BY NAXIELY LOPEZ-PUENTE and DINA AREVALO | STAFF WRITERS
McALLEN — The District 1 commissioner here was the first to announce his candidacy for mayor — two days after the sitting mayor announced he would not seek reelection in May.
McAllen Commissioner Javier Villalobos announced his bid via social media Wednesday, saying he had “big shoes to fill” should voters elect him in five months following the departure of McAllen Mayor Jim Darling.
Darling announced Monday he would not seek reelection. Forty-three years were enough public service, the two-term mayor said about his combined time as an elected official, city attorney and assistant city manager for McAllen.
“Jim has proudly and diligently served our great city…” Villalobos said in a subsequent news release Wednesday.
The one-term commissioner said he’s ready to take on a bigger role with the city — though he might have to leave some court work behind to do it. The civil and criminal attorney already represents four other public entities as legal counsel, though he appeared to downplay his role Wednesday, saying his work is on an as-needed basis.
“Well, right now, I help out, and it’s kind of more contractual,” he said via phone call. “Like for example, Progreso, when they need help, they call me; Crystal City, when they need help, they call me; I help out La Joya Housing Authority — whenever they need help, they call me; the city of Donna, I’m helping them out right now. So, a lot of the times they just call me as needed.”
Villalobos has also served as legal counsel for the Edcouch-Elsa and Progreso school districts, and has previously worked for the cities of Edcouch, Elsa and San Juan. San Juan and Edcouch fired him in 2017 and 2018, respectively, after political shake-ups within those city councils.
Donna named Villalobos their city attorney — again — last month, after Ricardo Perez resigned as both that city’s attorney and bond counsel. Perez, in turn, had taken over the position last December, when Villalobos resigned the post after an eight year stint working for Donna.
But in conversations with The Monitor both last November and last month, he talked about managing his time more efficiently. And on Wednesday, he said he might need to carve out some of those duties.
“You know what? Even as a city commissioner you have to sacrifice some of that, and being self employed, it’s a little more difficult. However, my kids are already a junior and senior in high school, so I don’t have to do what I had to do years ago when I had everybody in school,” he said. “But yes, as a matter of fact, what I’m gonna do is probably minimize the court cases, like criminal cases, family cases and those type of cases.
“And will it affect me? Meh, to an extent,” Villalobos added. “But I’m ready to do it.”
Villalobos has been representing governmental entities for approximately 22 years, and that experience has made his transition into public office a seamless one, he said.
“I shouldn’t say easy, because it’s always a challenge, but no, I mean, that’s what I’ve done for 20-something years, and I want to keep on doing it,” he said. “Or at least helping as much as I can with our great city of McAllen.”
The former Hidalgo County Republican Chairman, who has been appointed to state agencies by Govs. Rick Perry and Greg Abbott, envisions a fiscally conservative McAllen.
“Our city is in a pretty good position,” he said. “We’ve been affected, to an extent, with COVID, but we have — the whole commission, the mayor and myself — we’ve done, I think, pretty good to minimize any losses.”
Villalobos also noted his previous work as an auditor and accountant.
“I have the knowledge, the skills and the experience to run an effective community. I’ve done it before. As a matter of fact, that’s why other entities call me: because I always, one way or another, seem to get them out — if they’re in a hole,” he said. “We always do the right thing.”
Villalobos asked constituents to note his track record.
“The first time I ran, we talked about honesty, integrity and transparency. Nobody, right now, can question any board I’ve been in the city commission,” he said. “We don’t always agree, but we always do what we think is best for our community.”
And when it comes to potential conflicts of interest because of his additional workload with other public entities, Villalobos said he doesn’t believe there have been any, despite what former opponents said during his first bid for a seat on the McAllen commission.
“I don’t think it was an issue back then, either. They were talking about competing, I guess, with the city of Donna. And believe me, the city of Donna does not compete with McAllen,” Villalobos said Wednesday.
But when it comes to competition for the mayoral seat, well, that’s another thing.
“There’s a few people that have an interest, and, since I knew I was interested, I’ve already started raising funds,” he said. “So we’ll have a first report, I believe, in the second week of January.”