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

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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Delta Area leader Eddy González looking for legislative guidance on location of possible new Hidalgo County Courthouse

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Dolly Elizondo-García, featured center, the chair of the Hidalgo County Democratic Party, on Monday, November 28, posed with some of the first candidates who showed up to file for various political offices, ranging from justice of the peace and sheriff to state representative and U.S. representative. The gathering, held at Koko’s Uptown Restaurant in McAllen, came shortly before the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge by Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican, against the November 25 actions of a three-judge federal court in San Antonio. That court drew the boundaries for all of Texas’ state representative, state senate, and congressional maps after Democrats and Hispanics sued the state, alleging that the congressional and state legislative districts approved last spring by the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature discriminates against Mexican Americans. Abbott contends the Legislature did not discriminate against minorities. The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear both sides on January 9. Featured, from left, are: Jane Cross of Edinburg; T.C. Betancourt of Edinburg; Letty García of Edinburg; Dolly Elizondo-García; Geovani Hernández of Weslaco; Nereyda Morales-Martínez of Mission; Paul Villarreal; and Miriam Martínez of Edinburg.

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Rep. Sergio Muñoz Jr., D-Mission, on Monday, November 28, is congratulated by Dolly Elizondo-García, chair of the Hidalgo County Democratic Party, after he filed for a second term as state legislator for House District 36. Under a recent plan approved by a three-judge federal court in San Antonio, House District 36 includes all or part of the cities of Pharr, McAllen, Mission, Hidalgo, Palmview and Granjeno. However, Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican, has challenged the action of that federal court – which drew up the boundaries of all House and Senate seats, and congressional districts – and the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear Abbott’s challenge on January 9. Muñoz and Elizondo-García finalized his paperwork during a Democratic Party campaign kick-off held at Koko’s Uptown Restaurant in McAllen. See story later in this posting.

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Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg, posing outside Edinburg City Hall, has announced he will not seek reelection to a sixth term as state representative for House District 40. “I have had the honor of working with national and international business leaders and local and state officials to bring much needed jobs to our community,” said Peña. “I have been woken in the middle of the night by parents of drug addicted youths at their wits’ end. Great gestures come from grand designs, multi-billion dollar enterprises that traverse continents and create jobs and wealth but they also come from kind words and extending a helping hand to someone in need.” With the veteran lawmaker’s retirement, a number of  area Democrats are vying to succeed him in the Texas Legislature by competing for their party’s nomination in 2012. In a column he authored which explains his decision, Peña talks about the strains and successes of his legislative career. “My wife and children allowed me the luxury of working full-time, seven days a week at a job that pays $7,200 a year,” Peña reflected. “To (wife) Mónica, Adrienne, Aaron, Alyssa, Anthony and John, thank you. I am so grateful for the opportunity that I was given to serve the community I love so much.” See story later in this posting.

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Elva Jackson Garza, joined by her husband, Fred R. Garza, and their son, Fred A. Garza, on Saturday, October 15, was named 2011 Woman of the Year by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, for her service to the community and the organization since 1983. “I am very honored to have been nominated and selected as the 2011 Woman of the Year. As a volunteer, I serve because it has always been important for me to make a small difference in my beloved Rio Grande Valley,” said Garza. “I have met so many wonderful people along the way, and they have enriched my life immensely.” She currently represents Edwards Abstract and Title Co. as Vice President and Marketing Manager. She represents the company as an Affiliate Member of the Greater McAllen Association of Realtors, Rio Grande Valley Builders Association, Edinburg Realtors Committee, Weslaco Realtors Committee, Women’s Council of Realtors, Hidalgo County Bar Association, and is a member of the Texas Land Title Association. See story later in this posting.

