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Lori A. Garza of Edinburg and Lizza Marie Moya of Dallas, daughters of the late Edinburg Mayor Pro Tem Noé Garza on Tuesday, January 24, received a resolution from the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court in honor of their father, who passed away on Monday, January 9. The county leaders noted his many contributions for Edinburg residents, including helping in the development of Edinburg City Hall, the city’s water plant, and the upgrading and expansion of the city’s fire department, among many other achievements. Featured, from left: County Commissioner Héctor “Tito” Palacios; County Commissioner Joseph Palacios; Lori A. Garza; Lizza Marie Moya; County Judge Ramón García; and County Commissioner Joel Quintanilla. Earlier in January, the late mayor pro tem’s life and legacy were honored by the Edinburg City Council. See story later in this posting.

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Father Adán Sandoval, from Our Lady of the Mount in Cicero, Illinois, on Thursday, January 26, walked along the first phase of the planned $100 million Rio Grande Produce Park, one of Edinburg’s latest economic miracles, as he performed a benediction for the ultra-modern complex. The Catholic priest was accompanied by José Luis González, the developer of the Rio Grande Produce Park, for the ceremony. Up to 200 permanent employees are expected to be hired to manage and operate the first of nine planned facilities, an innovative structure that boasts about 160,000 square feet of cold storage capabilities designed to protect and extend the shelf-life of huge volumes of valuable Mexican produce destined for major markets in Texas and throughout the U.S. But plans call for Rio Grande Valley Produce Park, a private investment located on an 87-acre site near the intersection of FM 2812 and U.S. Expressway 281, to eventually reach 800 – and perhaps as many as 1,000 – new jobs over the next eight years. See story later in this posting.

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The Hidalgo County Elections Department recently deputized district clerk staff to serve as Deputy Registrars. As such, constituents can officially register to vote at the District Clerk Office, located on the first floor of the courthouse, without having to be redirected to the Elections Office across the street. “We are proud to be able to provide voter registration services for individuals visiting the courthouse, while contributing to the overall voter registration efforts in Hidalgo County,” said Laura Hinojosa, Hidalgo County District Clerk. “We look forward to providing this service during this year’s election process and beyond.” The Elections Office conducted a training for district clerk staff to become familiar with the instructions and guidelines required to perform the duties of a Volunteer Deputy Registrar. The Advocacy Alliance Center of Texas (AACT), a non-profit organization established to cultivate voter empowerment, was also on hand to provide education on the importance of voting and the electoral process. “I encourage the citizens of Hidalgo County to register and then vote.  Voting is pertinent, as this gives our county a strong voice. Do not hesitate to contact my office with any questions or concerns,” said Yvonne Ramón, Hidalgo County Elections Administrator. For more information regarding how to become a Volunteer Voter Registrar and other voter information, logon to http://www.co.hidalgo.tx.us/elections. Voter information is also available at http://www.aactnow.org. Featured, from left, front row: Yanira Hernández, Mónica Valdéz, Sandra Garza, Melinda De La Garza, and Andrëa Guajardo. Back row, from left: Omar Escamilla and Alfonso Fuentes.

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Leadership Edinburg is a program designed by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce to allow the class members to interact with one another and members of the community to help shape a better Edinburg. The nine month program is structured to allow class members better understand the problems and opportunities faced by their hometown, and to help fellow citizens through strong leadership skills that focus on politics, education, and improving the quality of life. Leadership Edinburg Class XXIII, featured here, is in the process of fundraising to complete several projects that include assisting the Edinburg Police Department with construction of a training shoot house, granting scholarships to Edinburg students, renovating portions of the exterior of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce building, and helping fund the development of a city park for disabled children. Featured, from left: Jason De León; Samuel Trejo; SJ Sethi; Martín Rivas; Criselda Ordóñez; Brenda Almaguer; Felicia Monique Villarreal; Sandra Quintanilla Guzmán; Aaron I. Vela; and Marissa Castañeda. See story later in this posting.

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Claudia Berenice Garza, whose many paintings and murals have been commissioned by public and private interests throughout the Valley, will be the featured artist on Friday, February 10, during the monthly Jardín del Arte (Garden of Art) set for the Courtyard at Edinburg City Hall. The event, which will include musical entertainment, is free and open to the public. Jardín del Arte will be held from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Residents who attend will be able to purchase art work and buy food and beverages from participating Edinburg restaurants – La Pesca, Panini Café & Deli, El Jinete and Coffee Zone – which will be showcasing their products at the gathering. Kim Snyder will be providing the musical entertainment for the evening, and Dancer’s Creative Motion will have a special dance performance. As part of the community’s strategy to incorporate the local arts community into economic development goals, Jardín del Arte was created in 2011 in order to feature the fine arts talent in the three-time All-America City. See story later in this posting.

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The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, January 26, welcomed Jeanette García, featured center, a local archivist and librarian, for a book signing ceremony promoting the sale of Images of America – Edinburg, which is part of Arcadia Publishing’s popular Images of America Series. The book includes more than 200 vintage images and memories of the days gone by. García, an archivist and librarian at the University of Texas-Pan American, collected photographs and stories from the University of Texas-Pan American Library Archives and Special Collections, the Museum of South Texas History, and other individuals for the book. It may be purchased at the following locations: the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Walgreens (Edinburg locations); Mission Historical Museum; Ochoa’s Pharmacy; Museum of South Texas History; Coffee Zone; Mailbox Depot; Garza Pharmacy; and Barnes and Noble in McAllen or online at http://www.BN.com. Featured, from left: Imelda Rodríguez, tourism director for the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; author Jeanette García; and Letty González, president of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce.

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For its efforts to reduce the incidence of ventilator-associated pneumonia, pressure ulcers and health care-acquired infections, South Texas Health System (STHS), based in Edinburg, has been honored with the Texas Hospital Association’s 2011 Bill Aston Award for Quality in the Non-Research, Non-Teaching Hospital category. Established in 2010, the award recognizes a hospital’s measurable success in improving quality and patient outcomes through the sustained implementation of a national and/or state evidence-based patient care initiative. Gloria Vela, South Texas Health System’s director of education, and Joanne Shannon, system infection prevention coordinator, accepted the award on Thursday, February 2 at the THA Annual Conference and Expo in Austin. Featured, from left: Dan Stultz, M.D., FACP, FACHE, president/CEO of the Texas Hospital Association ; Gloria Vela, RN, MSN, System Director of Education/Employee Health, South Texas Hospital System; Joanne Shannon, RN, System Infection Prevention Coordinator, STHS; Michael La Coste, FACHE, MHA, MBA, Associate Administrator for Edinburg Children’s Hospital, Edinburg Regional Medical Center and Edinburg Regional Rehab Center; and Tim Lancaster, FACHE, president/CEO of Hendrick Health System in Abilene and 2012 Texas Hospital Association chairman. See story later in this posting.

