Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal
Mayor Grace Saenz-Lopez said she is proud of what she has been able to accomplish over the past eight years in city leadership and, as an unopposed candidate for re-election, she is looking forward to the challenges of the next two years.
Saenz-Lopez was first elected to the Alice City Council in 1999, was selected mayor pro-tem in 2001, and was elected mayor in 2003.
In 2005, she was unopposed for re-election to the office, and this year she again faces no opponent in her bid for re-election.
She is a graduate of William Adams High School in Alice, and retired from the Adult Probation Department. She and her husband, Francisco "Paco" Lopez, have been married 38 years.
Saenz-Lopez said she has many accomplishments of which she is proud from her eight years in office, including the completion of the Goliad Street Project, the construction of a new apartment complex on Easterling Drive and keeping the taxing rate in the city low.
"Overall, I just feel that we've been moving forward in a lot of things," Saenz-Lopez said. "I'm pleased that since I've been here, we've had a balanced budget, and I'm pleased with the sales tax revenues that have been coming in. I think it's a time when we can save for the future, but we can also give our employees the tools so they can do their jobs better."
The key issue currently facing the city, Saenz-Lopez said, is the aging water and wastewater infrastructure. On May 12, voters will be asked to approve a $9.6 million bond to improve that infrastructure, an item Saenz-Lopez has supported since it was first proposed.
"If it is to pass, I think the city will be busy the next three to five years, trying to better our infrastructure, which is so badly needed," Saenz-Lopez said. "This is a quality of life issue. I have lived here all my life, and I know there are older parts of the city that need new water and wastewater lines. It is just common in every old town, that these lines are crumbling, and I know our water is healthy, but it doesn't look like it is."
The water and wastewater infrastructure is not the only issue Saenz-Lopez is hoping to address in the next term, however. She also points to plans to develop the Lake Findley area, something she has been trying to get passed since she first came to the council.
"I keep staying here because I feel like I still have so many irons in the fire," Saenz-Lopez said. "Hopefully, as soon as the Parks Master Plan is done, we'll be able to apply for some grants and see it happen."
Another issue the incoming council will be asked to address is the current search for a new city manager, and the need to fill several recently vacated director positions.
With more than 20 applicants for the city manager position, Saenz-Lopez said she hoped the new council would look at every option available.
"We need to take every position one at a time, and see how the new council will want to handle it. Whether it's going to be keeping who we have as our head administrator or going through the applicants," Saenz-Lopez said. "I feel that we should go through the process, in all fairness."
Although the city recently saw three directors leave following the resignation of the former city manager, Saenz-Lopez said she wanted to assure the citizens that city hall is still operating normally.
"To say that we're in a 'turmoil?' No. We have people in place who are keeping the city running smoothly," Saenz-Lopez said. "I felt overwhelmed by three of our administrators leaving all at once, but when you have employees who have been here for 15 or 20 years that you can count on, and they step up to the plate during this time, the community is very lucky."
She also thanked the community for its support, and said she will work as a team-player with whoever is selected to the council in the May 12 election.
"I'm truly honored to serve, especially being unopposed," Saenz-Lopez said. "It makes you feel like you're doing something right."