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Nelda T. Ramírez, a proven leader, accepts three-year contract to continue leading Edinburg Economic Development Corporation

An eight-story, 254,000 square foot new courthouse, featured here in this preliminary draft rendition by ERO Architects of McAllen, could become a major county and city landmark in downtown Edinburg. Prompted by serious overcrowding issues facing the existing Hidalgo County Courthouse, a 30-member advisory committee, appointed several months ago by the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court, has been charged with contributing their vision for an ideal courthouse facility that would encompass the current needs and projected growth anticipated in the next 10 years, as well as take into consideration all fundamental and desired elements of design, structure and function. ERO Architects is preparing a comprehensive review and analysis of what to do with the existing, almost 60-year-old Hidalgo County Courthouse, which would remain in use. The Hidalgo County Courthouse Master Plan Committee is scheduled to hold its next public meeting on Wednesday, January 18, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the International Trade and Technology Building at the University of Texas-Pan American. The work of the committee, including historical background, general project documents, and photographs, is available free and online to the public by logging on at: https://sites.google.com/site/hcchmasterplan/

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Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, featured front row, fourth from right, on Wednesday, December 21, was joined by area elected leaders and other constituents from his House District 36 for the official grand opening of his legislative district office, located at 121 E. Tom Landry in Mission. The ribbon-cutting ceremony doubled as an open house for the office, which has been open to the public since mid-January 2011. Among the dignitaries joining Muñoz were, to his right: Mission Mayor Norberto Salinas; and to his left: Mission Mayor Pro Tem Leo Olivarez, Sr.; Mission Councilman Rubén Plata; and Mission Councilwoman Norie González Garza. Muñoz believes the next legislative session, which begins in January 2013, should have a balanced approach to tackle key issues related to jobs, education and health care, and work together to provide a better future for communities and families. More information on Muñoz is available on his legislative website: http://www.house.state.tx.us/members/member-page/?district=36

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South Texas College has partnered with two Mid-Valley manufacturing companies to provide job training using a $234,629 Skills Development Fund Grant from the Texas Workforce Commission. The business partners include Rio Grande Container Inc. and Wood Crafters Home Products, L.L.C. “This is a great day for Weslaco and STC. The college is committed to creating jobs, economic development, and one of the strategic directions of the college is to serve as the catalyst for regional economic prosperity and social mobility,” STC President Shirley A. Reed said. “That means bringing jobs to the Mid-Valley and helping you be prepared to take advantage of those jobs so that you can really earn a good living for you and your family. That’s really what South Texas College is all about.” Featured at the check presentation, first row, from left: Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco; Ronald Congleton, TWC Commissioner Representing Labor; Weslaco Mayor Miguel Wise; STC President Shirley A. Reed; and Samuel Lugo, WoodCrafters Executive Vice President of Finance. Back row, from left: Wanda F. Garza, Executive Officer for North American Advanced Manufacturing Research and Education Initiative (NAAMREI); Jesse Villarreal, Member, South Texas College Board of Trustees; Monte Churchill, Campus Coordinator, STC Mid-Valley Campus in Weslaco; Teresa Rodríguez, WoodCrafters Corporate Social Responsibility Manager; and Gary Gurwitz, President, Board of Trustees, South Texas College. See story later in this posting.

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Valley veterans on Thursday, December 22, met in Harlingen with Lawrence A. Biro, Network Director of the Heart of Texas Health Care Network, and Danna Malone, Interim Director of the VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System, for updates on federal legislation designed to secure funding for an inpatient VA Hospital for deep South Texas. “Many South Texas veterans were hoping for good news on the Veterans Administration Hospital issue. No luck,” reported Arturo “Treto” Garza, one of the veterans who participated in the gathering. “However, we did get straight talk from Biro.” Biro, as network director of the VA Heart of Texas Health Services, manages the local VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health System Services (VATVCBHS). As such, he is overseeing the expansion of the surgical center in Harlingen. Featured, from left: Lawrence A. Biro; Danna Malone; Arturo “Treto” Garza; Joe Ibarra; Pete Prax Garza; and Rubén Cantú. Garza, a columnist for http://www.Rio Grande Guardian.com, offers more details on the December 22 session later in this posting.