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The final results are in for the winners of the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s “Medical Awards for 2012”, who were publicly recognized on Thursday, January 26, during a dinner held at the Club at Cimaron in Mission. Since the medical community plays a major role in the Valley, both professionally and economically, the RGV Hispanic Chamber honored the top professionals in their particular fields, who were nominated by the general public. Featured, seated, from left, are: Dr. Khaimchand Panday, Specialty Doctor; Dr. Jorge A. Treviño, General Physician; and Shelley Bryant, Nurse Practitioner. Middle row, from left: Joe B. Riley, CEO of South Texas Health Systems; Mario Garza, Nurse; Gloria Jiménez, Volunteer; Lisa Longoria, Physician Assistant; and Hari Namboodiri, Nursing Home of the Year. Back row, from left: Ryan Jensen, Associate Administrator of McAllen Medical Center; and Jennifer Garza, CEO of Edinburg Children’s Hospital/Edinburg Regional Hospital. See story later in this posting.

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Mitch Roberts, named last fall as Man of the Year by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, carries his family name as a badge of honor. Born into a prominent local family, the longtime business leader and community advocate could have taken his University of Texas at Austin pedigree and set up shop in any number of major cities nationwide. Instead, he came back from UT Austin to Edinburg as fast as he could, willing to live up to the high expectations and record of public service built over several generations of his family. Last October, for their respective records of giving back to their community, Roberts and Elva Jackson Garza (see story on Jackson in the December 16, 2011 edition of http://www.EdinburgPolitics.com) were honored as Man of the Year and Woman of the Year by the local chamber of commerce. See story on Roberts later in this posting.

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Bert Ogden, Fiesta Chevrolet and the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce have joined forces to sponsor the annual Fiesta Edinburg 2012, which will run from Thursday, February 23, through Sunday, February 26, at Edinburg Municipal Park. Top-quality entertainment will be featured during Fiesta Edinburg 2012, including I Love, Mayberry, Grupo Avizo, David Marez and Joe Bravo on Friday, February 24. On Saturday, February 25, more musical performers will take the stage, including Jeremiah, Dance Gavin Dance, Jaime y Los Chamacos, and Ricardo Castillón y La Diferencia. In addition to its traditional parade, which will be held on Saturday morning, February 25, Fiesta Edinburg 2012 will feature the Heart of America Carnival, Family Fun Zone, and a Bike Show. There are admission fees to most aspects of Fiesta Edinburg 2012, including parking fees. However, the popular Fiesta Edinburg parade is free. Featured receiving a $10,000 sponsorship from the Bert Ogden Auto Group are, seated from left: Robert Lucio with Bert Ogden Edinburg Area GM; Janet Vackar and Robert C. Vackar, owners of Bert Ogden Auto Group; and Edna Peña, Chair of the Board of Directors for the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. Standing from left are Letty González, president of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Cris Torres, member, Board of Directors, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Dalia Arce, member, Fiesta Edinburg Committee; and Marty Martin, Maggie Kent, and Alex Ríos, members, Board of Directors, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. See story later in this posting.

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Dr. René Gutiérrez, superintendent for the Edinburg school district, on Tuesday, January 24, addressed the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court and secured an interlocal agreement between Hidalgo County Precinct 4, led by Commissioner Joseph Palacios, and the Edinburg school district to provide for the construction of a protective barrier around Carmen Ávila Elementary and Harwell Middle Schools. This action proposes a solution to an issue that was widely publicized late last year in which two middle school students were injured after being hit by stray bullets from a nearby ranch. Through the agreement, Precinct 4 shall donate dirt to help construct protective barriers to surround the school. The school district shall pay the county for materials, equipment and personnal costs for construction of the protective barrier. Gutiérrez hopes the joint program will decrease the possibility of any future occurrences and help to ease some of the concerns for safety and security of students at the schools.

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As a business owner and real estate developer, Jaime A. Rodríguez, 47, has built a deserved reputation over 20 years as a positive force in Edinburg, currently serving as president and CEO of several outstanding firms that provide employment for more than 250 people in Hidalgo County. Those accomplishments in the private sector – plus his willingness to share his time and business expertise on behalf of a much larger constituency – in late November earned him a coveted spot on the five-member governing board of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation – the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. “There are many projects that are coming down the pipeline,” he said. “The citizens of Edinburg are going to be very pleasantly surprised with all the good news coming to our city.” See lead story in this posting.

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Jaime A. Rodríguez off to fast start in shaping Edinburg economic development successes

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

As a business owner and real estate developer, Jaime A. Rodríguez, 47, has built a deserved reputation over 20 years as a positive force in Edinburg, currently serving as president and CEO of several outstanding firms that provide employment for more than 250 people in Hidalgo County.

Those accomplishments in the private sector – plus his willingness to share his time and business expertise on behalf of a much larger constituency – in late November earned him a coveted spot on the five-member governing board of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation – the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council.

“I am honored to have been unanimously selected by the Edinburg City Council,” said Rodríguez. “We have great leadership in the city. I look forward to working with the mayor (Richard García), as well as with the Edinburg City Council and my colleagues on the EEDC Board of Directors.”

In addition to collecting and administrating a one-half economic development sales tax that is generated from eligible retail purchases within the city limits, the EEDC is designed to play a key role in assisting companies to expand, while helping to attract new business and industry to Edinburg.

Rodríguez, the proud father of three sons, brings with him impressive credentials in the Valley’s business community. He is a graduate of the University of Texas-Pan American (Bachelor of Science), a former chairman and longtime member of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, and the 1997 U.S. Small Business Person of the Year for the Rio Grande Valley.

Among his other achievements are his leadership positions with several area businesses. He is president and CEO of Jaime Rodríguez, Inc., dba Mi Casa Adult Care Centers in Edinburg, McAllen, Donna, and Mercedes.

He is also CEO for JAR Group Investments, L.P., and JAR Group Development, both of Edinburg; managing member of JQ Investments, L.P. of Edinburg; president and CEO of JAR Group Enterprises, L.P., dba Home Sweet Home in Edinburg; president and CEO of Mi Casa PHC, Inc. of Edinburg; and president and CEO of Mercury Investment Group, Inc., dba Tire Coral in McAllen.

He has also built, managed, and sold several Edinburg restaurants during his illustrious career.

Such experiences and insights are assets for Edinburg, complementing the strong skills sets and successes of his fellow EEDC board members and EEDC administrative staff. In addition to Rodríguez and the mayor, who is an attorney and former judge, the EEDC Board of Directors features Felipe García (no relation to the mayor), who is also an attorney; Fred Palacios, a business leader; and Dr. Glen Martínez, a professor and administrator at the University of Texas-Pan American.

“I am hoping to use my background in real estate development and in the business world to help make fiscally-responsible decisions on the EEDC Board of Directors,” pledged Rodríguez, who is off to a fast start in shaping Edinburg economic development successes.

In just the first three monthly meetings of his two-year term, more than a dozen economic development projects have already been reviewed and acted upon by Rodríguez.

His influence and presence in promoting prosperity as a public official for his hometown have included approving actions that range from implementing job creation projects with local small businesses to helping move forward on even more far-reaching goals, such as favoring a development agreement that will benefit the planned creation and construction of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Facility at the city-owned South Texas International Airport in north Edinburg.

He also has acted positively on other major EEDC initiatives, which in conjunction with the Edinburg City Council, are designed to improve the quality of life as well as promote economic development and job creation in the three-time All-America City.

He voted for a three-year contract for Nelda T. Ramírez, the first woman to lead the EEDC, plus he voted for EEDC financial support to help fund the ongoing work of the Hidalgo County Courthouse Master Plan Committee. That 30-member panel, appointed last fall by the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court, is developing solutions to relieve serious overcrowding issues at the county courthouse – including the possible option of the county constructing a new courthouse in Edinburg.

