FEATURED: Val LaMantia, owner and managing partner of beverage distribution company L&F Distributors based in McAllen, was recently selected by Gov. Greg Abbott for induction later this fall into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame, for her business acumen, her service to the Texas community, and for her efforts to champion education at all levels.
Photograph Courtesy L&F DISTRIBUTORS FACEBOOK
Val LaMantia, Valley philanthropist and business leader, aunt of Sen. Morgan LaMantia, D-Port Isabel, and wife of UTRGV President Guy Bailey, to be inducted into Texas Women’s Hall of Fame
Val LaMantia, owner and managing partner of beverage distribution company L&F Distributors based in McAllen, was recently selected by Gov. Greg Abbott for induction later this fall into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame, in recognition of her business leadership, her service to the McAllen community, and her role as a founding member of the STARS Scholarship Fund, furthering education for nearly 20,000 students in South and West Texas.
“I am incredibly honored to be recognized among these seven other amazing women, and I thank Gov. Abbott and the Texas Commission for Women for honoring the importance of support for, and access to, a quality education,” LaMantia said.
LaMantia was honored for her record in the category of Business.
“As a longtime business owner in the Rio Grande Valley, I know how fortunate we are to have the resources and determination to create opportunities that will lead students into the future they dream of. The goal is to make a difference in the state of Texas and beyond,” she added..
Also chosen by the governor for this prestigious statewide honor was Elizabeth Suárez, the new President and CEO of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, in appreciation of her journey of service and leadership in municipal government, forging regional ground and air connectivity for a seamless domestic and international transportation network supporting economic expansion in McAllen and across the Rio Grande Valley and Texas.
Suárez was praised for her record in the category of Public Service.
LaMantia and Suárez are two of eight women in Texas – and the only ones who live in the Rio Grande Valley – named to the 2023 Texas Women’s Hall of Fame.
The Governor’s Commission for Women established the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame in 1984 to honor Texas’ most accomplished women. Inductees include First Ladies, teachers, astronauts, and athletes.
The Texas Women’s Hall of Fame Awards Ceremony, held every two years, recognizes the achievements of women. Texas residents submit nominations and an independent panel of judges selects the recipients who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Abbott said the eight women have been selected in recognition of outstanding accomplishments in their fields and for changing the course of Texas history.
“The Texas Women’s Hall of Fame recognizes and celebrates remarkable Texas women not only for their individual achievements but also for their contributions to building an even stronger Texas of tomorrow,” Abbott said. “I am honored to welcome these accomplished women as inductees.
“Nominated by their fellow Texans, all eight women have excelled in business, community service, philanthropy, public service, science, sports and more. What unites them is the difference they have made for others,” the governor said. “Women of vision, tenacity and generosity, they are an inspiration for the next generation of leaders who will follow them.”
The eight women leaders will be inducted into the 2023 Texas Women’s Hall of Fame on Thursday, November 9, 2023, in Austin, during a special ceremony hosted by the Office of the Governor and First Lady Cecilia Abbott.
About Val LaMantia
A major donor and supporter of The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, LaMantia is a founding member of the STARS Scholarship Fund, which partners with UTRGV and 21 other universities in Texas and has created education opportunities for some 20,000 students to date in South and West Texas.
“Val embodies the spirit of our South Texas heritage — a deep source of compassion, generosity, and an unwavering commitment to the pursuit of knowledge,” said Sen. LaMantia. “Her strong advocacy for healthcare in South Texas continues to support our community’s access to essential medical services. She has dedicated her life to making our community healthier, our educational dreams more attainable, and our hearts more generous.”
Through her instrumental role in the STARS Scholarship Fund, “Val’s visionary leadership has facilitated the distribution of more than $38 million in scholarships, lighting the path to higher education for over 18,000 students,” Sen. LaMantia continued. “Val’s remarkable contributions have rightfully earned her a place of honor in the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame, and we proudly join in celebrating the lasting legacy she has built.”
UTRGV President Guy Bailey said LaMantia has done important work in Texas in the field of education and is an excellent role model for students and women everywhere.
“I’m especially proud of Val, but then I’m more than a little biased since I’m married to her,” Bailey quipped. “That said, she’s a strong, independent woman dedicated to her community, and she sincerely believes in improving one’s quality of life through a quality and affordable education.”
LaMantia has extensive credentials, including serving as a board member of Driscoll Children’s Hospital, which is in the final stages of building a major new hospital on the campus of DHR Health in Edinburg.
Driscoll Children’s Hospital is a 191-bed pediatric tertiary care center with more than 30 medical and surgical specialties offering care throughout South Texas, including Corpus Christi, the Rio Grande Valley, Victoria, and Laredo.
