Port chairman hangs on; Reed said he expected a tight race

The M/V Tian Fu takes on 34,000 metric tons of Rio Grande Valley sorghum at the Port of Brownsville for export to China. It's the first time in 13 years grain commodities have crossed the maritime dock at the port. COURTESY PHOTO

John Reed was used to running unopposed for his Place 3 commissioner’s seat on the Brownsville Navigation District Board, which governs the Port of Brownsville, but then came 2020 and a challenge from hotel manager Julio Graña.

BND board Chairman Reed held on to the seat by the skin of his teeth, Graña landing just 200 votes behind him. The total vote was 26,488 for Reed and 26,288 for Graña.

Reed, first elected to Place 3 in 2008 when he defeated the late Don de Leon, said this was his first time to run during a general election.

“That’s a very different world, plus COVID and stuff,” he said. “2020’s just weird. The whole thing was weird. The port’s never in a general election. It’s always in May.”

Reed said he expected a tight race, but speculated that for many voters his and Graña’s names were only names on a ballot.

“I wasn’t surprised,” he said. “I knew what I was up against. Obviously it’s not a partisan election, but you get a lot of people out there to vote.”

Reed said he’s glad to have been given another term on the board working with his fellow commissioners.

“We have a good group of commissioners,” he said. “We have a good CEO and staff. We’re poised to do a lot better things, a lot of good things, a lot of bigger things.”

And while plenty is happening with the port — including a steel mill project in Monterrey, Mexico, that Reed said will significantly boost the port’s steel imports and exports, involve a lot of capital investment at the port and create hundreds of jobs locally — the pandemic has bogged down some major projects.

“ This darn COVID has just screwed up so many things, as we all know,” he said. “These projects we’ve been working on for years and years and years, they’re on hold for all practical purposes.”

The necessary meetings to move things forward on some projects are “very difficult in these conditions,” Reed said, hastening to add that not everything is on lock-down.

“The port never stops,” he said. “Lots of good projects in the works. … We just need to have a little bit of a break on this pandemic like everybody else needs to.”