In addition, Rodríguez voted for a financial partnership between the EEDC and city council for the approval of two legislative consulting contracts. The EEDC/city legislative teams will be working to increase the city leadership’s combined influence and presence before Congress, the Texas Legislature, the University of Texas System, and key federal and state agencies – public entities that have a direct say in the funneling of money and the implementation of policies for major economic development projects in Edinburg.

While keeping his focus on a wide range of legislative initiatives for the city, Rodríguez says that promoting and protecting the best interests of UT-Pan American is especially close to his heart.

He has one son – Jaime Esteban Rodríguez, –already attending UTPA, and his two other sons – Juan Carlos Rodríguez, and Héctor Gabriel Rodríguez – both students at Edinburg North High School, quickly approaching college-age status.

“Under state law, UT-Pan American can not lobby for itself before the state legislature, but the city council and the EEDC can – and have – championed legislation that resulted in state funding for major new facilities at our first-class university,” Jaime Rodríguez said. “For example, the creation of the University of Texas Regional Academic Health Center in Edinburg was a result of Edinburg’s legislative lobbying efforts in conjunction with our renowned state lawmakers who represent Edinburg and UTPA.”

As for the importance of working with the UT System and UT-Pan American leadership, he noted the decision last August by the UT System Board of Regents to give final approval for the construction of a $42.6 million, 1,000-seat performance arts center at UT-Pan American.

“Due to its tremendous growth and successes, UTPA needs more new facilities on campus, and I look forward, through our legislative efforts, to work closely with UTPA’s effective president, Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, and with our legislative delegation, to help bring the needed resources from the UT System and the Texas Legislature to one of the best universities in Texas,” Rodríguez.

But UTPA’s continuing academic and structural growth won’t be the only major successes in the horizon, he added.

“There are many projects that are coming down the pipeline,” he said. “The citizens of Edinburg are going to be very pleasantly surprised with all the good news coming to our city.”

Other services provided by the EEDC include, but are not limited to:

• Site selection assistance;

• Real estate database of properties and buildings;

• Business seminars;

• Job training assistance;

• Data Information Center;

• Coordination of state and local assistance; and

• Access to business start-up resources.

In addition, the EEDC can arrange custom tours, schedule meetings with community leaders, arrange introductions to necessary business contacts, and serve as an advocate with state and local governmental entities.

The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. It’s five-member governing board, which is appointed by the Edinburg City Council, includes Mayor Richard García as President, Dr. Glenn Martínez as Vice-President, Fred Palacios as Secretary-Treasurer, Felipe García, and Jaime A. Rodríguez. For more information on the EEDC and the City of Edinburg, please log on to http://www.EdbgCityLimits.com

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Area leaders honor contributions, community service of late Mayor Pro-Tem Noé Garza, P.E.

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

As area leaders prepare for a special election to fill the vacancy on the Edinburg City Council caused by the untimely death of Mayor Pro Tem Noé Garza, P.E., the contributions and public service of the late elected official continue to be hailed.

Garza, 72, died Monday, January 9, at Edinburg Regional Medical Center. He had been suffering from cancer.

He was born in San Juan and had lived in Edinburg for the last 18 years.

Garza was buried at Hillcrest Memorial Park in Edinburg on Thursday, January 12. A reception and gathering was held following the funeral service at Edinburg City Hall.

He was the first council member in the past 30 years – and perhaps the first ever – to pass away while still serving in office, according to Mayor Richard García.

“Noé went out a winner in more ways than one,” the mayor said. “No one had ever defeated him in a City Council race.”

First elected in 2003, Garza was serving his third term on the city council. Prior to his election to the city council, he had been elected and served as a board trustee for the Edinburg public school system.

On Tuesday, January 17, during the first city council meeting after his death, Garza’s absence was solemnly marked by a black ribbon adorned around his empty chair behind the council dais – the raised platform at the front of the council chambers at Edinburg City Hall.

Since October, Garza had been absent from city council meetings as he courageously battled his disease.

In early January, García acknowledged that his good friend and colleague was facing a serious medical crisis.

“Last meeting (January 3), we announced that we had been missing one of our own for the past few meetings because he was having health problems – that was (Mayor Pro Tem) Noé Garza, a vital member of this council,” the mayor told a hushed audience at the January 17 city council meeting.

“Tonight, as you can see, he is not here. We lost Councilmember Garza to a better life, for lack of a better term, between last meeting and this meeting,” García continued. “I don’t how else to say it, but the sadness to know he will no longer be with us. We are glad for him that he is no longer having health problems.”

Garza’s adult children and a brother appeared at the January 17 city council meeting to receive the mayor’s and city council members’ public condolences for the loss of their father and sibling.

“He produced many good things for this community, on this Earth, but probably the most important of his fruitful endeavors are sitting here – his children,” García observed. “Again, I know we have told you already, but we thank you very much for your daddy’s and your brother’s service to us. We are going to miss him, we are going to miss him greatly.”

The previous week, on Wednesday, January 11, the mayor and city council members – along with former City Councilmember Alma Garza – shared their thoughts and sympathies with his family during a Celebration of Life held before a full house at Memorial Funeral Home in Edinburg.

During the January 17 city council meeting, one of the daughters – Lizza Marie Moya of Dallas – addressed the city leadership in appreciation for their words and actions.

“On behalf of my family, we are humbled and honored for our father that you chose to recognize him and all his achievements,” said Moya. “We hope that the example that Dad set, not only for his children but for his community, that he inspire community service for generations to come.”

Also surviving Garza are daughter Lori Garza of Edinburg; son John Robert Garza of Wylie, Texas; son Michael Noé Garza of Edinburg; granddaughter Ava Renée Garza; his mother, Carolina De La Rosa of San Juan; two sisters, Alicia Garza and Lydia Garza-García, both of San Juan; two brothers, Feliberto Garza of San Juan, and Reynaldo Garza of Hanford, California; and companion Blanca Guzmán of San Juan.

A week later, on Tuesday, January 24, Garza was honored by the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court and Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García for his impact on improving life for residents throughout the region.

As an example, Andrew A. Canon, director of the Hidalgo County Metropolitan Planning Organization (HCMPO), noted Garza’s leadership as chairman of the influential roadway policy-setting group.

The HCMPO is a federally funded program that works with Hidalgo County communities and the Texas Department of Transportation to plan for the county’s future transportation needs. Under federal law, every metropolitan area with a population of 50,000 must have a designated Metropolitan Planning Organization.

“Noé brought a unique perspective to the policy board by being an engineer, so he spoke the language of many of the (Texas Department of Transportation) staff engineers working on our projects,” Canon said. “Also, by him being a city council member, he wanted to make sure that our projects be ready and under construction instead of staying on the shelf. He wanted to see those tax dollars maximized.”

Garza was a professional civil and engineer whose Pharr-based firm provided a wide range of expertise, including working on modern urban planning, site feasibility studies, utilities analyses, street and drainage projects, wastewater improvement projects, and structural projects.

Other highlights of his life were recounted during the January 11 Celebration of Life, which featured the mayor delivering the eulogy and Garza’s four adult children reflecting upon their love and gratitude for their father.

Councilmember Gus García, Jr., Councilmember Elias Longoria, and Councilmember Homer Jasso – who is married to a niece of Garza – also addressed the family and other mourners during the January 11 gathering.