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Leti Nava, featured second from left, recently collected a $16,000 check in lieu of a 2011 vehicle as her grand prize during a recent raffle sponsored by the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. In addition, the Edinburg Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Vannie Cook Cancer center each received a $1,000 donation from proceeds from the local chamber’s Fall Raffle. Profits generated from the event will help with the new Program of Work that the RGVHCC has planned for 2012. More workshops to assist small and women-owned businesses are scheduled as well as health, education and cultural events. Additional information on the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce may be obtained by calling their office at 956/928-0060 or by visiting their website at http://www.rgvhcc.com. Present for the check presentation are, from left:  Ronnie Bernal, RGVHCC Vice Chair of Small Business and Economic Development and chairman of the Fall Raffle; Leti Nava, Fall Raffle grand prize winner; Ray Cantú, accepting for Vannie Cook Cancer Center; Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, president and chief executive officer, RGVHCC; and Iván Quiñonez, accepting for Edinburg Children’s Hospital Foundation.

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Regal Beloit Corporation (Regal Beloit) of McAllen recently received the Employer Award of Excellence for the Texas Workforce Solutions (TWS), Lower Rio area, which includes Hidalgo, Starr, and Willacy counties, during the Texas Workforce Commission’s 15th Annual Texas Workforce Conference. The Employer Award of Excellence honors employers that are actively involved with their local workforce board and have made a positive impact on employers, workers and the community. Regal Beloit is a global manufacturing company with an advanced manufacturing facility that specializes in die casting and metal stamping of rotors and stators for electric motors. Featured, front row, from left: Mike Willis, Executive Director, South Texas Manufacturers Association; Yvonne “Bonnie” González, Chief Executive Officer, TWS; Lupita Almasri, Human Resources Manager, Regal Beloit; Elsa de Alba, Plant Manager, Regal Beloit; and Dalinda Guillen, Chair, Board of Directors, TWS. Back row, from left: Edna Posada, Member Representing the Private Sector, TWS; Noel Benavides; Board Member Representing Adult Basic Education, TWS; Dr. Ida H. Acuña-Garza, Board Member Representing Adult Basic Education, TWS; Aurelio “Keter” Guerra, Board Member Representing Public Assistance, TWS; and Irma Hulen, Board Member Representing the Private Sector, TWS. Texas Workforce Solutions (TWS) comprises the Texas Workforce Commission, a statewide network of 28 Workforce Development Boards for regional planning and service delivery, their contracted service providers and community partners, and the Texas Workforce Commission unemployment benefits tele-centers. This network gives customers local access to workforce solutions and statewide services at numerous TWS offices and six tele-centers. See story later in this posting.

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Some of the latest works of area artist Paul Valadez from his In the Age of Mascots efforts will be on display in Edinburg on Friday, January 13, as part of January’s Jardín del Arte, sponsored by the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation – the jobs creation arm of the Edinburg City Council – and The City of Edinburg’s Cultural Activities Board. Valadez, who is a full-time lecturer in the Art Department at the University of Texas-Pan American, will be joined by Kim Snyder of Keytar Dreamz, plus a dance performance by Dancer’s Creative Motion, an organization at UTPA. The January 13 gathering, which is free and open to the public, will be held from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the City Hall Courtyard, 415 W. University.  Food and beverages will be sold by participating Edinburg restaurants such as El Jinete, Corina’s Tea Room, La Pesca, and La Cocinita. They will feature tamales and hot chocolate, fajita tacos, shrimp cocktails, and much more. See story later in this posting.

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Douglas A. Matney, group president for South Texas Health System based in Edinburg, has been re-elected to the Texas Hospital Association’?s Board of Trustees, effective Sunday, January 1. This will be his second three-year term. Matney, who has more than three decades of health care experience, has been in his current position since 2007. He previously served as chief executive officer of Del Sol Medical Center in El Paso. In addition to previously serving on the THA Board of Trustees, Matney served on THA?’s Council on Policy Development. A member of the American College of Healthcare Executives, he received the Senior Level Healthcare Executive Regent?s Award in 2004. Matney earned a bachelor?s degree in health systems from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. He also attended the University of Florida in

Gainesville where he earned a master?s degree in health science and a master?s degree in business administration.

