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“If you have your heart in the right place, you will do the right thing… if you have good judgment and can bring people together, anything can be done” –Ambrosio “Amos” Hernandez, Pharr Mayor

By Roberto Hugo Gonzalez

As originally published by Texas Border Business newsprint edition.

Dr. Ambrosio “Amos” Hernandez was elected mayor of the City of Pharr on May 9, 2015. He made history by defeating the main and powerful characters that were in power. Mayor Hernandez is a renowned independent pediatric surgeon. He came into this race without political experience and for this reason, even supporters of the group in power questioned his ability to lead a city.

In this case, it can be said, that the incumbents judged the book by its cover, never thinking or planning to face such a formidable opponent.

Today, after seven months of being mayor, he remembers the driving force that convinced him to run for mayor. “The lack of transparency, the inefficiency in the local government, and the unaccounted expenditures of taxpayer dollars were the three main driving forces that prompted me to run for local government,” he told Texas Border Business.

Most people that were approached by Texas Border Business during the ongoing race eight months ago felt that Mayor Hernandez had no chance of winning the election. Their comments were almost all the same; the power of the incumbents was solid.

Mayor Hernandez played his cards under those circumstances, and it appears that he had a desire to be a leader and to accomplish the impossible. He said, “Actually, I just put myself in God’s hands; wherever he leads me, is where I follow. I never set forth a plan to be XYZ, I just assess the situation, pray, talk to my family and move forward.”

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The word ‘forward’ seemed to ring the bell for many. Mayor Hernandez ran for mayor with a slate of candidates that called themselves ‘Pharr Forward’.

Moving forward, and towards the vision for the city he emphasized, “Above all we want transparency; we want to be accountable for expenditures when it comes to tax dollars,” he said.  “We want to grow the city. This can be achieved, as with any endeavor, you need to be able to bring people together despite their differences. Whether they voted or didn’t vote for me.  There is only one Pharr,” he emphasized.

“I am currently working with the commission as a whole.  There is one governing body and I am the mayor but there are other commissioners as part of the local government and we work together. So that is my plan.”

Mayor Hernandez said that they have been able to achieve pretty much all of their goals from the campaign. “During the very first meeting, if you recall, we rectified all the points that I wanted to be funded, they were all funded and approved by the governing board unanimously.”

He said, “I discussed all items with the commissioners and explained to them the vision we have for Pharr and why it was that way, because this is the will of the people, not my will. When we laid down the facts, they all agreed independently, and together we voted for the items.”

Mayor Hernandez thinks the biggest achievement he has done in the last four months alone is the utility fund being used to help people who cannot pay the bills.  “Also, in December we will be distributing part of that multimillion dollar fund back to citizens of Pharr.”

He noted that the major obstacle he has seen in local government is the politics associated with it. “I am not a politician; I just believe in doing the right thing. Some people, outside forces, like to play politics and interfere with city business, but that is not tolerated here.”

In addition, he said that he has been able to work with a great group of commissioners as a whole and they have seen the light of being one unit.

“There is no division in Pharr, and whether you are a congressman, senator, city commissioner, or a county commissioner, that is irrelevant to me. As the mayor of Pharr, it is my duty to support, advise, and grow the City of Pharr.” He continued, “I respect anybody else’s opinion, but at the end of the day, the governing board of the City of Pharr is responsible.”

Mayor Hernandez said, “I think the main obstacle I have is that some people from the previous administration are having a hard time letting go, but life is what it is, we all need to move on and be professional.”

Aside from being mayor of the City of Pharr, Mayor Hernandez carries a full schedule as a pediatric surgeon and also as a bariatric specialist. Where does he get the stamina and endurance to balance his career as a medical doctor, as mayor and as a husband and father?

He said that it’s all about organization. “In my household there is one boss, that’s my wife, Cristina. In my practice it is me, and as mayor it is the governing body, not the mayor.” He said, “I may set the tone, but the agenda is set by all of us, and we all unanimously move forward.”

He pointed out that they have placed the proper personnel; they’ve redesigned the directors based on performance, and give salary increases to reward performance.  “I think that a well-structured organization with proper personnel is much more productive than one based on promotions by favors or by family – I will not let nepotism be what defines my administration.”