In addition to the mayor’s and city council members participation, his Celebration of Life included the following participants:

• Lisa M. García provided the introduction of the speakers;

• Pastor De Acero Valencia provided prayers on behalf of Garza and his family;

• Sam Guerrero sang a stirring, solo rendition of Amazing Grace;

• Shawn Snider, the city’s longtime fire chief and current acting city manager, Ramiro Garza, a congressional candidate who is on an unpaid leave of absence as city manager, and Irma Garza, the city’s Director of Public Information, shared their appreciation for the mayor pro-tem’s efforts on behalf of major city public policies, economic development strategies, and in promoting the development of an outstanding city government workforce; and

• Lydia Rodríguez, his longtime office administrator at his firm, praised him as an outstanding and caring boss.

Other highlights of his life were memorialized in the Edinburg City Council proclamation approved on Tuesday, January 17, and given to his family.

That proclamation follows:

WHEREAS, Mr. Noé Garza was born in San Juan, Texas and lived in Edinburg, Texas for the last 18 years; and,

WHEREAS, Mr. Garza has four children Lizza Moya, Lori Garza, John Robert Garza, and Michael Noe Garza, and a granddaughter Ava Renée Garza. Mr. Garza was always full of such great pride of his children and their achievements in life; and,

WHEREAS, in 1960, Mr. Garza received his high school diploma as a National Honor Society, High School Graduate from Pharr San Juan Independent School District; and,

WHEREAS, in 1965, Mr. Garza received a Bachelor of Science, in Civil Engineering and Structural Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and was a Lifetime Member of the Ex-Student Association of the University of Texas; and,

WHEREAS, throughout his career from Mr. Garza, P.E. was self-employed as a Professional Engineer and was the owner of Texas Engineers from 1976 to 1984; from 1984 to 1986 Mr. Garza, P.E. was the owner of Noé Garza Engineers; from 1986 to present Mr. Garza, P.E. was the owner of Noé Garza Engineers, Inc.; and,

WHEREAS, from 1976 to 1984 Mr. Garza, P.E., was employed by the City of Edinburg as City Engineer/Public Works Director, and from 1980 to 1984 Mr. Garza, P.E., was employed by the City of Edinburg as Assistant City Manager of Operations; and;

WHEREAS, from 1998 to 2001 Mr. Garza, P.E., was elected as a Board Member of the Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District. He served as Secretary from 1998-1999, and Vice President from 1999-2001; and,

WHEREAS, from 2003 to present Mr. Garza, P.E., was elected by the citizens of the City of Edinburg to serve as Councilmember Place 2. Councilmember Noé Garza, P.E., was appointed as Mayor Pro Tem on May 17, 2005, May 19, 2009 and July 19, 2011 serving one year terms for each appointment; and,

WHEREAS, Mayor Pro Tern Noé Garza, P.E., contributed to various communities by serving in many public organizations such as the City of Edinburg Planning and Zoning Commission from 2003 to 2004; Amigos Del Valle from 2003-2010, and the Hidalgo County Metropolitan Organization (HCMPO) for seven (7) years serving six (6) of those years as Executive Member, appointed Secretary for two (2) years, Vice Chair for two (2) years and Chairman for two (2) years; San Juan Lions Club; San Juan Youth Program; San Juan Boys Club; Pharr Boys Club; and St. Joseph School Board President; and,

WHEREAS, Mayor Pro Tem Noé Garza, P.E., entered into eternal rest on January 9,2012. He will be greatly missed by all those who had the pleasure and honor of knowing him.

NOW, THEREFORE I, RICHARD GARCÍA, MAYOR OF THE CITY OF EDINBURG, TEXAS: By the power vested in me by law, do hereby recognize Mayor Pro Tem Noé Garza, P.E., for his dedicated service to the City of Edinburg community.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the City of Edinburg a Municipal Corporation, to be affixed on this the 17th day of January, 2012.

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First phase of Rio Grande Produce Park launched with high hopes and deep faith

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

The first phase of the planned $100 million Rio Grande Produce Park, one of Edinburg’s latest economic miracles, came to life on Thursday, January 26, with a benediction marking the opening of a 227,000 square foot, ultra-modern advanced refrigeration facility that heralds the advent of a growing international industry in the three-time All-America City.

Although a formal ribbon cutting won’t be held until later this spring, the visionary Chicago-based family that is developing the Rio Grande Produce Park reverently launched Edinburg’s latest American success story with high hopes for their new hometown and a public profession of their deep faith in God.

Up to 200 permanent employees are expected to be hired to manage and operate the first of nine planned facilities, an innovative structure that boasts about 160,000 square feet of cold storage capabilities designed to protect and extend the shelf-life of huge volumes of valuable Mexican produce destined for major markets in Texas and throughout the U.S.

But plans call for Rio Grande Valley Produce Park, a private investment located on an 87-acre site near the intersection of FM 2812 and U.S. Expressway 281, to eventually reach 800 – and perhaps as many as 1,000 – new jobs over the next eight years.

The magnitude of such a large-scale development bringing employment to so many area families has not been lost on area public officials, including Mayor Richard García, who hails Rio Grande Produce Park as a blessing for the entire community.

“The city benefits in so many ways, with the new jobs and the additional property taxes and sales taxes generated for our city as a result of Rio Grande Produce Park investing in Edinburg,” said García. “These assets are invested back into our community and help keep local taxes from increasing. Plus, the produce park puts us on the map because this magnificent, huge operation is one of a kind in our region.”

In addition to serving as mayor, García is president of the Board of Directors for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, which is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council.

Father Adán Sandoval, from Our Lady of the Mount in Cicero, Illinois, performed the Catholic service for what eventually will become a sprawling series of the nine advanced refrigeration facilities – projected to total about one million square feet – that will be used to safely store and distribute agricultural imports coming from Mexico.

But the hundreds of employees, huge climate-controlled buildings, and fleets of 18-wheelers that will one day command attention in this newest business corridor aren’t the only treasures coming to Edinburg.

The work ethics and personal codes of conduct of José Luis González, the owner of Don Hugo Produce, Inc., and his family are invaluable additions to any community.

“You get to know the family when you are their pastor, when you see them at Mass every Sunday, and you get to know them as faithful people,” Father Adán reflected after the benediction. “When you see what they are able to do through the years, through many sacrifices, it a sense of joy to share with them this success story.”

He described his longtime parishioners as “hard workers”, but also credited “their faith for playing such an important role in their sacrifices and their willingness to keep going.”

Their decision to come to South Texas brings honor upon themselves.

“They see themselves as tools to help other families, and that is the reason they want to bring their faith, their God, into this building” Father Adán reflected. “They see how God has worked with them through the years and their sacrifices. Now they want to be able to help other families.”

A strong family is a cherished concept for the Gonzálezes.

José Luis, his wife, Marta, their son, Ulises, and Hugo González, a brother of José Luis, were in Edinburg for the religious ceremony.

Ulises González, president of Don Hugo Produce, Inc., and Rio Grande Produce Park, explained the importance of Rio Grande Produce Park being a family-owned enterprise.

“One of the things we are very proud is we are a family business, a private company, and we are not responsible to shareholders, not responsible for short-term profits. We are responsible to our consciences and to our principles,” Ulises González said. “We are intent on doing things the right way, and we have the power to do that. We are serious people. We mean business. We are looking to stay here forever, looking to grow.”