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Nelda T. Ramírez, an 11-year-veteran with the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, on Thursday, December 15, was unanimously selected by the EEDC’s governing board to serve as its Executive Director, which will allow her to continue leading that key entity for the next three years. The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. Ramírez is featured here following the EEDC board action with Mayor Richard García (left) and Jaime A. Rodríguez, the newest member of the EEDC Board of Directors. She pledged that her performance would continue at the highest levels. “We will continue the momentum with all the projects we have on the table right now,” Ramírez said. “We are hoping to see a lot more announcements in the next year to come, and a lot of big projects that will not only benefit the city, both economically and strategically, but continue to feature Edinburg on the map.” Her selection was unanimously approved by the EEDC governing board, which in addition to the mayor – who serves as president of the EEDC Board of Directors – and Rodríguez, includes Dr. Glenn Martínez as Vice-President, Fred Palacios as Secretary-Treasurer, and Felipe García, Member.

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Nelda T. Ramírez appointed Interim Executive Director for Edinburg Economic Development Corporation

A virtual ribbon was cut by South Texas College administrators, officially launching the college’s sixth state-of-the art campus in early August. Although the new virtual campus doesn’t feature beautiful green spaces or ambitious new architecture, what it does offer is something equally exciting and fitting for a new digital age. STC’s newest campus is one of the edgiest of its kind because it is an online virtual campus. STC’s new eSTC Virtual Campus went live on Tuesday, August 9, allowing the college’s over 30,000 students to enroll in one of more than 500 course sections toward earning one of 15 degrees and five certificates – available to earn all online. “The dawn of the Internet in daily life more than two decades ago meant the advent of a new era in the way we live and work; it has transformed every facet of our lives,” explained STC President Shirley A. Reed. “In a brave move that few colleges have dared to take, we are offering every service available to our traditional campus students – all online.” See story later in this posting.

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South Texas College on Thursday, July 28, received approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to offer a third university-level degree: the Bachelor of Applied Technology in Medical and Health Services Management. The new baccalaureate degree prepares graduates for entry to mid-level management positions at health care or medical facilities. Course work focuses on health care facility management principles, technological innovation in delivery of health care services, health information processing technology and government regulations related to health care services. Featured in Austin moments after the state board’s approval are, from left: STC President Shirley A. Reed, Rep. Sergio Muñoz Jr., D-Mission, and STC Vice President for Academic Affairs Juan Mejía. See story later in this posting.

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Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, featured here on January 28 during a legislative tour at the University of Texas-Pan American, on Friday, August 5, announced her bid to seek a fifth two-year term as the state legislator for House District 40, which includes much of Edinburg. “Over the past seven years, I have had the honor and privilege of working for and with people from all different backgrounds, occupations and perspectives,” Gonzáles noted. “I am also grateful for the support I have received from my law firm, friends and residents of Hidalgo County, which make my public service possible. I look forward to continue building upon these relationships and creating new ones to ensure that the next legislative session is a success for District 40.” From right, following last January’s legislative tour’s presentation on border control technology, are: Fred Schwien and Lee Moss with the Boeing Corporation; UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen; Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Rep. Gonzáles; and Ray Prewett, Texas Citrus Mutual.” See story on her election bid later in this posting.

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Some of the underwriters and sponsors of the Hobo Hap’nin Reunion, set for Saturday, September 17, recently gathered at the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce train depot to finalize the details of the event. Levels of support range from $500 to $5,000, with many benefits and recognition for support extended to enhance the historic train depot that was constructed in 1927. Featured promoting the upcoming event are, seated from left: Letty González, president, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Elva Jackson Garza, representing sponsor Edwards Abstract and Title Co.; and Maggie Kent, representing sponsor General Dentistry Center & RDS. Standing, from left: Marty Martin and Flo Prater, members of the Depot Restoration Committee; Naomi Perales, representing sponsor Texas Gas Service; Sandra Casas, representing sponsor H.E.B.; Edna Peña, representing sponsor Gotta Lovette; and Edinburg City Councilmember Elías Longoria, Jr., member of the Depot Restoration Committee. See story later in this posting.

