you see the new developments, you see what is happening and it’s a palpable feeling that we’re progressing,” Villarreal said. “There’s no doubt, you cannot drive around and not notice it.”
Overall, the mayor said, their progress was a collaborative effort between the staff and the city commissioners working toward the goal of propelling the city forward.
“We all agree on that and Mr. Perez has been a big part of it.”