The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. It’s five-member governing board, which is appointed by the Edinburg City Council, includes Mayor Richard García as President, Dr. Glenn Martínez as Vice-President, Fred Palacios as Secretary-Treasurer, Felipe García, and Jaime A. Rodríguez. For more information on the EEDC and the City of Edinburg, please log on to http://www.EdbgCityLimits.com

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Sen. Hinojosa showcases DPS armed interceptor river vessels to combat threat of spill-over violence from Mexican drug cartels

By ARTURO BALLESTEROS

Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and leaders with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) on Thursday, January 26, showcased the new Texas Highway Patrol Tactical Marine Unit shallow water interceptor vessels set to patrol along the Rio Grande River along the Texas-Mexico border.

With funding secured in the spring of 2011 by Hinojosa, the planned fleet of six vessels are an appropriate response to the ever increasing threat from the Mexican drug cartels, said the South Texas lawmaker. Each 900-horsepower armored vessel is equipped with four high-powered gun units and bullet-proof glass capable of patrolling any marine area in as little as 12 inches of water.

“Being able to secure the funding for these patrol boats was one of my top priorities during the 82nd session of the Texas Legislature,” said Hinojosa. “This is just a small part of the $87 million the Legislature appropriated for the specific purpose of border security.”

As the threat from the Mexican drug cartels continues to increase along the border, these tactical vessels, in addition to a high-altitude surveillance aircraft Hinojosa secured for DPS, are a necessary step forward in combating the drug cartels who endanger the lives of people on both sides of the border.

“Border security has always been a top priority for me,” Hinojosa said. “I look forward to ensuring that we continue to give our DPS troopers the tools necessary to ensure that they provide a level of security to the people of Texas.”

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Rep. Muñoz appointed to legislative panel to improve fight against human trafficking

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Speaker of the House Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, on Thursday, January 26, announced that he had appointed Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, to serve on the 10-member Joint Interim Committee to Study Human Trafficking

Muñoz, who was appointed on January 20 by Speaker Joe Straus, joins Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, on the 10-member Joint Committee.  The pair make up the representation that the Rio Grande Valley deserves for such a critical issue.

“I am proud to appoint these House members to this important committee tasked with giving voice to victims of human trafficking,” said Speaker Straus of his appointments to the committee.  “The Texas House will continue to work with law enforcement and human rights groups to end this tragedy.”

Human trafficking, a multibillion dollar criminal enterprise which is a modern-day form of slavery, will come under additional state legislative scrutiny by the special House-Senate committee.

“Human trafficking is defined as a crime against humanity, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. It involves an act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring or receiving a person through a use of force, coercion or other means, for the purpose of exploiting them,” said Muñoz.

Every year, thousands of men, women and children fall into the hands of traffickers, in their own countries and abroad, according to the United Nations. Every country in the world is affected by trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims.

Straus emphasized the importance of battling human trafficking and its presence in the Lone Star State.

“Human trafficking is a tragedy that occurs all too often within Texas,” said the House Speaker. “This committee is charged to study ways to combat it, including how the Legislature can work collaboratively with law enforcement and human rights groups to obtain justice for victims and to end this inhumanity.”

Human trafficking is second only to drug dealing in criminal profitability and is the fastest growing illegal enterprise, according to the Polaris Project, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that maintains the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, according to House Concurrent Resolution 68, the legislation that in the spring of 2011 authorized the creation of the Joint Interim Committee on Human Trafficking.

Also according to HCR 68:

• Texas is a major point of illegal entry into the United States;

• The state’s large geographic size along with its demographics make the Lone Star State appealing to traffickers, who endeavor to blend into the population while exploiting their victims in forced labor and prostitution;

• Although Texas has been recognized as a leader in the effort to end the scourge of human trafficking, eradication of   this modern-day form of slavery is a difficult challenge, and every means of combating it should be explored; and

• It is estimated that 18,000 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States each year and that the number of U.S. citizens trafficked within our own borders is even higher, with more than 200,000 American children at high risk for trafficking into the sex industry.

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DPS unveils $41 million regional office in Weslaco to help protect deep South Texas

During a Thursday, January 26 morning ceremony in Weslaco, area lawmakers jointed the Texas Department of Public Safety for the grand opening of the DPS’ regional headquarters in Weslaco.

Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, who represents Weslaco in the Texas Senate, was joined by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, Rep. Armando “Mando” Martinez, D-Weslaco, Rep. Veronica Gonzales, D-McAllen, and Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito, for the event.

All lawmakers provided comments during the gathering.

“In 2007, I was proud to have the support of the Valley delegation in securing appropriations for a new regional headquarters; I am pleased to see the project has come to fruition,” Lucio said. “Located in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley, the new office represents a noble investment in the life and liberty of the entire region.”

The Texas Legislature authorized funding for the new office during the 80th Legislative Session (spring 2007).

The new facility will monitor operations for 13 counties along the Texas-Mexico border from Brownsville to Del Rio. Overcrowding and a severe need for additional space for equipment prompted the building of a new headquarters.

In 2007, Hinojosa secured the $41 million used to construct the new regional site. The region’s new DPS building will house more than 200 employees and a variety of divisions, including highway patrol, a crime laboratory, emergency management, victims’ support, and offices for the Texas Rangers.

Hinojosa commented on the completion of this long-awaited project.

“This project required a lot of input and support from many communities in Hidalgo County. I am happy to say that this new headquarters for DPS will bring a fresh face to law enforcement in South Texas. Public trust in the manpower and resources DPS relies on to secure our neighborhoods is essential to creating a law-abiding environment. This new facility is a symbol of our commitment to keeping our streets safe for the families in this region,” Hinojosa said.

This new facility will also house a DPS helicopter. As the new regional command, the site will host intelligence gathering operations for law enforcement.

The current headquarters could not be expanded because of limited space around the building. A new site allowed for the needed expansion of parking space. The existing building is about 40 percent smaller than other headquarters for similar regions in Texas.

DPS Director Steven C. McCraw expressed his thanks to those in attendance.

“Because of the tireless efforts of legislators in the border region throughout the years, the Department of Public Safety is well equipped to protect and serve all Texans,” said McCraw.

In a related event during the ceremony, the Public Safety Commission presented retired Sergeant Brian Hawthorne of Chambers County with a Director’s Citation due to his diligent and tireless efforts in representing the Department during the 82nd legislative session.

“Sgt. Hawthorne’s efforts were instrumental in ensuring the continued success of the Department of Public Safety,” said Chairman Allan Polunksy.

The Public Safety Commission also recognized Linda Doherty, who served as Commission Liaison for the past two years, with an award to celebrate her retirement.

The Public Safety Commission also authorized changes to the organizational chart including the creation of a Division of Homeland Security, led by an Assistant Director position, and the creation of a Policy, Projects and Portfolio Management office, led by Amanda Arriaga.

Wayne Mueller was confirmed as the Assistant Director of the Administration Division and Joe Peters was named as a Special Assistant to the Director.

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Leadership Edinburg XXIII continues strong, preparing March 3 fundraiser for key projects

By RONNIE LARRALDE

Leadership Edinburg is a program designed by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce to allow the class members to interact with one another and members of the community to encourage a better Edinburg. The nine month program is structured to help class members understand the problems and opportunities faced by communities, and help fellow citizens through strong leadership skills that focus on politics, education, and improving the quality of life.

