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For state representative candidate Javier Villalobos, life’s blessings measured by helping others succeed

For McAllen attorney Javier Villalobos (featured right), who is seeking the House District 41 state representative post on November 4, his life’s journey has seen him struggle his way out of the agricultural fields of Texas and Minnesota to achieve personal and professional successes that include raising a loving family, and becoming partner of a law firm which has offices in McAllen, San Antonio, and Houston. However, he firmly believes, good fortune has little meaning if a person doesn’t use his life’s blessings to help others succeed as well. “I want everyone who works hard to have the same opportunities I’ve had,” Villalobos says. “That means we need new leadership in Austin advocating for our values: quality education, support for small businesses, and lower taxes.” Villalobos is seen here with his wife, Annette, and Texas Speaker of the House Tom Craddick. See lead story in this posting.

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Jeff Corwin, wildlife conservationist and host of the popular Animal Planet shows The Jeff Corwin Experience and Corwin’s Quest, was the first speaker for the University of Texas-Pan American’s annual Distinguished Speakers Series that kicked off Tuesday, September 30 at the Fine Arts Auditorium. Hundreds of students, faculty, staff, and the general public packed the auditorium for an opportunity to hear from Corwin and meet some of his animal co-stars.  At the end of the event, Corwin took questions from the audience. Featured far right is Corwin with audience members who participated in the presentation by holding one of several reptiles he brought with him.  The next Distinguished Speakers Series will feature Dr. Jehan Sadat, the widow of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.  She is a lifelong advocated for women and children’s rights.  She will be in Edinburg at the Fine Arts Auditorium on Monday, November 17.  For more information on the series, call 956/316-7989.

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Students at The University of Texas-Pan American got a chance to display some rousing Bronc spirit during noontime on Thursday, September 17, at the inaugural Gladiator Day event organized by the Student Alumni Association (SAA). This new organization, an affiliate of the UTPA Alumni Association, seeks to bring old traditions back to the university while creating new traditions and increased school spirit that will hopefully be cemented within the student population, said SAA President John Taméz, a 2008 UTPA graduate in communications now pursuing a master’s in business administration at the university. “I feel students on campus are hungry for traditions right now. I want them to believe that when they leave this university that they have had the best college experience that they could have ever imagined. Through traditions and school pride I thing we can accomplish that,” he said. Featured left to right at Gladiator Day are Student Alumni Association members Erik Valdéz; Taméz; Félix Rodríguez; Melany Rodríguez; Krissy Martínez; Omar Estrella; and Manny Rivas.  See story later in this posting.

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The city of Edinburg is celebrating its 100-year anniversary with community wide events and celebrations planned for the week of Sunday, October 5 through Saturday, October 11. During the same time, the Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department will be promoting National Fire Prevention Week, with attention focused on fire safety and preventing home fires. Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, recently acknowledged the contributions of the fire department to the city’s past, present and future by creating a special commemorative centennial poster featuring an image of an Edinburg fire truck taken at last year’s fire prevention week activities. Peña presented the framed poster to Chief Shawn Snider and other firefighters at the city’s downtown firehouse. Featured at the main fire station are, from left: Rolland Pursley, deputy fire chief; Snider; Peña; Antonio Salazar, deputy fire chief; and Richard Drewry, fire marshall. See story, along with schedule of other centennial activities, later in this posting.

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Shan Rankin, executive director for the Museum of South Texas History (MOST) in Edinburg, on Sunday, October 5, led the Edinburg Centennial kick-off ceremony with the lighting of the birthday cake by local leaders.  The celebration, which was free and open to the public, was part of a week-long series of events in the three-time All-America City.  It included activities, an historic exhibition including the history of Edinburg, free admission to the museum, and more. The Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department Museum was also open free to the public on Sunday, and was available for self-guided tours. From left are: Mayor Joe Ochoa; Melissa Tijerina with MOST; Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg; City Councilmember Alma Garza; and City Councilmember Noé Garza.

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Gilbert Enríquez, honored by Texas for integrity and public service, seeks return to ECISD board

Gilbert Enríquez, a former Edinburg school board president, also serves as executive vice-president of Enríquez Enterprises, Inc., one of the more renowned construction firms in the region. He said he is running for election to the school board on November 4 in order to continue helping the community which has helped shape his life. “I am here to help, to offer my leadership, skills, experience to everyone, to help everybody prosper, not one individual,” Mr. Enríquez pledged. “I never had any kind of ambition to be in politics or to be an elected official, but I felt I needed to give back to the district that provided me the education that got me to where I am today.” See lead story later in this posting.

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Former longtime Mayor Ronald Case, seen here on the right, passed away on Friday, September 19, Rep. Aaron Peña, a lifelong supporter of the popular city political leader, has announced. Case, who served as mayor from 1973 to 1981, was featured in this recent photo which included three other former Edinburg mayors with the state lawmaker.  Peña characterized the former mayor as being “the epitome of a gentleman public servant stepping forward to serve the community he loved. I am very proud to have been a friend and admirer of Mayor Case.”  From left are: former Mayor Richard Alamia; former Mayor Richard García; Rep. Peña; former Mayor Rudy De la Viña; and former Mayor Case.  See story later in this posting.