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The former presidents and chairs of the Board of Directors of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce recently reunited at the historic Edinburg Depot for updates on major economic development projects underway in the city. Letty González, president of the local chamber, also provided progress reports on other local initiatives, such as fundraising efforts for the restoration and maintenance of the former train depot, which houses the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, the Edinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation. The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. One of the recent improvements to the Edinburg Depot involved the back patio, which was upgraded with tiled floors, patio furniture, and a Spanish colonial style fountain, staying true to the building’s historical features. The former presidents and their respective terms of office are featured, seated, from left: Cynthia Bocanegra (2009-2010); Elva Jackson Garza (1999-2000); Edna Peña, 2011-2012 Chairman of the Board; Cris M. Torres, (2007-2008) and Letty González, chamber president. Standing, from left: Johnny Rodríguez, the immediate past chair (2010-2011); Ted Miller, Jr. (1991-1992); Byron Jay Lewis (1993-1994); Harry Roberts (1956-1957); Mitch Roberts (1997-1998); Mike Govind (2002-2003 and 2003-2004 ) and Dr. Larry N. Balli (1998-1999).

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The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, which is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council, on Thursday, December 15, hosted the Santana Textiles Job Fair – the second such hiring phase this year. The international denim-manufacturing firm, which will invest up to $170 million for its complex in the Edinburg North Industrial Park, plans to fill 40 positions in this latest hiring phase, which took place at the Edinburg Depot, 602 West University Drive. Santana Textiles is looking for energetic, self motivated, and safety oriented individuals for entry level industrial maintenance technicians to highly experienced maintenance technicians. Duties will vary based on job description from basic knowledge of hand and power tools to experienced technicians with knowledge of electronics, PLC, automation, and testing equipment. “We are focusing on hiring individuals in the positions of maintenance electricians, maintenance mechanics, maintenance helpers, accounting manager, human resource coordinator, and safety technician,” said Lori A. Garza, Human Resource Manager for Santana Textiles. More information on the job vacancies are available for interested applicants by e-mailing their inquiries to jobs@santanatextiles.com. Featured promoting the event are, from left: Cynthia Guerrero, Human Resource Coordinator with Santana Textiles; Letty Reyes, Project Manager with the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; and Lori A. Garza. Santana Textiles plans to hire 800 employees once construction of its complex, currently underway, is completed by 2016.

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On Tuesday, November 15, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation – which is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council – announced the selection of Evana Vleck, the now former and effective marketing director with the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, as the city’s first-ever Downtown Development/Arts Coordinator. The arts – generally broken down into the more familiar categories as visual arts (paintings, sculptures, photography) and performing arts (dance, drama, music) – symbolize more than cultural and intellectual treasures for Edinburg. The arts can and do represent prosperity for any community willing and able to elevate them into a powerful engine to boost their local economy. “It is very important. It is the next level in our evolvement as a city,” says Mayor Richard García, who successfully lobbied the Edinburg City Council and the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) Board of Directors to authorize the creation and funding of the Downtown Development/Arts Coordinator position. See story later in this posting.

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During the fall 2011 semester, South Texas College was one of only four community colleges from across the state to receive special recognition from the Texas Association of Business. The award was presented in Austin to applaud the college’s efforts to increase its graduation rate, as well as help students progress through the higher education system in a timely manner. “We hear a lot about the colleges that aren’t pushing students to succeed, pushing them to get a degree,” said Bill Hammond, president and CEO of the Texas Association of Business. “STC is one of four community colleges that are getting it right. Each of the honorees has shown significant improvement in the number of students completing degree plans and improvements in student achievement.” STC was honored in the very large community college category, along with Howard Community College in the small category, Paris Junior College in the medium category, and Blinn College in the large category. Featured showcasing the award are, from left: Mario Reyna, Dean of Business and Technology for South Texas College; Dr. Shirley A. Reed, STC president; and Juan E. Mejia, STC Vice President for Academic Affairs. See story later in this posting.

