MERCEDES — The citizens of Mercedes have elected two new city commissioners in Jacob Howell and Joe Martinez Tuesday.
The wins are both firsts for the two men, who campaigned on increasing transparency and accountability in a city that has over the last year been the scene of political rancor, infighting and even litigation.
“I’m excited. I want to thank God. I want to thank all the supporters, all their friends and family that came out,” said Howell, who won his race for Place 1 against another political newcomer, Melissa “Melly” Rincon.
“Right now, this is about helping our community. We want to unite Mercedes, and this whole campaign has been about bringing back the Queen City, bringing back better communication to our citizens, better transparency and accountability,” Howell said.
Howell won 654 votes to Rincon’s 437, according to the Hidalgo County elections department website. All results are unofficial until the election is canvassed by the Mercedes City Commission.
Rincon said she wasn’t disappointed in Tuesday’s results.
“I’d just like to congratulate my opponent and wish him well,” Rincon said.
At Place 3, another first time candidate, Joe Martinez, won his race against former commissioner David Garza.
“I want the people of Mercedes to know that this is not a victory for Joe Martinez, this is a victory for the city of Mercedes and we’re ready to get to work,” Martinez said of his win.
Tuesday night’s win was a bittersweet one for Martinez, who was at the polls on Election Day after the death of an uncle.
“This was a very heavy thing. … We weren’t sure if we were gonna be out here, but we came out here. We knew he would want us to finish the fight and so this victory is for my uncle Jesse and my uncle Leo, who aren’t with us tonight,” Martinez said.
Martinez won 636 votes to Garza’s 456.
Like Rincon, David Garza was not disappointed in the election results.
“The citizens have chosen him and I cannot say anything about it because the citizens voted. And I’m okay with that. If that’s what the citizens voted for, it’s perfect,” Garza said.
A regular fixture of city meetings, Garza pledged to continue being a voice for the community moving forward.
“I will still help citizens when they have problems with city hall. I have always helped them and I will continue to help them,” he said.
The runoff election results come just days after both the Mercedes city manager and police chief announced their resignations. Both Howell and Martinez said the top level departures, combined with the three newly filled seats on the commission, present an opportunity for change within the city.
“Those are key roles that our city in Mercedes can move forward towards a different direction for the citizens of Mercedes. We can progress and make some positive changes for our community,” Howell said.
“We now have an opportunity to fill two very, very important seats, and now we have a commission in place with new ideas, a commission that will be transparent with the people,” Martinez said.