Leadership Edinburg Class XXIII has completed many events including a two-day leadership retreat, an education seminar held at Norma Linda Elementary, a health care session hosted by Doctors Hospital at Renaissance; and a history session at the Museum of South Texas History. Those events are designed to help participants gain knowledge in areas that have a direct impact on the city.

Leadership Edinburg Class XXIII is in the process of fundraising to complete several projects that include assisting the Edinburg Police Department with construction of a training shoot house, granting scholarships to Edinburg students, renovating portions of the exterior of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce building, and helping fund the development of a city park for disabled children.

To help raise money for these projects, Leadership Edinburg Class XXIII will be hosting a skeet shoot fundraiser on Saturday, March 3. The cost for a three man team to participate is a $500 for the Sergeant Level Sponsorship. Other sponsorship levels include Chief Level ($5,000), Captain Level ($2,500.00), and Lieutenant Level ($1,000). Refreshments and lunch will be provided for the shooters. More information on the fundraiser is available by contacting Aaron Vela at 956/381-4440.

For additional details on Leadership Edinburg, individuals may contact the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at 956/383-4974 or by logging on to http://www.edinburg.com

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Claudia Berenice Garza featured artist for Jardín del Arte on Friday, February 10

By EVANA VLECK

Claudia Berenice Garza, whose many paintings and murals have been commissioned by public and private interests throughout the Valley, will be the featured artist on Friday, February 10, during the monthly Jardín del Arte (Garden of Art) set for the Courtyard at Edinburg City Hall.

The event, which will include musical entertainment, is free and open to the public.

Jardín del Arte will be held from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Residents who attend will be able to purchase art work and buy food and beverages from participating Edinburg restaurants –  La Pesca, Panini Café & Deli, El Jinete and Coffee Zone – which will be showcasing their products at the gathering.

Kim Snyder will be providing the musical entertainment for the evening, and Dancer’s Creative Motion will have a special dance performance.

As part of the community’s strategy to incorporate the local arts community into economic development goals, Jardín del Arte was created in 2011 in order to feature the fine arts talent in the three-time All-America City.

The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation (EEDC), the City of Edinburg, the Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library, and the Edinburg Arts/Cultural Activities Board are sponsors of the event.

The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council.

The mission of Edinburg’s Cultural Activities Board is to preserve, promote, develop and encourage the community’s cultural expression and enhance the quality of life in the City of Edinburg.   Edinburg’s CAB will promote a nurturing environment to advance the knowledge, discovery and engagement in visual/performing arts, creative writing, music, dance and other forms of self-expression.

Garza was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico. She has always showed interest for the arts. She came to the Valley in 1998 at the age of 15 and started painting while at Edinburg High School. Garza received an Associate of Fine Arts degree at South Texas College in May 2003, and in December 2005, received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Studio Art from the University of Texas-Pan American, where she also double-majored in Spanish.

After college, Garza decided to pursue a full-time career as an artist.

She has had the privilege of receiving important commissions for portraits and murals in the cities of Edinburg, McAllen, and Mission, to name a few. The most recent public commission was a mural for the Children’s Wing at the Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library in Edinburg.  Other works can be found at L.U.P.E. (La Unión del Pueblo Entero) in San Juan.

In 2002, she started teaching private art lessons to children and adults. To promote the arts to children, she has also held free drawing and painting workshops.

Her plans for the near future are to travel and obtain a Master of Fine Arts degree, which she knows will help her gain more experience in the art field and expand her possibilities as a professional artist.

For more information on the event or how to participate in Jardín del Arte in the future , interested Edinburg residents may call this writer – Evana Vleck –  at 956/383-7124.

Performance and musical artists are also encouraged to inquire on serving as entertainment for Jardín del Arte’s monthly events.

There is an application process and fee required for artists to participate, with those details also available by calling this writer – Evana Vleck – and 383-7124 or via e-mail at evana@edinburgedc.com

All artwork will be reviewed by a selection committee, so interested artists are asked to submit photocopies of samples or images of their work. Those samples also may be e-mailed to evana@edinburgedc.com

Performance and musical artists are also encouraged to inquire on serving as entertainment for future Jardin del Arte’s monthly events.

Also, individuals may stay tuned for future news and updates on arts in Edinburg by becoming a fan on Facebook or on the community page, http://www.EdinburgArts.com.

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Mitch Roberts, serving as Edinburg Man of the Year, carries on family legacy of public service

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Mitch Roberts, named last fall as Man of the Year by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, carries his family name as a badge of honor.

Born into a prominent local family, the longtime business leader and community advocate could have taken his University of Texas at Austin pedigree and set up shop in any number of major cities nationwide.

Instead, he came back from UT Austin to Edinburg as fast as he could, willing to live up to the high expectations and record of public service built over several generations of his family.

For their respective records of giving back to their community, Roberts and Elva Jackson Garza, (see December 16, 2011 posting of http://www.EdinburgPolitics.com) last October were honored as Man of the Year and Woman of the Year by the local chamber of commerce.

“To the selection committee that nominated me for Edinburg’s Man of the Year, I would like to say, ‘thank you.’ I am very humbled, very proud, very honored,” said Roberts, whose extensive record of public service includes serving on the five-member Board of Directors of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation.

The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council.

“I have never done, served or volunteered for anything other than to help make Edinburg and South Texas better places to live and work,” he continued, pledging his commitment to be “part of the team.”

Roberts was born in Edinburg in 1958, attended the local public school system until he graduated from Edinburg High School in 1976. He left home to attend the University of Texas at Austin, earning a BBA in Business Management.

Soon after obtaining his UT degree, Roberts attended and graduated from the General Motors Technical Institute Automobile Dealers School in Warren Michigan, which prepared him to work in the family business, Roberts Chevrolet.

In the late 1980s, Roberts became involved with the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, volunteering with the Beautification Committee, which worked on clean-up days in Edinburg and planting trees/flowers and shrubs in various areas of the city.

His service on the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce was motivated by his family, which had a strong legacy of working and volunteering with numerous civic, business, and faith-based organizations, including a pioneering role with the local chamber.

Decades earlier, in 1932, his grandfather, L.J. Roberts, worked with and was on the founding board of directors to establish the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce.

His uncle, Harry Roberts, served as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce in 1956-1957.

His father, L.J. “Bob” Roberts, Jr., served as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce in 1964-1965.

In 1997-1998, Mitch Roberts followed in the influential footsteps of his grandfather, father and uncle, assuming the mantle of leadership as well, serving as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce.

He wore many hats on behalf of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, serving as the leader for Beautification and Fiesta Edinburg committees, as well as volunteering on the original “Hobo Hap’nin” Committee, which raised funds to purchase and restore the 1927 Southern Pacific Railroad Depot.

The Depot serves as home for the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce and the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation.

Roberts been involved in various other civic and professional organizations over the last 30 years, a record which includes the following achievements:

• In the 1980s, he served as Chairman of the Rio Grande Valley Chevrolet Dealers Association;

• In the 1990s, he served on the founding board of directors and later served as Chairman of the Rio Grande Valley Automobile Dealers Association.

