2018-10-10 / Front Page

Mayor wants to bring jobs, stores back to the Gateway City

BY ALLEN ESSEX
Staff Writer


Mayor Gilberto Gonzales Mayor Gilberto Gonzales Raymondville Mayor Gilberto Gonzales says he is working to rebuild the city’s economy after years of decline, approaching it from all sides, bringing in new retail businesses, pushing for improvements to infrastructure and trying hard to bring in employers.

Born and raised in Raymondville, he attended elementary, junior and high school in the Gateway City, then went on to San Antonio College for a year. He began his career in the food and beverage business, working parttime and full-time for Handy Andy Supermarket. He moved back to the Rio Grande Valley in 1973 and worked at H-E-B on Commerce Avenue in Harlingen from 1973 to 1976.

He then, married and moved to Houston, where he worked for Maxwell House Coffee.

In 1986, he divorced and moved back to the Valley. During that time he worked for Texas Beers Inc., which sold out to Frontier Coors, Coca-Cola and L&F Distributors, doing beer deliveries, outside sales, then pre-sales. He married his present wife in the Valley.

“I made pretty good money,” he said of the beer business. “If you have the ability to sell. I did.”

After retiring in 2015, he moved back to Raymondville and decided to run for mayor.

“The (federal “tent city”) detention center had just closed in February (due to a riot) and I had just started my campaign,” he said. “There were six candidates two ex-mayors, three others and me. I was here to see how my ideas would benefit the city.”

The same day the mayor was interviewed in July, he was hospitalized with a mild heart attack. Now he is feeling better and said he has no reason to change his plans-to continue to work for the betterment of the city, as long as he can.

After a string of disappointments, such as the prison riot, the closing of the Wal- Mart store and the cancellation of plans for a new Tractor Supply Co., now the picture is getting brighter, he said.

The TSC store is almost complete and will open soon, he said. There are several more business prospects on the verge of becoming reality, but he doesn’t want to jinx them before commitments are final, Gonzales said.

“I’m sure there are some people who want me out,” he said. “Like I tell people things don’t happen overnight. Like the (brick paver) sidewalks, it took us two years.”

He hopes to attract a doctors’ clinic to Raymondville, which once had a hospital. Like all smaller towns, it is a struggle to revitalize downtown areas after strip malls and national chain stores and restaurants come in, gravitating to areas near major highways, putting in large parking lots and big signs. Raymondville is no exception.

“We can put in some clothing stores, maybe like a Ross,” the mayor said. “My wife likes to go to Ross in Harlingen, I’d like to get something like that here. I want to bring in another dry cleaning place (to replace Wilson Cleaners, closed in 2017 after 40 years in business).”

While Mercedes, another small Valley town, benefited from its long effort to attract an outlet mall that capitalizes on a central location on the expressway with close proximity to Mexico, Raymondville has to be realistic about what shoppers it can attract.

“Over here, it’s the ranchers and local residents,” Gonzales said.

With the re-opened prison, more wind turbine construction, gas pipelines and a new Tractor Supply store there is increased employment. He will keep working to bring in more business and industry and more things to do and places to shop, he said.

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