She pulled off a Surprise Win
By Roberto Hugo González
As originally published by Texas Border Business newsprint edition May 2018
After her big win against a veteran elected official, Ellie Torres has managed to raise eyebrows, not hers but everyone else’s. Her successful bid to win the Hidalgo County Commissioner’s seat Precinct 4, is considered an outstanding triumph. Some even said that she managed to win against all odds.
Ellie Torres is currently a school board trustee with the Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District (ECISD). She told Texas Border Business, “I’ve been the Trustee since November 2014, now I am the County Commissioner-elect for Precinct 4.”
Will you be able to hold both positions? “Not simultaneously, my commitment to the school district is through November 18, and my new term as County Commissioner for Precinct 4 begins in January of 2019.”
Ellie had no intentions to challenge the incumbent of Precinct 4, the opportunity presented itself, and she went for it. “To say that this is something that I always wanted to do, no, quite honestly I don’t think I ever saw myself in public office.” Not in public office, however she saw herself more as a public servant.
She pointed out that as things evolved throughout her life and career, there was an opportunity starting with the school board that went along with her experience. “I was an educator for many years and served the public.”
To gain further insight, she reobtained her bachelor’s in 1989 and her master’s degree in 2000 from UT Pan American, now UTRGV.
Ellie became a teacher, then a college counselor, and worked for Region ONE as a specialist. “That gave me vast experience because it allowed me to learn more about school systems from Laredo to Brownsville.” She worked under a grant called “Gear Up” which also included Falfurrias, Texas.
Having seen many school systems, she was able to appreciate the Edinburg CISD as one of the best. “I don’t want to be biased, but it made me realize what a great school district Edinburg is.”
Even with all her experience in education systems, one of her most significant challenges as a school trustee has been the tremendous population growth of the region, Edinburg is no exception. One of the things that bothers her is the fact that the Edinburg school district is operating with over 200 portable classrooms buildings.
“I don’t think it levels the playing field for our students.” She said, “I had the experience of teaching in the classroom in a regular building, but I also had the experience of teaching outside in the portable buildings, and it doesn’t compare. The rainy days present a problem for everyone.”
She said the Edinburg trustees, and she is one of them, are looking into a solution. She only regrets that it did not come sooner as her term expires in November of this year.
What prompted you to challenge the incumbent for Precinct 4? “The constituents, the constituents,” she said. As it happens that she was involved in several successful campaigns. She worked helping elect Richard Molina as a city commissioner in 2013; she successfully ran for Edinburg CISD school board trustee in 2014. She worked with her husband David Torres, in 2015 when he was successful in getting elected for the City Commission Precinct 4 in Edinburg; currently the Mayor Pro-Tem. Ellie participated in 2016 in helping to elect Mike Farias to the Edinburg CISD school board. She supported Richard Molina when he threw his hat in the ring for the mayor’s seat and won. In 2018 she ran her campaign for County Commissioner Precinct 4 and won.
“We weren’t just cheerleaders on the sidelines saying, ‘hey good luck’, we were out there in the trenches with them walking the streets, going door to door,” she said.
“I coined the term, I’m not a popcorn politician, pop up during election time and then disappear. I’m constantly engaged, connected to my constituents. That’s the commitment I made.”
All the campaigning, meeting with people, and knocking on doors has given her the exposure and the experience to listen and learn about the needs of the people. In a way, she has become a formidable contender.
“Just to let you know, in 2019 my husband is up for re-election, so we’ll be back at it again,” she said.
The constituents were telling her their top concerns and the number one was the controversy of the courthouse. “They are very uncomfortable with what they see and hear about the plans and cost of the new courthouse.”
The second concern is drainage. Ellie said, “Hurricane Harvey was a threat, and as much as we want to say we’re ready, we are not. Our drainage ditches are not ready for a hurricane of that magnitude.”
The third concern is road lighting in the rural areas. “I heard a lot about lighting from people out in the rural areas.”
“I was able to internalize what they were telling me because I had concerns for the courthouse just like they did. The same concern with the drainage issues,” she said.
As a trustee, she learned by visiting rural community schools and saw the precarious situation in which many people live in the rural areas. The surroundings of the rural schools that have been adopted by the city are beautiful, but once you are out of the area, you can tell where the city ends and where the county starts.
According to Ellie, lots of work has to be done. Doolittle Rd. is a major thoroughfare, populated by a large community that grows and grows by the minute. She said, “Something has to be done to alleviate the problems in the area, and by the same token, similar areas in the county as well. It has to be addressed now; tomorrow will be too late.”
Ellie is concerned about the cost of $150 million to build the courthouse, and even more when she learned that there was an offer of a large tract of land north on 281 where the county could build the new courthouse. This land, according to Ellie, was offered for free. She is not informed why the county commissioners decided not to accept the land. That’s one of her tasks to tackle when she officially becomes a county commissioner.
Do you think it’s going to be built in the downtown area? “Well, unless the public speaks up and reaches out to their current commissioners, I would say, probably. But that’s not a charge that I can take at this point. It’s got to be the constituents and as you know the Monitor had an article about the Sienna offering the land.”
Ellie has been married to David Torres for thirty-two years. “We got married when we were 18.” The happiness can be seen on her face when she speaks about her grandson; she said that he is “the bit of her heart.” Soon, the Torreses will be grandparents for the second time. Ellie is counting the days to welcome a new grandson or granddaughter.
How many children do you have? “Three, my oldest daughter is 31 she’ll be 32 in May; my son is 28, and my youngest daughter is 25.”
“Most of my friends already have 3 or 4 grandchildren, oh I’m jealous, I have one. Being a grandmother, oh my gosh, I love being a grandmother.” She continued, “Before, it used to be my kids, well now, move over kids; now it’s my grandkids.” To give an example how much her grandchild means to her, she said, “My grandson broke an egg on my head, and he said, ‘I’m sorry grandma.’ ‘It’s okay Papi, no Papi we are good’. And my son goes ‘yeah right if that had been me when I was a kid you would have gotten mad at me’. It’s different,” she said.
Would you like to make a final comment? “I cannot see any other way of being a good public servant but to be connected to the constituents constantly,” she finalized.