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Plans are well underway for the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Hispanic Heritage Fiesta & Cook Off scheduled for the Friday, October 7 and Saturday, October 8 at the RGV Livestock Show Grounds in Mercedes. The event will include a sanctioned IBCA cook off with cash prizes totaling more than $10,000. Items to cook are brisket, pork spare ribs, chicken, pan de campo, beans and chef’s choice. In addition, live entertainment will be available all day, vendor’s selling their food, services and goods and a Kiddie Land area. Also, SPI Bikefest will hold a poker run, bike skills contest, and bike show. Featured accepting the sponsorship check from Superior Health Plan are, front row, from left:  Ronnie Bernal, vice chair of Small Business for the RGVHCC; Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, president and CEO of the RGVHCC; Mary Lou Cavazos with  Superior Health Plan; and Marti Miller, vice chair of membership for the RGVHCC. Featured back row, from left: Hari Namboodiri, member of the Advisory Board for the RGVHCC; Rick Álvarez, vice chair of Government Issues for the RGVHCC; and and Brent Smith, treasurer for the RGVHCC. See story later in this posting.

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The Leadership Edinburg steering committee is currently accepting applications for Class XXIII.  All interested applicants should call the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at 956/383-4974 to register. Leadership Edinburg (LE) is a nine-month program which gives its class members the opportunity to practice their leadership skills and brush up on different community topics that include history, education, healthcare, politics, and quality of life plus a fundraising session and a community service project in which all members of the LE willingly give back to the community. More than 520 graduates have taken the Leadership Edinburg Challenge. Individuals who want more information about Leadership Edinburg may call the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at 956/383-4974. Featured promoting Leadership Edinburg are members of its steering committee, from left: Jay Flores; Adelita Ozuna; Imelda Rodríguez; Cindy Castillo; Letty González; Flo Prater; and Marty Martin.

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The Edinburg Cultural Activities Board (CAB) has scheduled its first monthly Jardín del Arte for Friday, August 12, beginning at 6 p.m. at Edinburg City Hall, 415 West University Drive. The event, which is free and open to the public, is designed to connect the community to vibrant art, music and culture. Refreshments will be available during the gathering, which will last through 9 p.m. More information about Jardín del Arte, including how artists can submit an application to display and sell their work, can be found at http://www.edinburgarts.com. Anyone looking for information can also call Letty Leija, committee member and Director of the Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library, at 956/383-6246.

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Edinburg City Council invests another $1 million to help Boys and Girls Club build health facility

Romeo M. Villareal, featured far left, and his wife, Mary, featured far right, beam with pride during a public ceremony in early August that dedicated a state-of-the-art academic facility in Edinburg, part of the South Texas Independent School District, in honor of him. Andi Atkinson (center), the public information director for STISD, shown here explaining some of the historical artifacts that will grace the inside of the new educational center as further recognition of Villarreal’s many contributions to the school district. Villarreal, owner of Edinburg Child Care, Inc., has served on the STISD Board of Directors for 37 years, including 10 as president. He became a board member in 1972, but his ties to STISD go back to the 1960s, before the school district was born. The Romeo M. Villarreal Academic Building is located at 724 S. Sugar Road, at the corner of Sugar Road and Sprague Street, in Edinburg. See story later in this posting.

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Dr. Charles A. Sorber, interim president of the University of Texas-Pan American (featured second from right), on Monday, August 17, announced that the university’s graduate school campus in McAllen will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, August 26, at 10 a.m. The facility, located at 800 South Main Street along Eastbound Frontage Expressway 83 in the Main Place Shopping Center adjacent to La Plaza Mall, will provide Rio Grande Valley residents more convenience and greater access to higher education. Sorber is seen here on July 19 during an unrelated, but still historic, event, welcoming Dr. Bernard A. Harris, former astronaut and the first African American to walk in space. From left: Rosendo Cruz, program officer for Education and Diversity at ExxonMobil; U.S. Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes; Dr. Harris; President Sorber; and John Edwards, vice president for UTPA’s Division of Enrollment and Student Services. See story on McAllen graduate school later in this posting.

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Area legislators on Wednesday, August 12, posed with key leaders of the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce following that organization’s successful Legislative Report Card dinner held at the McAllen Country Club. The session allowed the majority of the Valley’s state lawmakers to provide highlights of major legislative accomplishments, and allowed the public opportunities to ask them questions. Featured, from left: Hari K. Namboodiri, founder and chief executive officer of Health Options International; Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville; Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen; Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco; Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg; and Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, president and chief executive officer of the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

