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Edinburg’s unemployment rate for December remains at 5.5 percent, again best in the Valley, better than Texas and U.S. unemployment levels

With Bucky the Bronco, the mascot for the University of Texas-Pan American, helping lead the cheers in June 2004, Dr. Blandina "Bambi" Cárdenas was welcomed during a public ceremony on her first day as president by Rodolfo Arévalo, Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs. Citing health reasons, Cárdenas retired as president of one of the largest public universities in Texas effective Friday, January 30. Under her leadership, UT-Pan American continued its successful transformation into a research-oriented institution of higher education, with a top faculty and state-of-the-art facilities and resources. On Tuesday, January 27, Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview, said he would work closely with new UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa to inform and involve South Texans on the appointment, deliberations, and actions of a presidential search advisory committee which will undertake a national search for a successor to Cárdenas. "We will make sure the public is fully informed on how these major steps are taken, and how people from all walks of life from South Texas can participate in selecting the new leadership of our great university," Flores said. Charles A. Sorber, former president of UT-Permian Basin and former interim president of UT-Arlington, will serve as interim president effective February 23. See story later in this posting.

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Charles A. Sorber, former president of UT-Permian Basin and former interim president of UT- Arlington, will serve as interim president of the University of Texas-Pan American effective February 23 while a national search begins for a permanent successor to former president Blandina "Bambi" Cárdenas, the UT System announced on Tuesday, January 27. “Dr. Sorber’s expertise and vast background have earned him a rock-solid reputation of service in a variety of administrative positions, and we are extremely fortunate to have him help guide UT-Pan American in this important time of transition," said David B. Prior, the UT System’s executive vice chancellor for academic affairs. "UT-Pan American is tremendously important to the region and to the UT System. We believe that the students, faculty and staff will enjoy getting to know Dr. Sorber as your combined efforts continue to move the institution to even greater distinction. The quick action by UT System administrators is crucial to maintaining stability at the university, said Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen. "I am happy to see that the UT System is moving quickly to search for the best candidate to lead UT-Pan American," said Hinojosa. "Dr. Cárdenas set a high standard and I expect the presidential search advisory committee to seek out an outstanding academic and administrator to guide UT-Pan American." See story later in this posting.

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In an effort to rouse up funding and support for local projects in the upcoming transportation reauthorization bill, Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, featured left, on Monday, January 26, met with Congressman James Oberstar, D-MN, featured right, who is the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Hinojosa, along with Congressman Solomon Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi (center), highlighted South Texas’ many infrastructure projects that are “shovel-ready” and needed for long-term growth. These projects include the Hidalgo County Loop, the Donna Bridge access road, North Rail Relocation project, and U.S. Highway 281 at Falfurrias and Ben Bolt. See story later in this posting.

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Former McAllen Mayor Othal E. Brand Sr., featured left, was recognized on Monday, January 26, for his years of service to the community, and he was presented a proclamation from Mayor Richard Cortéz, on behalf of the city commission. In 1973, Brand was elected city commissioner and in 1977 was elected mayor, where he served continuously for 20 years until 1997. Through his leadership and vision, he was instrumental in establishing the McAllen Economic Development Corporation and the Boys & Girls Clubs of McAllen and planned for McAllen’s future by acquiring land for future growth. Brand served on numerous boards and committees both on the local and state levels. See story later in this posting.

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Edinburg High School graduate Aurora Casas was already a member of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) when she started her college career at South Texas College. At the age of 58, she didn’t let a simple number keep her from her achieving her goals. “It was always my dream to be an office worker,” she said. “I would go to renew my driver’s license or to the bank and I would see the young ladies and gentlemen behind their desks; I always dreamt that I could be in their shoes one day. I wanted it to be me as the professional helping others.” But it took a pink slip to put her back on the college path. Prior to STC, she spent 30 of her years as a seamstress with Haggar Clothing Co. She took the job to help her family make ends meet, but ultimately wasn’t doing what she really hoped with her life. And in the end, the Haggar plant closed and her long-term commitment to her employer only earned her a pink slip. Now, the South Texas College alum Aurora Casas of Edinburg uses her college knowledge to help mature adults find work in a high-tech, fast-paced, global marketplace. See story later in this posting.

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The Hidalgo County District Clerk’s Office on Thursday, January 22, presented a check totaling $2,500 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation as part of their Blues for Bucks Workplace Fundraising Campaign to benefit local charitable organizations. The program allows department staff to wear jeans every Friday in exchange for a $5 donation. “I am extremely proud of our staff for their support of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and their willingness to give back to their community. They are extremely elated to see their efforts going towards a cause that helps grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions,” said Hinojosa. Featured, first row, from left: María Barrera; Mary Alonzo; Prescilla López; Ava Sandlin, area Executive Director for the Make-A-Wish Foundation; María Elva Garza; Hidalgo County District Clerk Laura Hinojosa; and Nilda Van Hook. Back row, from left: Aída Ríos; Ángela García; Lonnie De León; Eric Rodríguez; Irene Casares; Ireneo Razo; Pedro Navarro; Josue Palomo, and Lorena De La Garza. See story later in this posting.