•In 1995, Roberts was elected to the Board of Directors of the Ebony Hills Improvement Company, (the private entity that owns Edinburg Municipal Golf Course, known to most area residents as the Ebony Hills Golf Course). His leadership role also includes his service as Chairman of the Board for the Ebony Hills Improvement Company;

• In 1997, he was elected Chairman of the Board of the Museum of South Texas History. His efforts on behalf of the local museum includes his role as chairman of the Capital Campaign, which helped raise several million dollars for the expansion of the cultural center.

• In 2005, Roberts was honored by Automotive News, a  national publication for automobile dealers.

He was chosen as Innovator of the Year for his landmark strategy of rewarding employees/team members with safety work bonuses for reducing workmen’s compensation claims.

• Also in 2005, he was bestowed the Outstanding Leadership Award by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Leadership Committee for his tireless efforts  in promoting and volunteering for the chamber and throughout the community of South Texas.

• In 2010 Mitch Roberts and family, specifically his Aunt Marjorie and Uncle Harry Roberts, were honored by the Dustin Michael Sekula (P.F.C., U.S.M.C.) Memorial Library and FRIENDS of the Library. The Roberts Family Hall was dedicated in honor and appreciation for their volunteering, dedication and financial support of the local library for more than four decades.

• In 2010, Mitch Roberts helped raise needed financial support from his own resources for constructing a new patio for the historic Southern Pacific Railroad Depot. In appreciation for his generosity, the chamber’s leadership granted Roberts’ wish to dedicate The Chairman’s Patio in honor of all residents who have served as chairmen and chairwomen of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce.  The patio, which was completed in 2011, is used extensively for chamber gatherings.

• In 2000, Roberts had the opportunity to purchase his family members’ interest in Roberts Chevrolet, leading to the national designation as the Chevrolet Dealer in Edinburg. He led Roberts Chevrolet until 2007, when he sold the property to Hidalgo County, which needed room to expand its county courthouse operations. In the same year, Roberts sold the Chevrolet dealership to Bob and Janet Vackar with the Bert Ogden Family of Dealerships.

Evana Vleck contributed to this article.

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South Texas Health System receives statewide award for reducing incidences of key illnesses

By ANN WARD

For its efforts to reduce the incidence of ventilator-associated pneumonia, pressure ulcers and health care-acquired infections, South Texas Health System (STHS), based in Edinburg, has been honored with the Texas Hospital Association’s 2011 Bill Aston Award for Quality in the Non-Research, Non-Teaching Hospital category.

Established in 2010, the award recognizes a hospital’s measurable success in improving quality and patient outcomes through the sustained implementation of a national and/or state evidence-based patient care initiative. Gloria Vela, South Texas Health System’s director of education, and Joanne Shannon, system infection prevention coordinator, accepted the award on Thursday, February 2 at the THA Annual Conference and Expo in Austin.

In 2008, South Texas Health System in McAllen and Edinburg treated 77 patients with ventilator-associated pneumonia at an average cost of $40,000 each. Recognizing the costs associated with health care-acquired infections, in 2009 South Texas Health System embarked on a systematic approach to reducing ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP), later expanding its focus to reducing stage 3 and 4 pressure ulcers and hospital-acquired bloodstream infections. The results have been dramatic. The system achieved zero VAPs in the first two years, zero hospital-acquired stage 3 or 4 pressure ulcers since full implementation, and zero blood stream infections in several of its units for about two years.

Using the Lean Six Sigma approach to system improvement, STHS began a multidisciplinary team project to reduce VAP. The project ultimately proved so successful that it became a model for initiatives to reduce stage 3 and 4 hospital-acquired pressure ulcers and eliminate the potential for bloodstream infections. All three projects met or exceeded their goals and introduced processes that have become hardwired throughout the system.

Candi Constantine, RN, chief nursing officer, said the team at McAllen Medical Center (MMC) took a systematic approach to the VAP project that involved benchmarking best practice standards, measuring the baseline knowledge of MMC staff, conducting education and in-service sessions, publicizing the standards of care and conducting regular assessments. The post-test conducted following education and in-service training showed that familiarity with VAP protocols improved from 73 percent to 99 percent. While the team focused on the VAP rate in the adult intensive care unit, the VAP rates in the pediatric and neonatal ICUs also were monitored.

MMC did not experience a case of VAP in the first two years of the project, saving an estimated $3 million in health care costs. In addition, the project served as a model for reducing other common hospital-acquired conditions.

STHS next turned its attention to stage 3 and 4 hospital-acquired pressure ulcers. When the project began in 2010, STHS had a rate of 13 stage 3 and 4 pressure ulcers per 1,000 patient days, which was about even with the national benchmark. This rate included wounds that were present when patients are admitted. Treatment costs average $43,180 per patient with a pressure ulcer.

Using Lean Six Sigma principles and lessons learned from the VAP project, STHS developed an “off-loader” program that focuses on staff education, turning protocols and frequent communication. Every two hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., a song that includes the words “turn” or “roll” is played overhead to remind staff to change patients’ positions. After 8 p.m., a reminder message pops up on computer screens every two hours. Wound Care Wednesday was adopted across the system to ensure that every patient is assessed for pressure ulcers once a week. In addition, pressure ulcer checks have become part of the admission process, leading to better documentation of existing wounds. Since the program reached full implementation in December 2010, STHS has not recorded a single hospital-acquired stage 3 or 4 pressure ulcer, resulting in an estimated annual savings of $234,500.

In its most recent initiative, STHS joined the Texas Center for Quality & Patient Safety’s On the CUSP: Stop Blood Stream Infection (BSI) initiative. CUSP is an acronym for Comprehensive United-based Safety Program. The initiative has a goal of reducing or eliminating hospital-acquired bloodstream infections in its adult, pediatric and neonatal units. STHS created a multidisciplinary team of medical, nursing, infection prevention and senior management representatives and provided a toolkit that stresses proper hand hygiene, barrier precautions, antisepsis, optimal site selection, daily review and prompt removal of unnecessary lines.

Once again, STHS provided unit-level training, communication and follow-through. “Scrub the hub” reminders have been added to monthly staff meeting agendas to continue the education process. The BSI team also recently assisted in the process of selecting and testing sterile alcohol-treated IV line caps to further aid in the prevention of BSIs – evidence, according to Constantine, that both the initiative and the team approach are firmly rooted.

The project has been a success. MMC’s neonatal ICU and Edinburg Regional Medical Center’s ICU recorded 26 months without a BSI, and McAllen Heart Hospital recorded 22 months without a BSI.

“South Texas Health System has demonstrated a strong commitment to quality improvement and produced significant results,” said Dan Stultz, M.D., FACP, FACHE, president/chief executive officer of THA. South Texas shared its success story, with a focus on the “how to” as part of THA’s Annual Conference and Expo.

“This group of hospitals hopefully will encourage others across the state—and particularly in the Valley — to focus on quality improvement initiatives. The science shows us what works; the challenge is having the discipline to follow each and every step of the process on each and every patient,” he added.

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Medical Awards for 2012 winners announced by RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

The final results are in for the winner’s of the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Medical Awards for 2012.

Since the medical community plays a major role in the Valley, both professionally and economically, the RGV Hispanic Chamber on Thursday, January 26, honored the top professionals in their particular fields, who were nominated by the general public.

Those winners were individuals and establishments recognized for going above and beyond their normal responsibilities of providing services. They also demonstrate extra care, perform above the average, participate in community events on their own time, and are fine examples to their peers.

