WESLACO, Texas – Brownsville Mayor John Cowen, Jr., has never been president of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council, but that did not stop its board of directors appointing him “Immediate Past President.”
The LRGVDC is the official Council of Government for the counties of Hidalgo, Cameron and Willacy. It serves as a conduit for tens of millions of dollars that come down from the federal and state governments. There are 27 members on the board of directors and six members on the executive committee.
Cowen’s sudden promotion came at the last LRGVDC board meeting. The plan was to adopt the Nominations Committee recommendations for the six executive committee slots. Namely, the appointment of Weslaco Mayor David Suarez as the “President”, Harlingen Mayor Norma Sepulveda as “Vice President”, Mission Mayor Norie Gonzalez Garza as “2nd Vice President”, Willacy County Judge Aurelio ‘Keeter’ Guerra as “Secretary”, former McAllen Mayor Jim Darling as “Treasurer”, and Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez as “Immediate Past President.”
A motion was offered to accept this Nomination Committee’s recommendations. However, before a vote could be taken, Cameron County Commissioner David Garza objected. He said it was not right that Brownsville, the largest city in Cameron County, did not have a seat at the LRGVDC’s top table. He said Brownsville Mayor John Cowen (pictured above) should be a named officer.
Initially, Commissioner Garza had Darling in his sights. He thought the former McAllen mayor should step aside in favor of Cowen. Darling responded: “I’ve been on the board for 16 years. In just the last year I’ve chaired six of the meetings. And so I’d still like to be involved with the council of government for another year. But, I plan to retire after this year. You know, I’m still pretty active with the council of government.”
Darling said it would have been “nice” if someone had extended the “courtesy” of telling him in advance that they wanted to remove him.
Noticing that Darling wanted to stay on the executive committee, Mayor Hernandez, the outgoing president, said he would be happy to stand aside to open up a slot for Cowen to serve.
“So, I make a motion that we accept the slate as is, except remove myself and put John in my place. Is that acceptable to the board?” Hernandez asked.
There was a brief discussion as to whether passage of the motion broke any bylaws but the board of directors went ahead and passed it.
So, now, the executive committee for 2023-2024 consists of: Weslaco Mayor David Suarez as the “President”, Harlingen Mayor Norma Sepulveda as “Vice President”, Mission Mayor Norie Gonzalez Garza as “2nd Vice President”, Willacy County Judge Aurelio ‘Keeter’ Guerra as “Secretary”, former McAllen Mayor Jim Darling as “Treasurer”, and Brownsville Mayor John Cowen, Jr., as “Immediate Past President.”