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Museum opens The Museum of South Texas History opened its newest exhibit, Edinburg: A Centennial Salute 1908 – 2008, on Wednesday, September 10. A ribbon cutting hosted by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce and a private viewing was held for Museum FRIENDS. Installed in the Upper Old Jail Gallery, this exhibit presents a sampling of photographs and artifacts from the museum’s collections and is organized into four themes: education;government; civic life; and commerce. One of the largest artifacts in the exhibit is a mural depicting Edinburg Junior College students and academic subjects.  This mural was painted by Joseph Brennan and Humberto Cavazos and was presented to the college by Emil Fossler, president of the sophomore class. The exhibit coincides with the Edinburg Centennial Committee’s city- wide celebration, October 5-10. Throughout the week, various organizations will host mini-celebrations, including Edinburg’s largest birthday cake, an essay contest, and a fireman’s parade. An open house will be held at the Museum of South Texas History on October 5, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. As a gift to the community, the museum will have free admission. Family activities include Edinburg Trivia, an Edinburg activity book, entertainment, refreshments, and, of course, a few shared words to commemorate the occasion. For a complete listing of the city wide celebrations, visit http://www.edinburg.com, or call 383-6911. Featured, from left: chamber board members Gus Casas; Cynthia Bocanegra; Maggie Kent; Shan Rankin, the museum’s executive director; Lee Cavazos; chairman-elect of the local chamber of commerce; and Willard Moon, chairman-elect of the board of directors for the museum.

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Dan Richards, son of former Gov. Ann Richards, featured left, celebrates with Dr. Shirley A. Reed, South Texas College president, and Othal Brand, Sr., former McAllen mayor, during the Tuesday, September 16 naming of the college’s Pecan Campus Administration Building in honor of the late state leader, who died on September 13, 2006.  The Democratic governor played a large role in the early 1990s in bringing the college to fruition, helping thousands of Hidalgo and Starr county residents realize their goals of attaining a higher education and a better quality of life.  See story later in this posting.

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Janet Escalante, Pedro de la Fuente and Lucio Torres are just three of the more than 22,000 students who have decided to continue their higher educations at South Texas College this fall. The landmark figure was reached at the two-county community college begins its 15th year anniversary.  See story later in this posting. (more…)

Edinburg school board candidates draw ballot spots; Gilbert Enríquez campaign kick-off set for Thursday

Omar Palacios, president of the Edinburg school board, addresses hundreds of faculty and staff during the Tuesday, August 19 General Assembly, outlining some of the accomplishments and goals for the largest school districts in South Texas. One of the major issues facing the school district is the detailed groundwork being done to implement the $112 million bond construction measure overwhelmingly approved by area voters last May.  In late August, the school district received news that the state will be sending almost $4 million as part of a long-range plan to eventually pay for more than 50 percent of the total bond construction debt. See related stories later in this posting.  Featured with Palacios at the General Assembly were, from left: Mario Salinas, Assistant Superintendent for District Administration; Palacios; trustee Carmen González; board secretary Ciro Treviño, and board vice president David Torres.

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For the sixth consecutive year, South Texas College will not increase its property tax rate. In fact, STC’s Board of Trustees voted at its August 21, 2008 meeting to slightly lower the college’s rate to $0.1498 per $100 of assessed property valuation, a 2.73 percent decrease from last year’s rate of $0.1540. “We recognize that many constituents in our districts are going through some economic struggles and so we felt it was important to look at ways to reduce the college’s budget, while ensuring that we do not have to raise taxes or tuition,” said Mike Allen, chair of STC’s board of Trustees. “We worked closed with the college’s administration, financial team, faculty and staff to make sure that every penny requested is tied to a student success initiative. We are very proud of all college employees for using restraint and keeping a keen eye on the bottom line – student access and success.”  Featured in this portrait are, from left, sitting: Roy De León; Irene García; and Jesse Villarreal.  Standing, from left: Dr. Alejo Salinas, Jr.; Manuel Benavidez, Jr., Allen; and Gary Gurwitz.

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Byron Jay Lewis, (featured bottom row, third from right), president of Edwards Abstract and Title Co. is congratulated by community leaders and staff members for earning the Feature Business of the Month award from the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. The local chamber’s Feature Business of the Month is a program that recognizes local businesses and investors monthly for contributing financial resources, support of the Program of Work and participation in the many events offered throughout the year. “We are honored to receive this recognition from the board of directors, Chamber Champions and staff,” said Lewis. “The chamber volunteers and staff, city leaders, business community and citizens of Edinburg have played a role in the continued success of Edwards Abstract and Title Co. and we want to say ‘thank you’. We look forward to serving you for years to come.” Included in this portrait, taken at the company’s corporate headquarters in Edinburg, are Letty González, (bottom row, fifth from right), the president of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, and Lee Castro, (bottom row, second from right), the chairman-elect of the local chamber.  See related 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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Edinburg rode out Hurricane Dolly in good shape, based on first reports, says Mayor Ochoa