The honorees, and their respective categories, who were featured during a dinner held at The Club at Cimarron in Mission, were:

• Dr. Khaimchand Panday, Specialty Physician;

• Dr. Jorge H. Treviño, General Physician;

• Lisa D. Longoria, Physician’s Assistant;

• Shelley Bryant, Nurse Practitioner;

• Mario A. Garza, Nurse;

• Gloria Jiménez, Volunteer of the Year;

• McAllen Medical Cener, Hospital; and

• Las Palmas Healthcare Center, Nursing Home.

Panday was selected for his excellent skills, is very caring and has a superb bedside manner. He also serves as secretary/treasurer for the medical staff at Rio Grande Regional Hospital. In addition, he is the team physician for the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees.

Treviño paved the road for many Hispanic doctors who were beginning their careers, including notable area physicians such as Dr. Norma Iglesias, Dr. Víctor Villarreal, Dr. Bertha Medina, Dr. Samuel García, Dr. Ricardo Barrera, Dr. Acxitl G. Buendía, Dr. Curtis Maynard, and Dr. Frank Peña. Treviño is still remembered as one of the very few doctors who would make house calls for patients who couldn’t make it to his office. Treviño is estimated to have helped to deliver as much as half the local born population of McAllen. He still has patients who will sit for hours until he can see them.

Lisa D. Longoria, a physician’s assistant, is also a very-well rounded nurse. Her academic record is outstanding, with two Master’s Degrees, and she continues to further educate herself while serving as an assistant to a cardiologist on some weekends.

Shelley Bryant, a nurse practitioner, has extensive professional experiences in nursing, having paved the way to serve as First Assistant in Surgery. She has successfully conducted major research in vitamin deficiencies that afflict women. She also volunteers as speaker for many organizations.

Mario A. Garza, a military veteran, has an extensive record of service as a nurse on a worldwide level. His nursing skills are well respected among his professional colleagues, who recognized him as being very thorough and caring.

Gloria Jiménez, the Volunteer of the Year, is a retired elementary teacher who taught in San Antonio for nine years and in McAllen for 21 years. She has performed volunteer work as a Court- Appointed Special Advocate in Hidalgo County, has completed the McAllen’s Police Department’s Citizens’ Academy, has volunteered at the Edinburg Medical Center and Edinburg Children’s Hospital, and currently volunteers as the Children’s Activity Director at the Edinburg Children’s Hospital. She also has served on the Board of Directors for the Edinburg Children’s Hospital Foundation.

McAllen Medical Center’s selection as Hospital of the Year was influenced by the facility’s numerous qualities and recognitions. Patients found McAllen Medical Center and its staff to provide friendly as well as efficient service. For three consecutive years, from 1999 to 2001, McAllen Medical Center was named Top 100 Hospitals in the nation, and was the first to be recognized as Distinguished Hospital for Clinical Excellence by HealthGrades. In 2007, it became the only Valley hospital to provide kidney transplants. It 2008, it was selected to provide area military veterans with inpatient, emergency, and behavioral health services. It is the only health care system in Hidalgo County that provides hospitalization for U.S. veterans through their veteran’s medical benefits.

Las Palmas Healthcare Center was named Nursing Home of the Year for its continued strengths of venue, service and commitment. It was a very low rate of employee turnover, reflected in their committed workforce, and has demonstrated a proven commitment to providing quality care.

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Edinburg man sentenced to federal prison for health care fraud and identity theft

By ANGELA DODGE

Juan De León, 41, of Edinburg, and owner of United DME Inc. was sentenced on Thursday, February 2, to 120 months in federal prison, without parole, for his role in a health care fraud and identity theft scheme, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced.

Following a four-day trial and approximately an hour of deliberations in late September 2011, a federal jury in McAllen convicted De León on charges of conspiracy, health care fraud and aggravated identity theft related to his scheme to submit fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid for a variety of medical, items including power wheelchairs and diabetic supplies.

At a hearing earlier on February 2, U.S. District Judge Randy Crane, who presided over the trial, sentenced De León to 120 months in federal prison, the statutory maximum prison sentence for health care fraud, and ordered him to pay $750,000 in restitution to Medicare and Medicaid. De León will also have to serve a three-year term of supervised release upon completion of his prison term.

De León owned and operated United DME Inc., a durable medical equipment (DME) company located in Weslaco.

During the trial, the United States presented evidence that from 2007 through 2010, De León directed his employees to submit false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid for power wheelchairs that were not delivered and for diabetic supplies and other medical items that were not delivered. The jury heard evidence that instead of providing the medically necessary power wheelchairs prescribed by the patients’ doctors, De León would instead provide the patients with less expensive, and more difficult to operate, scooters that they could not use.

In other cases, De León or his staff submitted claims to Medicare and Medicaid for medical items allegedly delivered after the beneficiary had passed away. According to evidence at trial, De León attempted to conceal the scheme by altering records contained within patient files including backdating delivery tickets and forging patient signatures on delivery tickets.

At the February 2 sentencing hearing, the United States presented additional evidence that during the investigation and prosecution of the case, De León obstructed justice by altering and forging patient files prior to producing them to investigators. In addition, De León attempted to influence and intimidate government witnesses by instructing them to lie to investigating agents about various matters.

Previously on bond, De León was ordered into federal custody following the jury’s verdicts in September where he has remained and will remain pending transfer to a Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

This case was investigated by the FBI, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General and the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. Assistant United States Attorney Greg Saikin and Special Assistant United States Attorney Rex Beasley prosecuted the case.

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Bert Ogden Auto Group kicks off FiestaEdinburg 2012 with $10,000 sponsorship

By RONNIE LARRALDE

Bert Ogden, Fiesta Chevrolet and the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce have joined forces to sponsor the annual Fiesta Edinburg 2012, which will run from Thursday, February 23, through Sunday, February 26, at Edinburg Municipal Park.

Top-quality entertainment will be featured during Fiesta Edinburg, including I Love, Mayberry, and Grupo Avizo, David Marez and Joe Bravo on Friday, February 24.

On Saturday, February 25, more musical performers will take the stage, including Jeremiah, Dance Gavin Dance, Jaime y Los Chamacos, and Ricardo Castillón y La Diferencia.

In addition to its traditional parade, which will be held on Saturday morning, February 25, Fiesta Edinburg 2012 will feature the Heart of America Carnival, Family Fun Zone, and a Bike Show.

There are admission fees to most aspects of Fiesta Edinburg 2012, including parking fees. However, the popular Fiesta Edinburg parade is free.

The festive and colorful parade on Saturday, February 25, will begin at 10 a.m. at the County Courthouse Square, then travel south on Closner before ending at Cats Stadium. Prize money will be awarded for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners of the parade float competition.

The Heart of America Carnival, which will run throughout the four-day celebration, is offering a special $5 per individual admission fee for Thursday, February 23, which will give ticket holders access to all rides on that day.

The main entrance to the festival at Edinburg Municipal Park will be off Raúl Longoria Road.

Parking at Edinburg Municipal Park will be charged at the rate of $5 per vehicle.

In addition, there will be a $5 admission fee per person. Children ages 5 to 10 will only be charged $3 each, while youngsters four years of age and younger will get in for free.

For more information on Fiesta Edinburg, to volunteer, sponsor or sign up as a vendor or parade entry, interested individuals may call the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at 956/383-4974 or go online to http://www.edinburg.com.

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