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Monday, June 5, 2023
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Norie Gonzalez Garza Makes History as First Woman Elected Mayor of Mission

More Than a Century Ago a Woman Named the City “Mission”

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Texas Border Business

By Roberto Hugo Gonzalez

According to the latest Census, Mission Texas is a community of approximately 88,000 in population. On June 11, 2022, a run-off race was held between Dr. Armando O’Caña, the city’s mayor, and Norie Gonzalez Garza, the challenger. Norie is a businesswoman and real estate professional in the Rio Grande Valley. During her run for mayor, she had both the police and fire department unions’ endorsement and the support of the residents.

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Norie won the race by obtaining 55.16% of the votes. She became the first woman to be elected mayor of a city founded in 1908. According to the city’s history, the name of the city was selected by a woman named Mrs. Ann Voltz; it took 114 years for a woman to be elected mayor.

Mission Texas has been through bad times and good times. Recently the city was embroiled in some serious accusations of corruption, which seemed to have no end. But once Norie was elected, the city has taken a more normal course. The election has brought a good deal of calm that is allowing Norie and her team to move forward as she leads the city.

During a meeting with Norie, Texas Border Business learned that she has 15 years of experience serving on the city council and over 40 years of business experience.

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Norie’s contribution to Mission Texas has been remarkable because of the years she has invested as a public servant. She continued her commitment when she decided to run for a commissioner position. Her peculiar way of leading is that her actions are based on financially sound decisions and common sense.

“I was born and raised in Mission. I am a 1977 graduate from Mission high school, and I am a 1981 graduate from Pan American University.” She has a Bachelor of Science in biology degree, but she said, “I’ve not used it at all, but it does hang on my wall somewhere.”

After graduation, she became more interested in the banking industry; finance is one of her passions. However, most of her colleagues were realtors and they encouraged her to become a realtor, and so, she did.

As soon as Norie got her real estate license, she worked under her first sponsor, BIC Realty. “I give thanks to Richard Esk for that,” she said. Several years later, she took the test for a broker license and got one. In 1991 she opened Real Estate Investments Co., which she operates from two offices, one in Mission and one in McAllen.

Her real estate specialty is land, office, retail, and multifamily, and she services the Hidalgo County metropolitan area. According to her, she was already winding down her business activities, which is why she is more hands on as mayor. “It was perfect timing,” she said.

Norie’s service to the community is exemplary. She was the trustee of the Mission School Board for nine years, equal to three terms.

In 2007, one city council member relinquished his position, and Norie decided to run for the vacant commissioner’s seat.

Readers of this publication know that in life, there’s competition, so she fought for it. “I had an opponent, and both ran for the same position, however, I was elected,” she said. Norie served the City as Commissioner for fifteen years, which solidified her experience in leading a city.

Even though she has participated in several political races, she does not consider herself a politician, she prefers public servant.

But why did Norie decide to run for commissioner? She told Texas Border Business that by 2007, she had completed twelve years of service as a planning and zoning committee member. The late mayor Fernando Ortegon appointed her to that committee.

“I found a passion in planning and zoning because that opens the door for developing, which is vital for the city’s growth.” She continued, “I think it’s very important to be proactive with infrastructure because when you have these big companies coming in from either out of state or out of the country, sometimes they want to start building right now.” She said, “They don’t want to wait. It could be the difference between building in Mission or somewhere else.”

Norie’s vision and way of thinking are appropriate for big developers to keep an eye on this city. Those great developers are already in Mission, allowing them to continue their great projects that grow the city. The combination of the city’s leadership and visionary developers makes Mission a magnet for families and businesses, and that’s the name of the game.

She praised the city’s staff, who are always dedicated to bettering the city. “In the end, providing the services falls under their responsibility too.”

The proof of their performance came into action abruptly. She told us that city staff and leadership navigated the pandemic stealthily. They followed the appropriate protocols to protect the citizens while considering their well-being.

COVID-19 changed everything. What did it change for you?

“I will probably always wear a mask when I fly, that’s one thing.” She continued, “I think it taught us huge lessons that we’re not superhumans but very susceptible to being fragile.” She said that the COVID numbers had already gone down; people had started traveling to New York or Las Vegas and got sick when they returned.” So, if she flies, she will mask up for protection.

Regarding her personal life, Norie was married for 34 years. “My husband had a fatal pedestrian auto accident in 2016.” She said, “My husband and I were fortunate that we were able to be there for our kids when they needed us.”

Norie talks about her four children with love and a sense of accomplishment, the four of them are professionals.  “My oldest is Karina, an attorney, then is Naisa, also an attorney and a CPA. My son Oscar Arturo is a civil engineer; the youngest is Alina, a pediatrician.”

Her smile got even bigger when she started talking about her six grandchildren, all boys. “I have six grandbaby boys. So, I’m telling them, hey, you all got to get on the ball because I need a little girl.”

Norie says, “they keep me busy, the oldest is seven, and the little one is one month.”

What is so attractive about Mission? Why do people open businesses and live here?

“Aside from having a great workforce available, Mission has all the amenities of a bigger city, yet it has a small-town feel.” She said, “People just feel comfortable, the quality of life is excellent, and people can move from one place to the other in less than 30 minutes, which is a good thing.”

She explained that Mission’s workforce is attractive to larger companies, so the City and UTRGV became partners. The university will train this workforce to become skilled in several areas. “So, I’m excited about that,” she said.

That is not all, she praised the school system and Chief of Police Cesar Torres. She said that Chief Torres hit the ground running and has done amazing things working and protecting the community. “He didn’t waste time meeting with the school districts and private schools.”  She said, “Safety at the schools is vital.”

Mission Texas has a lot going on. Master communities are being built. Industrial spaces are in demand and being developed. And as Norie said, an awesome city staff, great schools, safe communities, and a workforce ready to get into action. What else do you need?

In this case, Norie comes to mind based on her ability to bring people together. “This is something I’ve learned in negotiating throughout my business life.” She emphasized, “It’s a give and take; it can’t always be one person’s way.”

She pointed out that it is important to compromise and have common goals to get things done. Because if everybody’s pulling in different directions, then nothing gets done.

Is there anything else that you would like to say to your community?

“I want our citizens to feel free to contact me whenever they want mm-hmm or need. I have an open-door policy. I am a good listener. And I’m empathetic, I think I can help,” said finalized.

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