On Tuesday, November 16, 2021, Driscoll Health System held a groundbreaking ceremony for Driscoll Children’s Hospital Rio Grande Valley, located at 2820 W. Michelangelo Drive in Edinburg, which is being built on the site of the DHR Health campus, next to DHR Health’s The Women’s Hospital at Renaissance.
DHR Health was instrumental in working with Driscoll Children’s Hospital to bring the first true freestanding children’s hospital to the Valley.
The new, independently operated eight-level pediatric hospital will further the mission of Driscoll Children’s Hospital founder Clara Driscoll to provide medical care to all the children of South Texas. The building is expected to be completed later in 2023.
The Driscoll Children’s Hospital Rio Grande Valley represents a combined investment of more than $105 million with DHR Heath. Driscoll Children’s Hospital Rio Grande Valley will operate with more than 500 employees, creating significant economic impact and new job opportunities for clinical, ancillary and support staff in the Valley.
About Elizabeth Suárez
On Friday, September 1, 2023, the McAllen Chamber of Commerce Board voted unanimously to name Elizabeth Suárez the organization’s new President & CEO.
“Elizabeth’s extensive experience, her effective leadership, and her deep roots in the community, make her an ideal candidate to lead our organization,” said Stephan Wingert, Chairman, Board of Directors, McAllen Chamber of Commerce.
“We are excited to welcome Elizabeth to the Chamber of Commerce. We believe her strategic vision, strong business acumen, her commitment to fostering opportunities of growth, and her experience in international relations, make her a solid fit for the important work of leading our Chamber,” said Jim Darling, Chairman-Elect, Board of Directors, McAllen Chamber of Commerce.
“I want to thank the McAllen Chamber of Commerce Board for their vote of confidence in me,” said Suárez. “I look forward to working alongside the Chamber board and team, City of McAllen leaders, and all Chamber partners to prioritize membership development, tourism, business retention, government relations and advocacy to ensure that McAllen continues to be a successful, vibrant, and booming community for all.”
Before taking this position with the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, Suárez had served the City of McAllen since 2000.
“Congratulations to Elizabeth,” said McAllen Mayor Villalobos. “The City of McAllen is proud to see her step into a new role, where she will continue to impact our community, and contribute to the growth of our great city.”
Key projects completed under Suarez’ tenure include the completion of the McAllen International Airport Expansion Project ($26 million) in 2015, construction of the McAllen Downtown Parking Garage ($9 million) in 2009, and construction of the McAllen Intermodal Transit Terminal ($4.9 million) in 2001.
Additionally, she established the Metro McAllen Department in 2004 and the Transit Department in 2000.
Other key achievements under her leadership include 42.4 percent in airport revenue growth, over $66 million in FAA grant awards, and record airport traffic in 2022 (875,899 passengers). Under her direction, McAllen International Airport has maintained the majority of the Rio Grande Valley’s market share.
McAllen International Airport is also the 9th busiest commercial airport in Texas.
“Elizabeth’s departure is a loss for the City of McAllen, but it is a win for our community. Her impact to our organization, from enhanced transportation service to expanding economic, cultural, business or service outreach is unparalleled,” said McAllen City Manager Roel “Roy” Rodríguez, P.E. “She is deserving of this opportunity and I look forward to working closely with her in this new role.
Other 2023 Honorees, Texas Women’s Hall of Fame
Leta Andrews (Athletics) — In recognition of her more than five decades as a dedicated teacher and coach, with half of those at Granbury High School, inspiring her students to be champions in sports and in life and leading the nation with the most career wins as a basketball coach.
Mary Horn (Public Service) — In posthumous recognition of her legacy of dedicated public service in 26 years of elected office, including as the longest-serving Denton County judge, carefully stewarding taxpayer resources while administering necessary services in one of the fastest-growing counties.
Opal Lee (Civic Leadership) — In recognition of her community service in Fort Worth and her tireless advocacy nationwide, winning federal recognition of the historic Juneteenth holiday celebrating the end of slavery in the U.S., and for her perseverance in promoting a message of unity and understanding.
Lavinia Masters (Advocacy/Community Service) — In recognition of her selflessness and strength, building on her faith and finding the power of her voice to speak for survivors of sexual violence, to raise awareness of a nationwide rape kit backlog, and to bring justice through legislative action.
Antonietta Quigg (Science/Technology) — In recognition of her leadership of critical marine-related research at Texas A&M University at Galveston and at College Station, leading to a better understanding of Texas’ coastal ecosystem, and for her passion in mentoring student researchers.
Charlotte Sharp (Philanthropy) — In posthumous recognition of her legacy of faith-filled compassion and generosity, volunteering her time and raising funds to help ease the suffering of others, comfort sick children, feed hungry families, and seek shelter for individuals struggling to find a safe place to live.
For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).