“Concerning the stamina,” Mayor Hernandez said, “It comes from the heart, that’s how God made me.”

It was noted, that under his administration, the City of Pharr now shows strong economic vitality at the end of their fiscal year.

The Mayor and the City Commission reported that as of October 2015, the city has seen an increase in sales tax revenue, a surge in bridge traffic revenue, a decrease in the unemployment rate, and a steady stream of new commercial business activity.

“People are spending, traffic is moving, people are working, and business is booming,” he said.

According to information provided by the city, more new businesses are locating to Pharr, consequently more jobs are being created. A report issued by The Texas Workforce Commission released in October of this year, indicates that Pharr shows a low unemployment rate at 6.4 percent in September 2015, a decrease in 0.8 percent as compared to an unemployment rate of 7.2 percent in September 2014. He said that he sees this as a sign of the city’s competitive advantage as an ideal location.

The report on sales tax revenue also indicates the positive vitality of the city. According to the Texas State Comptroller’s Office release, for the fourth consecutive month, Pharr experienced an increase in sales tax revenues with a 38.3 percent increase in sales tax collected in October 2015 with $1,625,313.00 in collections compared to October 2014’s numbers of $1,175,132.50.

The Pharr International Bridge also shows a steady increase of southbound truck crossings, as compared to the same time period for the previous year.

Continuing the positive trend in economic activity, Pharr experienced an increase in new commercial building permits. As of September 2015, Pharr had a total of 324 permits issued during the 2014-2015 fiscal year, compared to 333 permits issued the previous entire fiscal year.

“With more anticipated commercial growth and economic activity on the horizon, we expect that this trend in economic growth will continue, ultimately benefiting not only our Pharr residents, but the entire region as a whole,” he said.

This interview with Mayor Hernandez took place one day before “Thanksgiving Day”, and he said that personally he was most grateful to have God in his life and in the lives of his family. “I am thankful because I have been blessed with a wonderful and supporting wife and the treasure of our life, our son Joseph. Of all the leadership positions I will have throughout my life none will be as important as being his father. He is by far my life’s greatest accomplishment. “

Mayor Hernandez said he is grateful for the strength and vigor of his community and his country. He is particularly grateful to our military men and women who keep us safe and protect our homeland.  They sacrifice everyday, both here and abroad to lay the blanket of freedom America lives on today.

“They give up so much for us, so I am very grateful for them and for all our veterans,” he said.

Mayor Hernandez got into the political arena knowing well that it would require time and money to be able to accomplish his goal. From the beginning his opponents second-guessed him, and up to today they continue to do so.

His wife, Cristina told Texas Border Business, that finally the furniture for Mayor Hernandez’ office had been delivered and that he had personally paid for it. She continued by saying, “It’s about setting an example and working to help the City of Pharr reach its potential together.”

When Mayor Hernandez originally announced his intent to run for mayor, he was clear to say that he was financing his campaign using his own funds. He had experts assessing the city’s situation and saw every angle to make it better. In just a few months in office, he got things done, by working with a city commission that also understands his vision and the goals to make Pharr a destination, the location of choice for visitors, businesses, and families.

“If you have your heart in the right place, you will do the right thing.” He continued, “If you have good judgment and can work with people bringing them together, absolutely, it can be done,” he finalized.

Mayor Ambrosio “Amos” Hernandez Academic background:

Mayor Hernandez graduated from Pharr-San Juan-Alamo High School in 1986, and received his Bachelor of Science in Biology and Chemistry from the University of Texas-Pan American in 1990. He earned his medical degree from The University of Michigan Medical School in 1995, with a general surgery residency specializing in pediatric surgery at The University of Texas-Medical Branch at Galveston. Dr. Hernandez returned to Pharr in 2004, and currently serves as Medical Director of Surgical Services in the Rio Grande Valley for Driscoll Children’s Hospital and is the Chief Medical Compliance Officer for Doctor’s Hospital at Renaissance (DHR).  TBB

Roberto Hugo Gonzalez is the 2009 SBA Journalist of the Year Award Winner and the 2009 and 2012 Paul Harris Fellow Award recipient.

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