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The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, August 27, will host a Leadership Edinburg Alumni mixer at Los Lagos Golf Course, located at 1720 South Raul Longoria, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Food, drinks and door prizes will be part of the festivities. All Leadership Edinburg graduates from Class I-XX – who number about 450 – are encouraged to attend the mixer. Leadership Edinburg is governed by a steering committee, whose members are featured in this photograph, made up mostly of alumni of the organization. Leadership Edinburg is intended to better the future leaders of Edinburg through motivation and exposure to the realities and the challenges affecting the community, including seminars in government, history, media, criminal justice, education, quality of life, health care and economic development. In addition, Leadership Edinburg Class XXI is currently accepting applicants, with the deadline set for August 27 as well. Individuals must file an application at http://www.edinburg.com or call the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at 956/383-4974. Standing, from left: Cynthia Bocanegra; Abel Leal; Pamela Doughtery; Fernando Quintanilla; Imelda Rodríguez; Marty Martin; Destiny Campos; Roy Peña; Dina Araguz; and Jay Flores. Seated, from left: Flo Prader; Letty González ; and Edna Peña.

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A survey of 135 regional employers is over and the results are in – area employers are very satisfied with the hiring of South Texas College graduates, according to a recent survey by the two-county community college system. “It is so pleasing to us that when asked if they would hire STC graduates again, all of the employers responded ‘yes’,” said Dr. Brenda Cole, director of STC’s Research and Analytical Services Department. “We also uncovered that most employers find our graduates to be well prepared for their jobs, work well in team situations, are energetic, responsible and possess good math and computer skills.” STC Bachelors Program Graduate Michael Parker, standing, works confidently alongside Keith Patridge, the president and chief executive officer of the McAllen Economic Development Corporation. See story later in this posting.

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Former Mayor Richard García reappointed to new term on Edinburg EDC Board of Directors

Edinburg Fire Chief Shawn Snider, featured here with his wife, the former Edna Casas, and their 13-year-old daughter, Sarah, on Tuesday, June 17, was honored by the Edinburg City Council for his recent selection as president of the State Firemen’s and Fire Marshals Association of Texas. In the 132-year history of the group, only three other Valley residents – including two other fire chiefs from Edinburg – have ever held the top leadership position of the association. Snider, who was born in San Diego, California on July 10, 1964, and was raised by his grandparents in San Juan, has been Edinburg Fire Chief since 1991. He now resides in Edinburg. See story later in this posting.

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The Region One Education Service Center is one step closer to realizing a 38,171 square foot expansion to its Edinburg facility, located immediately west of the University of Texas-Pan American. The new construction, which officially began with a May 7 groundbreaking ceremony, will increase its size from 74,000 square feet to more than 112,000 square feet. The total project will take about 474 days, with a completion date in mid-August 2009. Featured in this portrait taken at the groundbreaking are, from left: Region One Board of Trustees members Abel Cavazos (Place 7-Willacy County); Alicia E. Requenez (Place 1-Hidalgo County); Dora Ruiz (Place 5-Cameron County); Jack Damron (executive director); Richard R. Cantú (Place 4-Hidalgo County); Dr. Manuel Gómez, Jr., (Place 6-Cameron County); and Noé R. Sánchez (Place 2-Jim Hogg, Starr, and Zapata Counties). See story later in this posting.

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U. S. Representative Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, featured left, along with Rex Tillerson, the chairman and chief executive officer of Exxon, on Thursday, June 19, were chosen as the 2008 recipients of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) Inspira Award. The annual award honors leadership in education and community service for Latinos and for inspiring a new generation of Hispanic leaders in the United States. Actor and CSI: Miami star Adam Rodríguez will be the third Inspira Award recipient and presented during the National Youth Awards Ceremony in Kansas City, Missouri on July 11. See story later in this posting.

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Former Mayor Richard García, feature here in a file photo, was reappointed by the Edinburg City Council to another two-year term on the board of directors for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. He currently serves as the president of the EEDC board of directors. Under García’s leadership, as well as during the first and current administrations of Mayor Joe Ochoa, Edinburg has seen unprecedented economic development and growth in new construction, record-low unemployment rates, advances in higher education, and the development of a significant medical corridor that includes two comprehensive hospitals, a women’s hospital, a children’s hospital, two behavioral health care centers, a high-tech cancer treatment complex, and a University of Texas Regional Academic Health Center. “I’ve seen Richard García in action, and he’s not doing just a good job, he’s doing an excellent job in bringing commerce to this city,” said Councilmember Alma Garza. “In my opinion, it is in the city’s best interest to keep him in this position.” See lead story in this posting.

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