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Councilmember García, Mayor Ochoa support plan for trailblazing medical conference center by Doctors Hospital at Renaissance

Dr. Blandina “Bambi” Cárdenas, featured first row, second from left, on Thursday, November 20, outlined some of the key measures that she hopes to secure for the University of Texas-Pan American during the upcoming regular session of the Texas Legislature, which convenes on Tuesday, January 13.  Cárdenas, the first female president of UT-Pan American, made her presentation during a legislative luncheon at the ECHO Hotel and Conference Center coordinated by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. She noted that graduates from UT-Pan American who apply to medical school have a higher acceptance rate than students from other Texas universities, a key point that will be used by area state lawmakers, who have pre-filed legislation to build a UT medical school in the Rio Grande Valley. In a related move, Mayor Joe Ochoa, featured to the left of Cárdenas, has pledged the city’s support for plans by Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, which is considering building a cutting-edge medical conference center that would feature world-class medical professionals who would provide unprecedented seminars, including onsite surgeries, in the three-time All-America City. City Councilmember Agustín “Gus” García, Jr. (not included in this portrait) has been a key player in promoting Edinburg’s participation in the discussions about DHR’s medical conference center. “I do not want to identify just yet who the players are, but this project, if brought to fruition and marketed properly, could very well put Edinburg in a national spotlight,” Councilmember García said. “I have been assured by the investor group that with the city’s participation, they would name it the ‘Edinburg Medical Conference Center’.”  See lead story later in this posting.

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In a time of challenging national economic data, positive news was recently announced at the Edwards Abstract and Title Co.’s annual economic outlook symposium. “Jobs are everything to an economy, and Hidalgo County has delivered for more than a decade,” said Ted C. Jones, Ph.D., Senior Vice President and Chief Economist for Stewart Title Guaranty Company. “Hidalgo County and the cities therein have grown jobs at 4.5 times the rate of the U.S. per year, compounded annually for the past 10 years,” added Jones. “In the latest twelve months ending September 6, nine hundred net new additional jobs were created in the local economy.” Another highlight of the forum was the participation of a panel of economic development experts from the cities of McAllen, Edinburg and Weslaco who shared their views regarding the factors that are contributing to the continued commercial and industrial growth of the region. Participating in the economic development panel were, first row, from left:  Dr. Ted C. Jones;  Elva Jackson Garza, Edwards Abstract and Title Co.; Ramiro Garza, executive director, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Byron Jay Lewis, president of Edwards Abstract and Title Co.; Stewart Morris, Sr. with Stewart Title Guaranty Company. Back row, from left: (back) Stewart Morris, Jr. with Stewart Title Guaranty Company; Keith Patridge, President and CEO, McAllen Economic Development Corporation; Pat Townsend, Jr., President and CEO, Mission Economic Development Authority; and Hernán González, Executive Director of the Weslaco Economic Development Corporation. See story later in this posting.

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Young ladies who are seniors at Edinburg High School were recently addressed by prominent Texans during the Young Women’s Summit, a forum which allows the students to interact with some of the most successful women in their respective fields. The Young Women’s Summit developed from research completed by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) which found that Hispanic girls are the most under- represented group of post-secondary graduates. Featured, from left: Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen; Gloria Cotton Wells; Deann Craft; María Piña; and Jennifer Ruiz, Miss Galaxy International 2009.

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Miss Edinburg 2009 and her counterparts were recently honored by the Edinburg school district for their outstanding efforts in representing the city and school district, and for bringing honor to their respective families. Featured in this portrait during a recent school board public session were, from left: Gilberto Garza, Jr., superintendent of the Edinburg school district; Alexis García, Miss Edinburg 2009; Avery García, Miss Pre-Teen; Anahi García, Little Miss Edinburg; Rachel Tgunberg, Junior Miss Edinburg; and Omar Palacios, president of the Edinburg school board.

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G&C Avanti Trucking LLC in Edinburg is partnering with South Texas College on an experimental project that calls for students in the Precision Manufacturing Technology Program to help fabricate prototypes of several automotive parts that will enable vehicles, such as this GMC 5500 truck, to travel in up to five feet of water. Pictured are (front row, l-r): Chente Aguilar from G&C Avanti Trucking LLC; Leticia Reyes from the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Mario Reyna, STC division dean of business and technology; Efrain García, Jr.; Efrain García, Sr.; Rodolfo Sánchez from G&C Avanti Trucking LLC; Alberto Díaz from Santos International; and G&C Avanti technician Marcelo Cantú. STC Precision Manufacturing Technology instructor Harold Bernard and PMT students Zeke Sáenz, Erick Vega, Ricardo García and René Vera are pictured on top of truck. See story later in this posting.

