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Anecdote: Othal E. Brand, A Life of Public Service and Independent Leadership

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Decades of Devotion: Othal E. Brand, Sr., former McAllen Mayor, firmly counters accusations of racism, while reflecting on his enduring commitment to his city and its people in a candid 1981 interview with publisher/reporter Roberto Hugo Gonzalez. TBB Image

Texas Border Business

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By Roberto Hugo Gonzalez

Around 1981, just after the late former mayor Othal E. Brand, Sr. defended his mayoral title by holding a fierce political campaign with the late Dr. Ramiro Casso. Shortly after that electoral battle, I had this interview with Mr. Brand, Sr. The issue was that he was racist. Yes, then, as now, political enemies used the word racist to avoid engaging in a healthy debate. 

So, the question I asked Mr. Brand is, do you consider yourself a racist?

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AUDIO: “I certainly do not. My record indicates that I am not a racist. You got to take a good look at my family and my relatives. You have to look at them before you … How many people are there, son?

This was the beginning of a candid interview when McAllen’s former and late mayor, Othal E. Brand, addressed some lingering questions about his time in public office and overall dedication to the city.

Responding to a query on whether he considered himself a racist, Mr. Brand emphatically dismissed such a notion. He asserted that his record, spanning over 17 years of public service, clearly demonstrated his non-racist stance. He pointed out his efforts to support education, particularly for Latin American children who had the greatest need. His focus was to help those who otherwise could not afford to go to institutions like A&M.

Further elaborating on his tenure, Mr. Brand highlighted his work on the city’s infrastructural improvements in areas such as Balboa Acres, directly addressing water and sewage issues and paving streets. He contested the idea of McAllen ever being operated as a ‘racist-oriented’ city, expressing disappointment in those who suggested otherwise. He reiterated that a mayor should be a representative of all citizens, not just a particular racial or ethnic group.

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When asked about his reputation for being ‘powerful and mean,’ Mr. Brand portrayed himself as a dedicated and hard-working individual. He outlined his extensive involvement in the city’s various components – the schools, churches, city government, and the business community. He has served as a trustee in universities, colleges, and local school boards for over 35 years and spent 17 years in elective office in the city.

On the business front, Mr. Brand acknowledged his contribution to the city’s economy, highlighting his role in creating one of the largest single payrolls in the Rio Grande Valley. This multi-faceted engagement in civic life, he said, underscored his commitment to McAllen and its inhabitants. He professed his desire to be an ‘all-round citizen,’ noting that while his busy schedule may have impacted his social life, he believed his activities were contributing to the common good.

In the face of political opposition, Mr. Brand remained diplomatic and avoided negative commentary about other candidates. He viewed political races as opportunities for citizens to choose between candidates with different views and positions. His response suggested his familiarity with the rigors of running for office, having run six times for elective positions in the city, each time against other candidates.

Addressing allegations of being part of a ‘power group’ controlling the city, Mr. Brand categorically denied any such affiliations. He identified as an independent candidate and stated that his decisions were driven by what he thought was best for the city. He denied deferring to any groups or structures and attributed his influence to his hard work.

In light of his significant business commitments, I asked Mr. Brand if he had enough time to run the city effectively.

Audio: Mr. Brand: “I think for the past four years as mayor, I’ve certainly averaged the full work week each week as mayor. It’s a very demanding job, very time consuming. This past week, all day Monday was city business. Tuesday, I represented the city in Victoria Mexico for the inauguration of the swearing of the new governor. Yes. Wednesday I was in Austin. Representing the interest of our city and legislation matters concerning narcotics and drugs and the general legislative session. I think that I give the time necessary always to the job to be sure that I make my contribution to it. But being mayor is a very, very demanding, extremely demanding job.”

I consistently devote the necessary time to ensure my contribution to the role. The position of mayor is incredibly demanding, yet I am lucky to have the flexibility to arrange my schedule and highly competent staff to support me. It’s important to note that I no longer serve as the president of my company. That responsibility now lies with Mr. Wayne Showers, the current president, while I act as the chairman of the board. I’ve made a point of divesting myself from many company responsibilities over the last four years to prioritize my role as mayor. I assure you that I have dedicated and will continue to dedicate my time to this role should I be granted the opportunity to serve again.

Overall, the interview revealed Mr. Brand as an individual dedicated to serving the public and the city of McAllen. Despite his reputation, he presented himself as a hardworking citizen, focusing on education, infrastructure, and economic development. His perspective on his role as mayor was one of universal service, aiming to address the needs of all citizens, regardless of their racial or ethnic backgrounds.

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