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Crispin Fuente, store manager for JC Penny in Edinburg, participates in the ceremonial ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, August 1, as Mayor Joe Ochoa, featured to Fuentes’ left, helps steady the ribbon. Almost a year to the day after groundbreaking was held for The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley, the 103,000-square-foot JC Penney officially became the first retail center to open its doors at the planned 1.1 million square-foot retail, entertainment, and hotel complex, located on the northwest corner of U. S. Highway 281 and Trenton Road. The 80-store complex on 130 acres will provide one of the most unique shopping experiences in Texas. Following JC Penney will be the opening of Burlington Coat Factory in mid-August. TJ Maxx, The Shoe Department, and Academy Sports will open in the fall of this year, in time for the holiday season. More store openings will follow into next year with the addition of Lane Bryant, Ross Dress for Less and First National Bank during the early part of 2009. In addition to the mayor, other elected leaders at the ribbon-cutting included Councilmember Alma A. Garza, Councilmember Noé Garza, Elias Longoria, Jr., a member of the board of directors for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, Edinburg school board trustee Ciro Treviño, and Hidalgo County Tax Assessor-Collector Armando Barrera.  See story later in this posting.

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Former Edinburg Mayor Richard García, on behalf of himself and his law firm, García, Quintanilla and Palacios, has donated $10,000 to an annual fundraiser drive designed to help young people served by the Edinburg Boys & Girls Club RGV. In doing so, he issued a challenge to those in the legal community to match the gift, which was donated to the "It Just Takes One Campaign" now underway.  The campaign will raise funds for the Clubs’ after-school programs and services for youth, ages 6-18, living in Edinburg and surrounding communities. Scheduled to run through August 15, the campaign seeks donations primarily from individuals. García said he and his law partners, including Edinburg Municipal Court Judge Toribio "Terry" Palacios and C.J. Quintanilla, have previously donated money to the Boys and Girls Club of Edinburg RGV. "The community needs to see the importance of the Boys and Girls Club of Edinburg, to see that there are people contributing," García said. "Edinburg has been very good to me over the years, and I figure one of the best ways I can give back to my community is to help our children." See story later in this posting.

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Rep. Ellen Cohen, D-Houston, featured right, shares a laugh with Dr. Carlos Mohamed, M.D, featured left, and other Houston lawmakers during a Thursday, July 10 visit to Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg, which has a state-of-the-art cancer treatment center as part of its medical complex. Cohen, a 38-year breast cancer survivor, was the first House sponsor of Proposition 15. Last November, Texas voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment which will fund $3 billion in cancer research grants to conduct research to prevent or cure cancer, support existing research efforts in Texas, and implement the Texas Cancer Plan, a statewide blueprint for cancer prevention and control. A few days after her visit to Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, Cohen was a keynote speaker at “The American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer: Coming Together 2008 – A National Forum on Cancer Care in the United States” held July 14 – 15 in Baltimore, Maryland.  Featured in this photograph at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance were, from left: Mohamed, who is an obstetrician and gynocologist; Prisylla Jasso, director of the Border Health PAC, which represents Doctors Hospital at Renaissance; Rep. Alma Allen, Ph.D., and Cohen.  See story on Cohen later in this posting.

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Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, announced on Friday, August 9, that the 10th annual sales tax holiday will take place Friday-Sunday, August 15-17. The tax holiday will provide Texas families with much needed back-to-school savings, and, for the first time, school backpacks and messenger bags costing less than $100 also will be tax exempt. "Family budgets are stretched farther than ever, especially with the high price of gasoline, groceries and other necessities,"  Zaffirini said. "I am pleased that even more items qualify for tax-free status this year so that families may enjoy greater savings." Most children’s and adult’s clothing and shoes priced less than $100 can be purchased tax-free during the holiday. A complete list of items that will be tax exempt during the sales tax holiday is available at http://www.window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/taxpubs/tx98_490/tx98_490.html. Since 1999 the clothing sales tax holiday has saved shoppers more than $388 million in state and local sales taxes. Zaffirini voted to expand tax holiday laws during the 2007 legislative session. Caption by Sarah Rayburn.

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The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber Champion Committee recently announced that 10 new members have joined the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. Some businesses are new to the Edinburg area, while others are existing, and all help in sustaining Edinburg’s economy.  New members are as follows: Law Offices of Contreras & Muñoz;Molduflex; Wolfy’s Wine & Liquor; Elite Rehab Service LLC; State Farm Insurance; Boys & Girls Club of Edinburg; Hacienda Ford; Copy Plus; Monte Cristo Pharmacy; and The Brass Chair Barbershop. Featured in this photograph, taken at Monster Carwash, include, back row, from left:  Aaron Ramírez, Dr. Walt Greene, Roy Peña, Gary Myers, Dina Araguz, Marty Martin, María Martínez, Joel Porras, and Imelda Rodríguez. Front row, from left:  Frank Lara, Óscar Hinojosa, Joe Sánchez, Celine Schulz, Elva Jackson Garza, Flo Prater, and Jay Flores.

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