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Mayor Norma Sepulveda’s Inspiring State of the City Address

Harlingen's Path to Prosperity

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Harlingen Mayor Norma Sepulveda. Photo by Roberto Hugo González
Harlingen Mayor Norma Sepulveda. Photo by Roberto Hugo González
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By Roberto Hugo González

On May 30, 2024, the Harlingen Convention Center anxiously awaited Mayor Norma Sepulveda, the first woman to hold the mayoral office in Harlingen’s inaugural State of the City address. The evening, she celebrated the city’s remarkable progress with a superb team that drives Harlingen forward.

A Historic Evening

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Mayor Sepulveda began her address by expressing gratitude to her family, whose firm support has been her bedrock. She thanked her husband, Eric, and her sons, Eric and Evan, for their love and encouragement. She also paid tribute to her father, whose wisdom and guidance have been invaluable throughout her journey.

The Bert Ogden Group attended this important event from L-R: Olympia Mendoza, PR Coordinator; Stephanie Ann Garcia, Marketing Director; Natasha Del Barrio, Chief Executive Officer; Harlingen Mayor Norma Sepulveda; Mrs. Janet Ogden Vackar and Mr. Robert Vackar; and Alessi Sanchez-Villarreal Corporate Administrative Assistant. Photo by Roberto Hugo González

Mayor Sepulveda emphasized the joint effort behind Harlingen’s success, acknowledging the vital contributions of local businesses, educators, city departments, and residents. She recognized the City Commissioners – Ford Kinsley, Daniel Lopez, Mike Mezmar, Frank Morales, and Rene Perez – for their dedication and support. The leadership of City Manager Gabriel Gonzalez and Assistant City Managers Josh Ramirez and Oscar Garcia was also lauded for their role in driving the city’s progress.

Harlingen is experiencing unprecedented growth, with new businesses and developments transforming the city’s landscape. The mayor highlighted several significant investments, including Bert Ogden’s addition of Jeep, Ram, Chrysler, Genesis, and Mercedes Benz dealerships. These expansions are creating quality jobs and enhancing the local economy.

Higher education thrives thanks to the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV). Dr. Guy Bailey, President of UTRGV, spoke about the university’s impact on the community, emphasizing the opportunities for personal and professional growth it provides to residents.

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The city’s commitment to improving infrastructure and quality of life was evident in the numerous projects underway. The construction of Matt’s Building Materials, Black Bear Diner, Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott, and other businesses is projected to generate significant economic benefits and job opportunities. The city’s taxable sales in 2023 exceeded $1.6 billion, and this amount is expected to surpass it in 2024.

Mayor Sepulveda highlighted the city’s fiscal responsibility, with a fund balance projected to be over $71 million, allowing for a historic tax rate reduction. This conservative approach ensures financial stability while supporting community growth.

This year, the city supports vulnerable children through partnerships with organizations like Blue Sunday, Valley Haven, Sunny Glenn, and the Junior League of Harlingen. These initiatives aim to provide care and resources to abused and neglected children, creating a brighter future for the community’s youngest members.

The mayor announced the completion of a 1-mile concrete park trail at Lon C. Hill Destination Park, featuring solar-powered light poles for safe and scenic walking and jogging. The city also hosted the Showdown at the Arroyo II Mountain bike race, attracting participants across Texas and beyond. Additionally, a new Pump Track at Arroyo Park will soon provide a unique recreational facility for wheeled sports enthusiasts.

Changes in the residential garbage collection service exemplified Harlingen’s commitment to efficiency and cost savings, resulting in substantial annual savings. Assistant City Manager Oscar Garcia’s efforts to handle projects in-house saved the city nearly $1.2 million, demonstrating the city’s dedication to fiscal prudence.

Public safety remains a top priority. The city has invested significantly in the Police and Fire Departments, ensuring competitive salaries and state-of-the-art equipment. Efforts to reduce crime have yielded positive results, with decreased property and violent crimes. The Fire Department continues to enhance its capabilities with new vehicles and equipment, safeguarding the community.

Infrastructure improvements, particularly in drainage systems, protect the city from flooding. Projects like the Lozano Detention Facility and the Adams Gardens Main Drain exemplify the city’s proactive approach to addressing drainage issues.

The city’s animal shelter underwent significant changes, coming under city management to better address community concerns. The shelter staff’s dedication has led to numerous adoptions and reunifications, highlighting the city’s commitment to animal welfare.

Mayor Sepulveda emphasized the importance of community engagement, with evening State of the City addresses allowing more residents to participate. Street improvements have been a priority, with plans for continued enhancements to accommodate the city’s growth.

Harlingen’s partnership with HCISD strengthens the education system, attracting families and businesses. Superintendent Dr. Joe Gonzalez discussed the exciting developments in local schools, underscoring the city’s commitment to quality education.

Economic development initiatives led by the Harlingen Economic Development Corporation (EDC) have bolstered the city’s economic foundation. The EDC’s strategic planning and collaboration with international stakeholders position Harlingen as a premier business location.

Valley International Airport has seen significant improvements, enhancing its facilities and amenities. Director of Aviation Marv Easterly highlighted these enhancements, showcasing the airport’s role in Harlingen’s growth.

Supporting small businesses remains a key focus, with initiatives like the Small Business Advisory Committee and grant programs to enhance business facades and equipment. The mayor also announced the “RISE Up Harlingen Pitch Competition,” offering substantial grants to local entrepreneurs.

Mayor Sepulveda concluded her address by expressing optimism for Harlingen’s future. The city’s progress shows the unity of its community. She urged everyone to continue collaborating, innovating, and supporting each other as they move forward together.

The Harlingen Convention Center was the scene for Harlingen Mayor Norma Sepulveda’s State of the City Address. Photo by Roberto Hugo González

The evening, we celebrated Harlingen’s achievements and a call to action for continued growth and prosperity. With a clear vision and dedicated leadership, Harlingen is undoubtedly on the rise.

The mayor thanks the event sponsors, particularly the Diamond Sponsor, CSE, Rose Gold Sponsors, Bert Ogden Group, Driscoll Children’s Hospital, and the Harlingen EDC. She also thanked the Harlingen team for their hard work and the Harlingen Convention Center for hosting the event.

As the city looks to the future, the collective efforts of its residents, businesses, and leaders promise to keep Harlingen on a path to continued success and prosperity.

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