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Area residents are being asked to submit their nominations to recognize some of the best medical professionals in the region. The Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has set a Friday, January 6 deadline to receive nominations for the following categories: Best Physician; Specialty Physician; Nurse; Nurse Practioner; Hospital; Nursing Home; Physician’s Assistant; and Volunteer. Individuals and institutions nominated must meet strict standards, based on providing their patients with the highest quality of care, be involved in local community affairs that improve the quality of life, be Board Certified in their respective fields, been in practice or existence for at least five years, and be in good standing before their professional licensing authorities. The Volunteer of the Year is a new category, and seeks nominees who have gone above and beyond their positions/duties as volunteers. For more details and to obtain a nomination form, please contact the RGVHCC at 928-0060. Featured promoting the nomination process, which will culminate in the Medical Awards Banquet on Thursday, January 26, are RGVHCC board members Marti Miller, Yoli González, and Ronnie Bernal, along with Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, RGVHCC president and CEO.

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James Ulatowski, a faculty member at Johnny G. Economedes High School, was recently recognized by the Edinburg CISD Board of Trustees for his selection as the Hispanic, Engineering, Science, and Technology (HESTEC) Math Teacher of the Year. HESTEC takes place annually during the last week of September at the University of Texas-Pan American. HESTEC is an innovative program that promotes the importance of science literacy to thousands of students, their parents and teachers. Ulatowski’s innovative and effective teaching style has made him an inspirational leader of students and colleagues, said Gloria Rivera, JEHS principal. “He comes to Edinburg and Economedes High School from a distinguished career in upper management in the private sector where innovation is not just encouraged, it is expected from top to bottom,” Rivera said. “His dedication and service as a high school math teacher highlight his desire to pass along his knowledge and innovative spirit to future generations of our educational community.” Featured, front row from left: Ciro Treviño, Board Secretary; James Ulatowski; Carmen González, Board President; and Dr. René Gutiérrez, Superintendent of Schools. Back row, from left: Robert Peña, Jr., Dr. Martín Castillo, and David Torres, Board Members; and Juan “Sonny” Palacios, Board Vice-President.

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The Hidalgo County District Clerk Office on Thursday, December 8, presented a check totaling $3,500 to the Comfort House of McAllen as part of their Blues for Bucks Workplace Fundraising Campaign, a program benefiting local charitable organizations. The Comfort House is a 10-bed homelike residence for persons in terminal stages of illness, generally admitted when they no longer seek a medical cure and have a life expectancy of less than four months. They welcome persons regardless of race, faith, persuasion or economic status. Hidalgo County District Clerk Laura Hinojosa, featured seated, center, was joined by her staff members, and by Mary Botello, Comfort House Administrator (second from right), for the presentation of the donation. District clerk staff members joining Hinojosa and Botello for the presentation were:Mary Alonzo; María Barrera; Norma Cantú; Irene Caceres; Omar Escamilla; Alfonso Fuentes;Alessandra Galván; Ángela García; Yolanda Garza; Alexandra Gómez; Erica Gómez; Virginia Granados; Andrëa Guajardo; Alicia Guerrero; Yanira Hernández; Irma López; Yuvia Maldonado; Cory Palacios; Stephanie Palacios; Mary Ramírez; Michael Schuller; Melinda Sotuyo; Aída Villarreal; Mónica Valdez; and Nilda VanHook. See story later in this posting.

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398th District Court Judge Aída Flores, flanked on her left by Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García and his chief-of-staff Yolanda Chapa, on Monday, November 7, shares her insights on the needs of the county’s judicial branch, which is housed in the Hidalgo County Courthouse. Flores’ observations came during the second public meeting of the Hidalgo County Courthouse Master Plan Committee, a 30-member group which includes Nelda T. Ramírez, executive director for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation. The special citizens panel has been empowered by the county government’s leadership to help prioritize the pressing needs of the almost 60-year old complex, and how to pay for those solutions. The third meeting of the Hidalgo County Courthouse Master Plan Committee is scheduled for Wednesday, January 18, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The session will be held in the International Trade and Technology Building, 1201 West University Drive, on the campus of the University of Texas-Pan American. All meetings of this group have been open to the public. The date and location for the fourth and final work session will be announced following the January 18 meeting. To Flores’ right is Edcouch Mayor Pro Tem Eddy González. In the background are Joey Gómez, news correspondent with the Edinburg Review and Rio Grande Guardian, and Edwina P. Garza, news correspondent with the Mission Progress Times. See lead story in this posting.

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