Garza’s Early Years
Robert Garza, a Del Rio attorney and native of Kinney County, has been active in public policy issues in the Del Rio area for more than 25 years.
As a 23 year old third year law student attending St. Mary's University School of Law, Garza was the youngest person to ever be elected to serve on the Brackettville City Council. Following his graduation, Garza was the youngest person appointed to serve as Del Rio's full time City Attorney.
During his 5 year tenure as City Attorney, Garza successfully represented the City of Del Rio in every major lawsuit involving the city-- including, condemnation proceedings for the construction of the new Bedell Street overpass and federal civil rights litigation against the City and it's police officers. Garza also furnished legal guidance during the contstruction of the new international bridge and the issuance of bonds to finance such bridge and other improvements in the city. Garza also drafted numerous items of local legislation for the City of Del Rio, including some ordinances that received national recognition as "model" city ordinances. Finally, Garza prosecuted misdemeanor cases in the City of Del Rio Municipal Court.
Service on Del Rio’s Public School Board
After starting his private law practice, Garza was elected in 1988 to the San Felipe Del Rio C.I.S.D. Board of Trustees defeating a 9 year incumbent. Garza was later re-elected to the School Board in 1991. During his years on the board, Garza served as Board Secretary (one year), Vice-President (one year) and President (two years).
Teacher Career Ladder & Veteran Teachers’ Pay Grades
During his first term on the school board, Garza championed the cause of teachers and school employees - arguing relentlessly to restore the full funding of teachers’ career ladder payments and to add new salary steps for veteran teachers who had attained their maximum level of compensation on the state's salary schedule.
Despite losing the initial vote on these major issues at the hands of an unfriendly School Board majority, Garza did not give up or abandon his efforts to restore justice to the school's dedicated teachers and employees. Following a re-election campaign that garnered more than 70 % of the vote, Garza again renewed his efforts and successfully led a fight that culminated in the Board’s actions restoring the full funding of teachers' career ladder payments as well as the adoption and implementation of additional pay grades for teachers who had reached their maximum pay grade.
District Wide Policy Making Committee
After his election as School Board President, Garza created a district wide policy making advisory committee composed of members of the school’s administration as well as the leaders or designated representatives of each of the local teacher and educator associations. The expressed purpose of the committee was to study and evaluate all issues affecting the school district with special emphasis on issues concerning the school’s employees. Garza’s hope was to achieve consensus amongst the different organizations and groups with the goal of improving employee morale and enhancing the students’ academic success. The first major task of the committee was to recommend salary increases for administrators, teachers, para-professional and hourly waged employees. After extensive study and evaluation, the committee eventually recommended the approval of a series of salary increases for all employees of the school district. The Board eventually approved the long overdue salary increases for all teachers, paraprofessional and hourly waged employees, administrators and all other school employees.
Garza, who refused to rest on these accomplishments, embarked on a novel and challenging quest to furnish health insurance for all employees at the expense of the school district. The school district had traditionally refused to pay for any portion of the actual costs of purchasing major medical health insurance for its employees.
Expecting a battle on the availability of the district’s resources, Garza evaluated the financial resources of the district and proposed new funding sources at no cost to the local taxpayers. For the first time in the history of the public school district, the School Board approved the purchase of major medical health insurance for all school employees at the sole cost of the district.
The Final Years: A New Direction
Garza firmly believed that employee morale was essential for the academic success of the district. In the ensuing years, the local schools attained remarkable success in all academic areas and received extensive recognition for the success of its educators. During Garza’s terms on the school board, the school district also completed the construction of a new elementary school as well as the construction or improvement of numerous classrooms, science labs and other facilities.
Service on the Del Rio City Council
In 1996, Garza was first elected to serve in an At-Large seat on the Del Rio City Council. Since Garza was eager for the city to start on new projects, he felt that it was prudent to first examine and evaluate the city’s financial strength. Garza believe that “the City’s ability to embark on any new projects or to move forward depended on its financial resources and strength.”