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Trustee Carmen González praises passage of $112M bond issue, ethical reforms, high academic honors

Edinburg school board trustee Carmen González, who is finishing up her first term on the seven-member school board, greets Saúl Ortega of Edinburg, one of several hundred supporters who showed up on Thursday, August 21, for her campaign reelection bid kick-off, held at the ECHO in Edinburg. A retired educator whose career saw her rise from the classroom to the top leadership position as interim superintendent of ECISD, González is being challenged by a former and longtime ECISD trustee, Gilbert Enríquez, a renowned leader in business construction projects in the region. The election is on Tuesday, November 4. In gearing up for her race against Enríquez, González pledged to focus on her continuing vision for the school district, not personal attacks. “For my part, and in my campaign, there will be no mud thrown from my direction, from my camp,” she promised. “I will not throw mud, and I know I will be blessed because I will not be interrupted by negativism that may be circulating. I hope this will be a clean race, like it was when I ran (in 2005) against Obie Salinas, who was a gentleman with me all the way. We ran a good, clean campaign. I am going to ask the public to keep it clean.” See lead story later in this posting.

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After a final round of interviews, the Hidalgo County Elections Commission on Wednesday, August 20, unanimously selected Yvonne Ramón to lead the Hidalgo County Elections Department. “Ms. Ramón was chosen today to uphold core values of trust, responsibility and commitment to public service,” said Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas III, who is Chairman of the Hidalgo County Elections Commission. “Out of 66 applicants, she is what we consider the best of the best.” The other members of the commission are Hidalgo County Clerk Arturo Guajardo Jr., Hidalgo County Tax Assessor-Collector Armando Barrera, Hidalgo County Democratic Party Chair Dolly Elizondo and Hidalgo County Republican Party Chair Hollis Rutledge. See story later in this posting.

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For the second year, new faculty at The University of Texas-Pan American were welcomed to campus on Tuesday, August 19 as part of the New Faculty Support Program, which helps incoming faculty members adjust to their new environment. Fifty-five full-time, tenure and tenure-track faculty who are new this fall to UTPA attended the program’s opening reception and a two-day academic orientation. The year-long initiative was designed to help incoming faculty adjust to their new academic and community surroundings at UTPA. Featured here, from left during the first day of the academic orientation are: Dr. Paul Sale, UTPA Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs; UTPA student Tony Matamoros; Keith Patridge, the president of the McAllen Economic Development Corporation; and Dr. Ala Qubbaj, director of the New Faculty Support Program Director Qubbaj. See story later in this posting.

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The City of Edinburg was founded in 1908, where it was first named Chapin, Texas. In 1911, the town of Chapin was newly named Edinburg, and will officially reach its centennial of its founding on October 10, 2008. During the week of October 5 – 11, Edinburg will reflect on the establishment and growth of the community with a series of historic events, which are being organized the Centennial Committee. Local institutions which will spearhead the celebrations include The Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library, the Museum of South Texas History, the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, the City of Edinburg, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District, Daughters of the American Revolution, the Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department, and other various businesses, and organizations The event will feature Edinburg’s largest birthday cake, free ice cream, a city proclamation, poetry readings, an essay contest, a historic exhibition, Fireman’s Parade plus more. Some of the members of the Centennial Committee are, from left: Flo Prater; Joel A. Garza; Migdalie Rodríguez; Lynne Beeching; Miguel Gamboa; Elva Jackson Garza; Frank Lara; Letty González; Letty Reyes; Evana Vleck; Frank Garza; Viviana Ozuna; Rubén J. López; and Marco Cordova. Not shown are Valerie M. Haesly-Parson, Imelda Rodríguez, Lucy Robinson and Valerie Ramírez. Log on to http://www.edinburg.com for a complete calendar of events, or call 956-383-4974 for more information.

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Gilberto Garza, superintendent of the Edinburg school district, on Tuesday, August 19, addressed the elementary teachers and paraprofessionals at the General Assembly. “It isn’t by accident that the district had 12 Exemplary and 15 Recognized campuses last year, or that we had six schools named in Texas Monthly’s Best Public Schools in Texas list, or that 33 schools received Gold Performance Acknowledgments for high academic accomplishments, or that we have two high schools who have been awarded the College Board Inspiration Award, or two high schools named in Newsweek magazine among the Top Five Percent of Schools in the nation,” said Garza. See story later in this posting.

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