Shortly after taking office in 1996, Garza questioned the city’s financial position and argued the need to reevaluate and strengthen the city’s finances. Long before the highly publicized Enron debacle involving fabricated financial statements, Garza exposed a similar pattern of "padded" and misleading financial statements created by a prior city administration in an effort to make the city's finances appear to the healthy. As predicted, the city’s finances crashed after the general fund lacked the cash to make payroll on September 30, 1997. Relying on sound business practices, Garza led the effort to restore the city’s financial stability. His proposals included measures to restructure the city’s finances, major cutbacks in non-essential expenses, and increased bridge toll rates raising more than $2 million annually.
Garza’s specific proposals helped to solve many of the city’s past problems and his revenue proposals generated more than $10 million during his terms of office without a tax increase. The new funding was used in part to restore the city’s financial solvency and stability, to finance new vehicles and other equipment for the city’s police officers and fire fighters, and to start the initial phase of street improvements.
Water & Infrastructure
Garza also fought relentlessly to reduce the size and cost of a state mandated water treatment plant planned and designed by the prior city administration to cost in excess of $ 50 million. A more thorough and intense investigation revealed that the original size of the water treatment plant was based on a malfunctioning water meter incorrectly measuring the amount of water used by city residents on a daily basis. The city also explored development of alternative water sources as a means to reduce the size of the state mandated treatment plant. The combined efforts saved the city and its taxpayers millions of dollars per year.
During his first term of office, Garza also urged the construction of new water and sewer lines for different portions of the city as well as the replacement of the deteriorated Bedell water storage tanks.
Second Term on the City Council: Major Policy Decisions
In May, 2000, Garza was re-elected to his seat on the Del Rio City Council. During the second term, Garza urged the city to continue its work on the projects initiated during Garza’s first term. Garza also urged and supported the city’s efforts to search for new ways to enhance the city’s ability to attract new business and industry. The latter effort included the construction of a new runway at Del Rio International Airport, a new airline service for the city and participation in the Ports-to-Plains corridor.
During his second term, Garza’s major policy efforts included -
- The creation of a downtown renovation program
- The protection and enhancement of the city’s industrial park
- The drafting and passage of the then controversial “no smoking” ordinance to prohibit smoking
in public places
- The funding & adoption of a major salary increase in 2000 for police officers & fire fighters
Finally, the city also experienced its freedom from the bondage created by the prior downgrading of the city’s bond rating to a “junk bond” status. Garza, along with a group of fellow Del Rio city officials, argued successfully before New York City investment firms for the removal of the “junk bond” status severely limiting the city’s ability to finance new projects. Upon the conclusion of numerous meetings, the credit worthiness of the city was officially restored thereby clearing the path for the city to embark on new capital projects for the city.
Robert Garza, The Citizen & the Protection of Laughlin A.F.B.
After the completion of his second and final term of office allowed by the city’s charter, the Del Rio City Council (on a 4-3 vote) approved a new project known as the SE Ranch development near Laughlin Air Force Base. The new project clearly threatened the existence and viability of Laughlin Air Force Base and endangered the economic vitality and stability of the entire City of Del Rio.
After the council’s imprudent approval of the project, Garza met with a group of local citizens and volunteered his services as a citizen to assist in launching a community wide opposition to the SE Ranch development property. At his suggestion, the group was named “Save Laughlin/Save Del Rio.” Garza, relying on his knowledge and skills of municipal law acquired during his earlier tenure as City Attorney, drafted a petition for the referendum of the controversial ordinance to immediately stop the SE Ranch development project. He later donated his legal services to represent the citizens in court to oppose the SE Ranch project asking that the court uphold the validity and legal sufficiency of the referendum process.
Garza also appeared at the hearings of other governmental agencies to oppose a waste disposal site near the Spofford air field that would have adversely affected Laughlin Air Force Base. Garza actively opposed the waste disposal site in order to protect the environment and to protect and insure the continued viability of Laughlin AFB.
Robert Garza - as a former School Board Trustee, City Council member, appointed official and as a private citizen - has actively served the public’s interest with the utmost diligence, commitment, dedication and loyalty. He has never abandoned any cause nor allowed his private work and career to interfere with his public service. Garza has continuously strived to offer positive contributions and improvements for the benefit and well being of the people in our city.